In advance of attending the NFL combine in Indianapolis later this month, ESPNBoston.com has identified 10 prospects it wants to learn more about. Along those lines, Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. is helping provide background and insight from his time studying tape and attending all-star games such as the Senior Bowl.
Player: Jesse Williams
Position: Defensive lineman
Height/weight: 6-foot-3, 320 pounds
Why he's on the radar: Future planning at an important position. Vince Wilfork has two years remaining on his contract and enters his 10th NFL season, while the next two players on the depth chart -- Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick -- enter the final year of their deals. Also, given the close ties between Bill Belichick and Nick Saban, any Alabama player warrants a closer look.
Projection: Early rounds
Muench's take: "Williams grew up in Australia, where he played rugby and basketball. In fact, he didn’t take up football until he was 14 years old and now he projects as a Day 2 draft pick (second/third round). He has the frame, power and toughness to stop the run whether he lines up at defensive tackle in a base four-man front, nose tackle in a base three-man front, or defensive end in a base-three man front. He is quick for his size and he’s tough to move off the ball once he establishes position. While he doesn’t have the most violent hands, he has the upper-body strength to stack and shed blockers. He doesn’t have the closing burst or athletic ability teams look for in their interior pass rushers but he can push the pocket and force quarterbacks off the spot. There’s also a lot to like about what he can give a team as a short-yardage blocker. He’s aggressive, he gets into position and he’s big enough to engulf linebackers. The Combine will be important for Williams and not so much for what he does on the field as how he checks out medically. He’s had some problems staying healthy and though he played in the National Championship Game, teams interested in him will still want to check out the knee he injured in the SEC Championship game."