Field performance rather than Pro Day may make difference for Tide's Jesse Williams
by Mark Edwards
medwards@annistonstar.com
Apr 24, 2013 | 4196 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jesse Williams started for two years for two national championship teams, but the NFL draft buzz surrounding him concerns a blip of fewer than five seconds March 13.

That's when Alabama hosted a Pro Day for NFL scouts to work out Crimson Tide stars eligible for the draft. Williams was timed in the 40-yard dash at 4.9 seconds, which seems awfully swift for a 325-pound defensive tackle. In addition, he bench pressed 225 pounds 30 times in repetition.

But in the end, will that make any difference in where Williams goes in the draft? The action starts tonight with the first round, beginning at 7 p.m. The second and third rounds will be Friday at 5:30 p.m., and the fourth through seventh rounds will be Saturday at 11 a.m. ESPN will broadcast all seven rounds.

"In terms of where I have him slotted now, it's not just about workouts, it's about how they played, and all these teams have an idea where these kids deserve to go, and they'll be tweaked a little bit based on the numbers that come in from these workouts," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said in a teleconference with reporters. "Some care about it more, some don't. It's about production on the field."

So for Williams, that means he likely will go about where he was slotted before his Pro Day workout.

"A kid who played nose tackle in that 3-4 (defense), is incredibly strong, powerful kid, still raw, still learning the game," Kiper said. "I think you look at him as a second round pick."

Three of Williams' Alabama teammates appear to be locks for tonight's first round: cornerback Dee Milliner and offensive linemen Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker. Eddie Lacy is generally regarded as the top running back available, and if he doesn't go in the first round, he should go in the second.

Most draft analysts agree with Kiper's assessment of Williams, although it's possible he could hear his name called tonight. NFL.com draft analyst Josh Norris has San Francisco taking Williams with the 31st pick in the opening round.

“It’s been a long way, mentally and physically for me to make it all the way over here and do this," said Williams, a native Australian. "It’s been good. It’s a journey, and I’m looking forward to continuing in the NFL.”

The funny thing is about the draft process is that Williams had to change his typical workout to be ready for that Pro Day. He doesn't typically do a lot of running and rarely does the 40-yard dash.

"Hopefully, those are the last ones I’ve got to run for time," he said.

Williams added, "Running’s not the hard part for me. It’s usually stopping without running into you media guys down here was the toughest part for me."

At his Pro Day, Williams got plenty of individual attention from the Detroit Lions scout. Detroit has the fifth pick of the first round and the 36th pick, which is the second round.

But Williams has heard from others.

"There’s a whole bunch of teams," Williams said. "It’s tough to name a bunch of them. I try to keep a pretty even contact with a lot of teams. I know there are a lot of players, and it’s a pretty strong defensive tackle class."

In the end, Alabama coach Nick Saban said his players shouldn't get too caught up in the draft and when they get the phone call from a team: "It's not necessarily where you get drafted but what kind of career after you get drafted," he said.

Contact Anniston Star Sports Editor Mark Edwards at 256-235-3570 or medwards@annistonstar.com. On Twitter: @MarkSportsStar
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