According to Pro Football Focus’ Steve Palazzolo, the Indianapolis Colts are projected to select Alabama pass rusher Tim Williams with the 15th overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft:
"15. Indianapolis ColtsTim Williams, Edge, AlabamaThe Colts can go a number of ways in the middle of the first round, particularly with a variety of defensive options on the board, but they go with perhaps the best pure pass-rusher in the draft in Tim Williams. Williams has been a force off the edge for three years at Alabama, creating pressure on 26.1 percent of his rushes (NCAA average is 10.0 percent). While he has only 168 snaps to his name against the run over the last three years, Williams has shown the power to jack up blockers and hold his own on the edge when given the opportunity. At worst, he’s a situational pass-rusher for a Colts’ defense that is in desperate need of players who can affect the quarterback."
It’s not the first time that a pass rusher has been linked to the Colts recently, as ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. had the Colts selecting UCLA pass rusher Takkarist McKinley in his latest mock draft on Wednesday.
The 6’4″, 252 pound former Crimson Tide standout is coming off a season in which he recorded 31 tackles, 16.0 tackles for loss, 9.0 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles in 14 games–en route to receiving 2nd-Team All-American Honors from the Associated Press and Sports Illustrated, as well as being named to the All-SEC Second Team.
It’s the second consecutive season in which Williams has nearly recorded double digit sacks, as he had 9.5 sacks for Alabama during his junior year just a season prior–having helped lead the Crimson Tide to back-to-back National Championship Games.
Williams is considered perhaps the second best ‘pure pass rusher’ in this year’s draft–only behind projected #1 overall pick Myles Garrett.
"SOURCES TELL US“He’s like the Predator. When he’s allowed to do just one thing — get the quarterback — he is really good at it. Don’t ask him to do much more than that, though. He’s going to be a high-rep player and I don’t know if NFL defenses are going to trust him to do more than just rush.” — NFC area scout"
"NFL COMPARISONLeonard FloydBOTTOM LINEAlabama has the type of talent and scheme on defense that can make life much easier for everyone along the front seven, but Williams has explosiveness and pass-rush talent to create his own havoc as a pass rusher regardless of what is around him. Scouts say he is lighter than his listed weight and needs to prove he can play with increased toughness in order to reach his potential. Williams’ career might be as a pass-rush specialist, but he’s talented enough at that endeavor to become a dangerous rush linebacker in the NFL."
He’s also been highly regarded from many other draft experts alike:
However, the problem plaguing Williams is neither his immense physical talent nor potential, as he comes with his fair share of off-the-field concerns.
Specifically, Williams was arrested on a gun charge for carrying a pistol without a permit this past fall, where marijuana was also found on the scene. There’s been reports that he may have failed drug tests while at Alabama too.
Given how bad the Dallas Cowboys have been burned by selecting talented, yet troubled pass rusher Randy Gregory–who was just suspended for at least one year for repeatedly violating the league’s substance abuse policy, any NFL team that selects Williams will have to perform their due diligence regarding his character and mental make-up.
It’s worth noting though that new Colts general manager Chris Ballard played a prominent role in the Kansas City Chiefs scouting department when his former franchise selected prospects with character concerns, who turned out to be stars regarding cornerback Marcus Peters and wide receiver/returnman Tyreek Hill.
Not to mention, pass rushers are always held at a premium–especially ‘pure’ ones like Williams, as not many players have the speed, athleticism, and this type of spin move in their pass rushing repertoire:
While Williams could be utilized purely as a ‘pass rushing specialist’–deployed situationally at the next level, he’s shown enough strength and ability to play in space to at least hold his own against the run, as well as occasionally cover opposing tight ends in a pinch.
However, make no mistake, getting after the quarterback is clearly Williams’ calling card–and rightfully so.
The Colts could clearly use an impact pass rusher too, as the franchise’s all-time career sack leader Robert Mathis recently retired, while last year’s sack leader, Erik Walden, is set to become a free agent with no young pass rushers currently pushing through the pipeline.
The team also recently had great success with another Alabama standout, as the Colts selected prized center Ryan Kelly in the first round last year–which worked out very well for the franchise.
If he checks out with the Colts scouting department regarding his off-the-field concerns and shows the necessary maturation, Indianapolis could have potentially a steal by selecting Williams with their first round pick–who could become the franchise’s next great pass rusher going forward.
I mean his nickname is “The Predator” after all, how cool is that?