With Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean-Francois both able to test free agency this off-season, the 49ers could conceivably have a hole at nose tackle in their 3-4 defense. This is an excellent draft for defensive linemen, even into the mid rounds.
If the 49ers decide to wait past the first round to get a potential nose tackle, one guy to keep an eye on is Brandon Williams, formerly of Missouri Southern. Williams participated in the Senior Bowl and looked pretty good in practice drills, while noticeably un-noticeable in the game, as is common for a nose tackle. Still, he displayed good strength and even some pass rush savvy for a very large man.
Height: 6'1 1/4"
Vertical Jump: 29.5"
Broad Jump: 8'6"
Bench Reps: 38
2012: 50 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 16.5 TFL, and 5 FF. Career: 139 tackles, 27.0 sacks, 52.5 TFL, and 6 FF.
- Ideal build for the position. An immovable, squatty size with excellent strength.
- Moves well for 335lbs as evidenced by his combine numbers and 1-on-1 pass-rush drills at the Senior Bowl.
- Rarely going backwards, almost always pushing his man into the QB/run lanes or holding the point.
- Has a good arm-over and can be relentless at times rushing the QB.
- Stacks and sheds his blocks well when action is near on either side of him.
- Balance. You'll see him hit the deck at times while working against his man. Fires out low and can be pancaked at times.
- Play recognition. Often still pushing forward even after handoff or screen pass delivered.
- Get's a little lost fighting with his man at times like he's taking it personally to beat him or show his superior strength.
Doing your homework:
Watch Williams at the Senior Bowl practices (embedded below) and the game itself. Being from a small school, there isn't much video on him, but there is also this low quality tape vs. Lincoln University. Williams is #66 in both videos, with the green (almost looks dark blue) helmet to help find him in the Sr. Bowl tape.
Why he fits the 49ers:
Williams is a stout, strong, plugger - just what you want at nose tackle. He has some limited upside collapsing the pocket vs. play-action on 1st and 2nd down (assuming base defense on the field). He has ideal size and strength to play inside vs. NFL offensive linemen and displays a good motor. He shouldn't cost a high pick, either, which helps to fill other needs in the draft, although there is some buzz that he could go as high as the second round.
Why he might not fit the 49ers:
He might not be a great player initially. Played against lower-level competition in college, so his skills might not translate quickly to the NFL, although that is unknown at this point. Has a tendency to get lost on the play, which can hurt vs. complex NFL rushing attacks.
What they're saying:
- NFL.com has the following scouting:
Presents a low center of gravity and strong upper body to push consistently push man-up blockers into the backfield. Gets hands on his man fast, extends his arm to get leverage and can hold his ground. Lines up at five-technique, nose and everywhere in-between. Must prove himself against stronger linemen, also that he has the stamina to be more than a rotational player.
- Mel Kiper has Williams as his 5th defensive tackle (INsider) while Mike Mayock doesn't have him listed in his top five.
For a guy with seemingly big upside at a position of need, I say that if Williams falls into the 3rd round or later, the 49ers should jump at the opportunity. Granted they may still grab a nose tackle in free agency, but the depth currently on the roster isn't inspiring. Of course, if either Sopoaga or RJF return to the team, things could easily change.