A native of Brisbane, Australia, Alabama defensive lineman Jesse Williams is the perfect example of the deep talent pool at defensive line in this year’s draft.
At 6 feet, 31/2 inches tall and 323 pounds, Williams is a powerhouse inside, demonstrated by his 600-pound bench press.
But he also is surprisingly nimble and agile pursuing ball carriers because of his rugby and basketball background in Australia. Williams ran an impressive 4.90-second 40-yard time at his pro day last month.
Nicknamed “Tha Monstar,” Williams likely would be pegged for the first round in most any other year. But with as many as 10 defensive linemen expected to be drafted in the first round, Williams could be there for the taking when the Seahawks select in the second round.
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Williams, 22, earned an all-Southeastern Conference second-team selection in 2012. He started 12 games, finishing with 37 tackles with 2.5 for loss, one sack, two pass deflections, four quarterback hurries and a blocked field goal.
Williams also played some fullback for Alabama on goal-line situations.
He has been compared to San Francisco’s Justin Smith and New England’s Vince Wilfork, but Williams looks to versatile Baltimore defensive lineman Haloti Ngata as a guy whom he wants to emulate at the next level.
“As a player, he holds himself pretty well,” Williams said. “We have similar body types. And the way he plays, his attitude toward the game, and I think his love for the game is something I strive to be as much as I can.”
The Seahawks signed Tony McDaniel in free agency to replace run-stuffing defensive tackle Alan Branch, who signed with Buffalo. But drafting Williams would give the Seahawks another option for a run stuffer on early downs.
Two more defensive-tackle options from small schools include Tennessee-Martin’s Montori Hughes and Missouri Southern’s Brandon Williams.
At 6-foot-4 and 329 pounds, Hughes initially attended Tennessee, but he was dismissed from the team in 2011.
Hughes transferred to Tennessee-Martin, where he became a full-time starter in 2012, finishing with 42 tackles, including 8.5 for a loss, and four sacks.
The Seahawks showed heavy interest in Hughes at the Senior Bowl. Hughes said he also talked with Seattle representatives at the NFL scouting combine in February.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot to prove,” Hughes said. “That’s just the way I am. I’m a competitor, and I like to compete. I just want to show what I can do, have fun and take advantage of the opportunities I have.”
Williams is the third player in Division II history to become a three-time All-American. At 6-1 and 335 pounds, Williams recorded a school-record 27 sacks, despite possessing the traditional build of a run-stuffing defensive tackle.
Even though the Seahawks signed pass rushers Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in free agency, coach Pete Carroll always looks to add speed off the edge of the defense through the draft.
Two defensive ends that could make sense for the Seahawks in the second round are LSU’s Sam Montgomery and Alex Okafor of Texas.
Montgomery led a talented LSU defense in sacks (eight) and had 13 tackles for loss last season. At 6-3 and 262 pounds, he fits the profile for Seattle’s Leo pass rusher, although Montgomery admitted to taking plays off against lesser teams at the combine.
Okafor is one of the most polished pass rushers in the draft. He led the Big 12 with 12.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. But questions about Okafor’s initial burst and overall speed are reasons why he still might be around when Seattle selects in the second round.
Expect the Seahawks to select a defensive lineman at some point in the draft. General manager John Schneider has selected six defensive linemen in the past three drafts. Only defensive backs (eight) have been targeted more by Seattle.
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org