NFL Draft Prospect Watch (Part 4)

April 24, 2013 | Brett Dickinson

NFL Draft Prospect Watch (Part 4)

As the draft is approaching on Thursday (April 25-27), the Ravens have many star players to replace along their defense.  This is a look into options for Ozzie Newsome and company, on the defensive side of the ball.

 

Jesse Williams (DL Alabama)

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 323 lbs.

2012-2013 Stats: 37 Tackles, 2 Sacks

Draft Projection: Rounds 1-2

Williams did not play his natural position at Alabama, after transferring his junior season and playing behind Indianapolis Colts NT, Josh Chapman, until his senior year.  Though he did show versatility, lining up in the 5-technique and NT during his stint with the Crimson Tide.  He showed a great push for the National Champions, from the middle of the defense, allowing some of their stars to make big plays.

Williams using his wide body and great hands to push offensive lineman into the backfield.  He can be a dominant player, even though it will not show up in the stat line, as he can take on blocks to free up LBs.  Had he grew up in the United States (Australian native) and played at Alabama for his entire career (transferred from Arizona Western Junior College), there would be talks of him in the top ten picks.

He has also used his rugby and basketball skills, which he also grew up playing in Australia, to his advantage; running through and boxing out blockers to make plays in the backfield.

Player Comparison: Haloti Ngata (DT Baltimore Ravens)

Interesting Fact: Alabama utilized Williams as a goal-line lead blocker on many occasions, including the National Championship game in 2012.

 

Phillip Thomas (S Fresno State)

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 208 lbs.

2012-2013 Stats: 84 Tackles, 8 Interceptions, 4 Forced Fumbles, 3 Touchdowns

Draft Projection: Rounds 2-3

Thomas is a playmaker at the safety position, with a great ability to create turnovers.  He forced 12 turnovers in 2012, while having a knack for finding the end zone, when he gets his hands on the ball. Thomas also is a good tackler for the safety position, who can play in the box.

Injury concerns plagued his career, with a serious leg injury (broken left leg, dislocated ankle) just three days into a promising 2011 campaign. He did bounce back, but worries still arise if that will be an issue further along his NFL career.

Thomas told Glenn Clark he is pleased with his lateral mobility and quickness (listen to the entire interview at the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault http://bit.ly/15vWqR3). After running a 4.65 40 yard dash at the combine, he displays adequate speed for the position.  With his knack for finding the football, Thomas will be an instant starter in the NFL.

Player Comparison: Louis Delmas (S Detroit Lions)

Interesting Fact: He led the nation in interceptions in 2012-2013, after picking off a pass in the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl against SMU.

 

William Gholston (DL Michigan State)

Height: 6’6”

Weight: 281 lbs.

2012-2013 Stats: 59 Tackles, 4.5 Sacks, 10 Passes Deflected

Draft Projection: Rounds 3-4

Gholston is a big defensive lineman, which is scheme versatile (whether it is a 4-3 or 3-4).  His production was not completely noticeable in his stat line, as he was a disruptive breaking up passing and inserting himself into passing lanes.

He has some character issues after being suspended for one game after punching Michigan OT Taylor Lewan, while also twisting off Denard Robinson’s (Michigan QB) during last season’s rivalry game.  Gholston also does not use his strength to his advantage, as he towers over many lineman but avoids contact too often.

He told the Weekend Warriors that he wants to play like J.J. Watt (Houston Texans DE) and Julius Peppers (Chicago Bears DE) in the NFL.  Gholston sited Watt’s arm extension and Peppers’ speed off the line as areas he would like to improve upon (listen to the entire interview at the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault http://bit.ly/11oZUSS). If he learns to utilize his size advantage and arm length, Gholston would be an ideal 5-technique DE in a 3-4 alignment.

Player Comparison: Marcus Spears (DL Baltimore Ravens)

Interesting Fact: William is cousins with former New York Jets first round draft bust Vernon Gholston.

 

Zaviar Gooden (OLB Missouri)

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 234 lbs.

2012-2013 Stats: 61 Tackles, 1 Interception

Draft Projection: Rounds 3-4

Gooden is a freakish athlete for his position, displayed in his combine performance, dominating the linebacker position in almost every category.  He can utilize his speed to track down runner from the weak side, as well as cover faster TE’s and slot receivers in the NFL.

He does not have ideal size for the position, but makes up for it with quick feet.  Though he is best suited to play the WILL (weak-side linebacker) in a 4-3, his athleticism could help him as a situational pass-rusher in a 3-4 scheme.  Gooden’s production was down his final season in college, but was due to a nagging hamstring injury.

He recently spoke with Glenn Clark, telling him that playing in two different conferences was beneficial, as he saw different style offenses.  Gooden explained that the SEC is more of pro-style with physical FBs and TES, whereas he “got a good dosage of the spread offense” in the Big 12 (listen to the entire interview at the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault http://bit.ly/11881By).

Player Comparison: Thomas Howard (LB Cincinnati Bengals)

Interesting Fact: Gooden not only led all LB’s, but also had one of the best overall 40 yard dash times at the NFL Combine, running a 4.47.

 

Tony Jefferson (S Oklahoma)

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 213 lbs.

2012-2013 Stats: 119 Tackles, 2 Interceptions

Draft Projection: Rounds 3-5

Though he lacks great size for the safety position, he makes the most of his frame.  Jefferson is a physical force that loves to stick his head in and make tackles all over the field.  He can play in coverage against slot receivers and TEs but is best-suited with room to roam.

Jefferson does not have elite speed, but plays faster than his 40 time will show.  He is a strong leader, who can excite teammates with big hits and smart, heady plays in the run and passing game.  Jefferson is a sure tackler, who will excel at special teams as well, with his aggressiveness.

He said to Glenn Clark that he does not “have a definite spot” set for the NFL yet, as he played three different positions while at Oklahoma (FS, SS, Nickel).  Jefferson said he can play in any situation in the NFL, and will be ready to be an instant leader in the locker room (listen to the entire interview at the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vaulthttp://bit.ly/11821J6).

Player Comparison: T.J. Ward (S Cleveland Browns)

Interesting Fact:  Jefferson was named the Big 12’s Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2009.

 

*All Photos courtesy of NFL.com.*

 

 

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