The term ‘talent,’ when it comes to evaluating football players, is a word that can lead people to value different parts more heavily than the others. Some view ‘talent’ as an overall, raw skill level that just jumps off the page at you. In terms of that raw talent, there’s little doubt that number six has more than most on the team.
However, this countdown isn’t only a judge of that raw talent level. It also accounts for performance on the field, the consistency in that performance and projecting that player into future years. When player number six was drafted, he was thought to be one of the best, and most genetically gifted pass rushing prospects since Bruce Smith.
DE Mario Williams
Age: 29 (1/31/85) Height: 6’6” Weight: 292
Why he’s here:
- In terms of the combination of size, speed and strength off the edge, Williams had to come in on the high side of this list every single time. He is the prototypical 4-3 defensive end and the type of player that makes coaches and general managers drool over if available. However, there are legitimate reasons he did not crack the top five of this list. For starters, his film is not consistently among the same levels from week to week. There will be games that he finds a weak right tackle (Carolina’s Byron Bell, Miami’s Tyson Clabo) and he beats that player time and time again. But when playing against above average to good right tackles, Williams disappears. Despite his 13 sack season in 2013, he had only two sacks over the team’s final eight games. The other knock against him is the age factor. While he isn’t old by NFL standards just yet, he is older than four of the five players remaining on this countdown, which means he may not project towards the future as well as some of the others. All in all, Williams has the ability to be an absolute monster on the field but doesn’t always make his presence felt.
Switching back to the 4-3 defensive scheme, there isn’t much of a change for Williams despite the move. In 2013, Williams basically played the role of a defensive end rushing from the left side of the defensive line. This season, he’ll be doing the same in a scheme that will ask the defensive ends to win their matchups to get pressure on the quarterback. In Mike Pettine’s scheme last year, blitzes were brought from all over the place which led to enhanced opportunities for the men on the defensive line. While blitzing won’t be completely eradicated, there will be more straight-up four-man rushes from the defensive line this year than last. Williams is always one of the most fascinating to watch on film, because he has perhaps more raw ability than anyone on the team, and it’s always a matter of if he capitalizes on it from week to week.