Draft Week: Williams returns to shake up the tackle class

While much of the draft focus for the Jets has been on them getting a new quarterback, one area that obviously needs upgrading is the offensive line. Back in 2006, the Jets fortified their offensive line for the next decade by drafting D'Brickashaw Ferguson with the fourth pick and then adding Nick Mangold later on in the first round with the pick acquired in a trade for pass rusher John Abraham. Could they opt to do something similar this year?

If the Jets find a quarterback in free agency or via trade - or if they're not high on any of the available options in the draft - then upgrading the offensive line would seem like a smart alternative. However, are there any worthy offensive linemen in the draft this year?

Based on the season so far, the elite tackle prospects have all been struggling to separate themselves.

Most regard Notre Dame's Mike McGlinchey as the top tackle in this draft and there's no doubting his run-blocking credentials. However, he struggles to handle speed rushers off the edge, a concern that was magnified in the blowout loss to Miami, as Jonathan Garvin blew past him for a strip sack.

Oklahoma's Orlando Brown has had another solid season, but some have been questioning if he will thrive at the pro level. Greg Gabriel questioned his foot quickness and bend, suggesting that his productivity is a product of his massive size rather than technical ability.

CBS has Chukwuma Okorafor of Western Michigan as their third ranked tackle and he's a player Mike Maccagnan went to watch in person recently. Okorafor has great potential but he's raw and discipline has been an issue as he has nine penalties this year.

All in all, this year's class is struggling to solidify themselves as elite. Could we end up with a situation like last year where there were no offensive linemen selected until the 20th pick? That could happen, although McGlinchey's teammate, Quenton Nelson, is getting some top 10 buzz as the best guard prospect in this class.

However, some are high on Texas junior tackle Connor Williams. Williams had some buzz at the start of the year, but hasn't been able to boost his stock because he's been out since week three with a knee injury. Williams made his return on Saturday and instantly provided the Longhorns with a boost in their win over West Virginia.

Scouting reports suggest that Williams is athletic has good length, but he doesn't rely on that as he seems to be a good technician with solid balance and footwork.

He wasn't really troubled in pass protection on Saturday and has apparently only given up one sack in his career - with that coming on an attempted scramble. He does a good job of mirroring, consistently forcing outside rushers to take the long way around on the outside. He also maintains good balance and a strong base, only getting driven off his spot a couple of times.

Williams is good in the running game too, as he's solid at the point of attack and takes good angles in space. Here's a play where he sets the edge on the defensive end and take his out of the play completely:


He shows his ability to block in space here, initially cutting the pass rusher at the line and then springing to his feet to make the key block on the outside:


Williams still needs a little work technically, as he will overextend at times and doesn't always engage his block cleanly. However, it was an impressive performance from a player who may not yet be 100 percent and was re-joining an offensive line that has struggled without him.

It seems like Williams may have become the top tackle prospect almost by default as the weaknesses for the other contenders have become apparent while he was out. However, apart from that Miami game, McGlinchey has only given up one other sack (and low overall pressure numbers), Brown will still draw interest due to his size and length and Okorafor will be coveted due to his potential.

Nevertheless, Williams will get a lot of attention over the next few games and his combination of size, character, athleticism, technical ability and nastiness could make him a high pick in the 2018 draft.

That's if he doesn't decide to stay in school. After all, he seems to be having fun where he is right now: