Since the Skins brought him in this week I thought I would throw Dan Williams up there. Since we might trade down there is a shot we could look at him.
One of the most difficult scouting projects is grading an inconsistent player. When a player alternates between performing well and performing poorly, the issue is no longer a matter of whether or not he has professional-level potential. The question that has to be answered at that point is why there is a performance variance and whether or not the issue causing the inconsistency can be corrected.
I bring this up because Tennessee senior defensive tackle Dan Williams (#32 in Todd McShay's Mock Draft 1.0 and #18 on Mel Kiper's latest Big Board) may be the most inconsistent player I have reviewed in the Draft Lab series.
I graded six games of Williams' 2009 season (at Florida, vs. Auburn, vs. Georgia, at Alabama, vs. South Carolina, at Ole Miss). He has a reputation of being a run-stuffer, but in the first two contests, Williams won only one of the seventeen Point of Attack (POA) run blocks he faced. It wasn't a matter of his being double-teamed, as he faced only one blocker on twelve of the seventeen blocks. In addition, it is worth noting that the runners gained 70 yards on the runs, so it also wasn't a case where Williams plugged the holes without beating the blocker.
Now contrast that performance to the Week Six game against Georgia. Williams faced seven POA blocks and won three of them. Georgia runners also gained only 11 total yards on those carries and five of them resulted in a gain of two or fewer yards.
The scouting eye and metric eyes were in agreement that Williams was hustling much more in that contest. Proof for this can be found in that all three of his wins came when he defeated a blocker on the backside of the run and then pursued the ballcarrier down. That is a rare and very valuable trait that shows just how good Williams can be when his motor is running.
One surprising finding was how good Williams did in the splash play department (a splash play being when a defender does something to negatively impact a pass). His 11 splash plays in six games isn't in Ndamukong Suh territory but it does rank quite well with the Draft Lab findings for Gerald McCoy (10 splash plays in five games) and beats the marks posted by Marvin Austin (three in five games) and Terrence Cody (three in four games).
Williams' high splash play total was generated in part because he has a very effective swim move. He also has a superb spin move that he wasn't able to get much success out of because the Volunteers faced so much zone pass blocking. If he gets with an NFL team that can put him into more man-blocking situations, Williams should be able to get more than a few splash plays with this move.
For all of the positives listed above, my scouting eye was consistently reminded of the inconsistency issue and it led me to ponder the question posed at the beginning of this article -- what is causing this issue and can it be corrected when Williams gets to the next level?
Some of the answers to this might be found in an interview Williams did with ESPN.com blogger Chris Low. Three questions in particular stand out:
How much better are you moving at the lighter weight?
DW: I'm around 320 right now and able to last a lot longer out there and play a whole lot harder. When I first got here as a freshman, I was 357, but I told myself I was never going to see that weight again. It was just too much good eating. I sort of fell off again after last season when I went home for the holidays and we didn't go to a bowl game. I got back up to around 340 and wasn't watching what I ate. But once spring came and the coaches talked to me, I knew had to get back down to be the player I wanted to be and for the good of the team.
What kind of impact has Ed Orgeron had on your development?
DW: He's been pushing me since he got here. That's the main thing, and I've also learned a lot from him film-wise and about offensive schemes. The main thing, though, is the way he's driven me every day in practice and helped me become a better pass-rusher.
Back in the preseason, they had you listed with the second team. Were they just trying to motivate you?
DW: I really don't know. I just know these coaches are going to play the best players. I guess my practice habits weren't as good, and I wasn't meeting their expectations. I had to change the way Dan Williams was practicing. The way I practiced with the old coaching staff wasn't going to get it. I had to get my mind focused and show these coaches that I was one of the better players on the team.
The upside of this is that Williams realizes his habits weren't what they should be. He also realizes that he does better when paired with a coach who will stay on his case on a consistent basis.
The Football Scientist Lab Result: Williams may be a high-maintenance coaching project but the on-field upside is tremendous and makes it worth the effort. He gets a TFS seal of approval as long as he is picked up by a team that has a fire and brimstone motivator ready to work with him from day one.