The Falcons need help as they rebuild their offensive line.
Former Alabama tackle Jonah Williams, an All-American, could be an interesting option for the Falcons, who select 14th in the first round of the NFL draft next month.
After allowing 108 quarterback hits and being ranked 31st of 32 teams in stuffed runs for no gain or loss yards, the Falcons are revamping their offensive line this offseason.
The Falcons are set at center and left tackle with Alex Mack and Jake Matthews. They also re-signed Ty Sambrailo, who started at right guard and right tackle. He gives them some flexibility to add either a guard or tackle in free agency or the draft.
Williams, Florida tackle Jawaan Taylor and Washington State tackle Andre Dillard are the top three rated linemen in the draft by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper. He has Taylor going seventh to Jacksonville, Williams going 18th to Minnesota and Dillard going 23rd to the Texans in his latest mock draft.
Kiper projects that Williams will be a guard in the NFL.
Williams’ arms were measured at 33-5/8 inches at the NFL scouting combine this week. The 6-foot-4 and 305 pounder’s arms are consider short for a tackle and is why a lot of teams project him as a guard.
Williams thinks that’s an absurd notion.
“If my fingers were an eighth of an inch longer, it might be good enough,” Williams said while holding out his arm. “But I think the way that I play defines me as a football player.
“I think that’s a small portion of what it takes to be a tackle at the next level. I think if you look at a lot of the really successful tackles over the past 10 years — Joe Thomas, Joe Staley, Jake Matthews, Jason Peters, La’el Collins, Riley Reiff, Ryan Ramczyk — just a couple guys off the top of my head that have shorter arms than me — I don’t think that’s necessarily a huge deal.”
Williams contended that his play at Alabama should be examined more closely. He played right tackle as a freshman and moved to left tackle as a sophomore.
“I’m proud of the way I play,” Williams said. “My approach to the game makes me a great player.”
Williams has met with the Bills, Packers, Giants and Jets at the combine.
“I’m confident in my abilities,” Williams said. “I know what I can do on a field. I’m confident in my preparation. I think I’m a talented individual with good athleticism.
“I know I can outwork and out-prepare anyone. That’s the way I was successful in college. That’s the way I’ll be successful in the NFL.”
Williams conceded that if a team wants him to play guard, he’d be fine with that.
“I’ll play wherever a team wants me to play,” Williams said. “I was the best offensive tackle in college football, so I know I can play at the next level. But I’m a competitor. I want to be on the field. I’ll play wherever a team wants me to play.”
Williams was a noted film junkie at Alabama.
“I try to out-prepare everyone,” Williams said. “I want to watch more film than everyone on the defense combined. I want to know what each player does before they do it.
“I want to know what their best moves are and what percentage they win on those moves, how I can combat those moves. If I don’t know how, I’ll reach out to resources.”
Williams admits that he has a weakness that he must overcome at the pro level.
“I would say the double-edge sword of that is I over-analyze things sometimes, kind of over-think things, play a little hesitantly,” Williams said. “So that’s something I’ve really been working on this past season – make your reads, read the defensive coverages, safety movement, defensive alignment, weight placement, and as soon as the ball snaps cut it loose and try to take someone’s head off.”
NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah believes Williams can play tackle.
“I think there’s a chance he could hold up at tackle and be a functional starting tackle,” said Jeremiah, a former NFL scout. “I think he’s got a chance to be special inside. I think, to me, that’s where he fits best.”
Some point to Alabama’s loss to Clemson in the national title game and contend that their talented defensive linemen exposed Williams’ weaknesses.
“He’s not a real long guy … (it) showed up in the Clemson game last year, where guys kind of get into his chest and he struggles a little bit on the edge,” Jeremiah said. “I like him kicking inside. He is a dominating run blocker.”