Looking into the offensive tackle class for the 2019 NFL Draft, there’s one that really stands out. That player is Jonah Williams from Alabama. It’s clear that he’s the top offensive tackle and rightfully so; he’s a technician — the technician. During the beginning weeks of college football, I noticed that Greg Little was getting some buzz as one of the best offensive tackles in this class. There’s no denying that the Ole Miss product is talented, but he’s not as consistent as Jonah Williams.
Coming out of Folsom High School in Folsom, California, Jonah Williams was a five-star recruit. According to 24/7 Sports, he had 26 offers. Listed as the 17th-ranked recruit in the country, Williams had a plethora of options and ultimately chose Alabama. Since his early arrival to Tuscaloosa, Williams has gotten his fair share of hype.
From Freshman All-American to first team All-SEC, Williams has lived up to it. When he arrived, he earned a starting role at right tackle and held that position down for two years. This season, he made the transition to left tackle. Sometimes it’s tough for an offensive lineman to make that transition. For others, it looks effortless. Let’s take a look at some film on Jonah Williams and see how The Technician operates:
Hand Reset and Recovery
One of the biggest things that hurts an offensive lineman is his inability to reset his hands. After an offensive lineman gets through initial contact, the defensive lineman has a tendency to swat the offensive lineman’s hands off of them. It sounds simple, but it can be fairly complex, especially for offensive linemen who deal with the blend of power and speed from a defensive lineman.
On the play above, you can see Jonah Williams (LT #73) preparing to set up in pass protection against LSU defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence (#90). Initially, he lunges and Lawrence swipes his hands away, but Williams does a great job recovering. He consistently resets his hands against Lawrence, which helps him anchor.
This allows Williams to control the edge and keep his quarterback upright. Consistently, Williams displays this ability on tape. It’s pivotal for an offensive lineman to have hand usage as quick as a defensive lineman’s, from their initial punch to having the ability to reset and recover. Jonah Williams displays it with ease on the rep above and consistently throughout his career.
Kick-Step and Hand Placement
Jonah Williams’s hand placement is consistently inside on the defender’s chest plate nine out of ten times. One of the first things you look at with an offensive lineman is his hand placement. If he has a tendency to grab outside and can’t work his hands inside, he’ll consistently fail.
As for his kick-step, it’s important for an offensive lineman to stay off of his toes. He also wants to maintain some weight on his post leg (inside). By doing this while keeping his weight off of his toes, it allows him a much easier transition on the set foot (outside).
It’s clear with the play above that Williams does a nice job with this pass-pro repetition. His kick step with his set foot is relatively smooth, and there’s hardly any weight on his toes. Also, his hand placement is inside and he does a nice job staying square with the defender. This gives him a clear aiming point and puts him in position to anchor and protect the left side of the quarterback. It’s repetitions like these from Williams that make him so fun to watch as a prospect and solidifies his value for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Trouble with the Speed Rush
One area of concern for plenty of offensive linemen is their inability to handle the speed rush. Not every defensive lineman has the ability to translate speed to power. There are plenty of pass rushers that play situational downs where they use their speed to their advantage. In this process, they simply speed rush their way to the quarterback.
Even though I deem Jonah Williams as “The Technician”, he’s not the best offensive line prospect I’ve ever seen. There are a lot of times that he struggles with speed rushers; the play above is a great example.
Williams is dealing with an EDGE rusher that’s aligned in a 9-technique. As the EDGE rusher runs straight up the field, Williams starts to chase. Once Williams sets his hands for contact, his outside arm gets chopped and the EDGE rusher rips through toward the quarterback. In the process, Williams starts to lean on his toes, which prevents him from being able to recover. To help avoid this, he needs to go straight back with his kick-step and not false-step and move out toward the path of the defender.
Lateral Ability and Weight Transfer
Something that doesn’t get talked about enough for offensive linemen is their ability to move laterally. There are so many times that a defensive lineman comes to the table with a pass rush plan that puts him in a situation to counter back inside or outside. What can swing the tide of battle with the offensive lineman is how that offensive lineman transfers his weight from his post foot to his set foot or vice versa.
On the play above, you can see how Williams handles an EDGE rusher working outside and then countering back inside with a spin move. On the initial point of contact, Williams extends and is set for the outside rush. Once the initial rushing lane is cut off, the EDGE rusher spins and counters back inside. The impressive part of the play isn’t the spin move; that’s relatively lousy. What’s impressive is how Williams transfers his weight from his set foot (outside foot) back to his post foot (inside foot).
Climbing with Angles and Power
Plenty of scouts are going to love the way Jonah Williams can climb to the second level and power his way through linebackers. It’s not just the power that will impress you; his angles toward the linebackers are similarly mouthwatering.
On the play above, you can see Jonah Williams immediately climb to the second level. In the process, he takes a great angle to seal the backside, but also, take a look at that power! His initial contact is great and he stands the linebacker right up. He locks inside on the linebacker and starts to drive him up the field. Before the linebacker can do anything, Damien Harris (RB #34) is off to the races and scores the touchdown.
What’s next for The Technician?
It’s pretty obvious, right? Declare for the 2019 NFL Draft. Jonah Williams has done everything possible, in my opinion. His tape is as good as it’s going to get. Can he clean some things up? Sure, but from my perspective, his value is at all on time high, and if he returns for his senior season he only hurts his value. Crimson Tide fans won’t appreciate that, but it’s true. Williams is a first-round offensive lineman and should hear his name announced on the opening night of the 2019 NFL Draft.
— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 16, 2018
You probably noticed that I said offensive lineman and not tackle. Currently, I project Jonah Williams to play right tackle at the next level. However, there’s been some discussion of him potentially making a move inside and playing guard for an offensive line on Sundays. Can I disagree with that? Nope. Last year, I projected Connor Williams from Texas to play left tackle, and he ranked as a top-10 player on my board. He went 50th overall to the Dallas Cowboys in the 2018 NFL Draft and has transitioned to guard for the Cowboys. Anything can happen for any offensive lineman, and for Jonah Williams, everything is on the table.
It seems unlikely that he’s truly his listed 6’5″ and 301 lbs. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if he measured in at less than 300 pounds to run better for the NFL Scouting Combine, but there’s clearly some concern over his length to handle the blindside for a quarterback. His lack of arm strength is evident on film, and again, I think he’s best suited to play right tackle, but I’m also not throwing out the possibility of moving inside.
Williams’s hand placement is relatively consistent and his initial punch is strong. He can climb to the second level and attack linebackers with proper angles and power. In the short areas along the offensive line, he can pull down the line of scrimmage or even widen the hole on outside zone. However, there are times that he doesn’t initiate contact in open space, but that shouldn’t be too alarming. Lastly, his footwork is relatively consistent, which helps him anchor and match power with power. There will be times that he struggles with a good speed rusher, but he should be able to handle pass rushers that can counter because of his lateral ability and his ability to recover and reset his hands.
If you’re a team that’s looking for offensive line help, you should consider Jonah Williams. He’s not as guaranteed as Quenton Nelson was last year, but he’s a legitimate offensive lineman in the NFL. There are no concerns about him starting from day one, and if I had to guess where he’d fit at the next level, I’d have to guess the Buffalo Bills. They have a need at right tackle and need to consider protecting their investment, Josh Allen. Keep in mind that Williams played for the Bills’ offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll at Alabama. Reuniting the two could do wonders for this offensive line. That’s just one of many teams that would make sense for Jonah Williams, the most technically sound offensive lineman in the 2019 NFL Draft.