Patriots Draft Spotlight: Leonard Williams

The Patriots were able to add Alan Branch to provide depth at the defensive tackle position midway through the season, but it is clear New England needs to address the interior of their defensive line if they want to win a fifth title in 2015. We start at the top with USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams, an NFL ready tackle-end who projects to start from Day One.

New England finished 9th against the run in 2014, which is pretty good, but they also allowed 161 yards rushing in Super Bowl XLIX, so it is clear the Patriots need to raise their talent level up front defensively to keep pace with other Super Bowl contenders. This draft has good depth at defensive tackle, so there will be strong talent available when the Patriots are on the clock at pick #32. Let's go to the top of the food chain and examine most likely top-five pick Leonard Williams of USC.

Williams, a junior out of the University of Southern California, is a physical specimen at 6'5, 300 pounds. USC used Williams everywhere on the defensive line, which makes him that much more dangerous and useful in the NFL. His raw ability to compares to ex-Patriot Richard Seymour, a first round pick that helped lay the foundation for three Super Bowl wins. The team that ends up with Williams is getting a building block that only comes along every five or ten years.

Williams needs to improve his quickness, specifically coming off the ball. He can make up for a lot of his flaws with strength, but in the NFL that is harder to do. With proper coaching, Williams will improve his ability to get out of his stance and blow up offensive linemen. Williams did have lapses where he wouldn't think and he would stand around if he was out of the play, but as he matures and gets around veterans in the NFL, that will go away.

Williams played 39 games with the Trojans, putting up impressive numbers in the process. Ho totaled 110 solo tackles, 107 assisted tackles, 35.5 tackles for loss, 20 sacks, seven PBU's, four forced fumbles and one interception. Let's not forget that this young man is a defensive tackle, an area on the field that typically doesn't pile up statistics. Some will point to 2014 as Williams best season, but from a pass rushing and overall disruption standpoint, his best season was his freshman year of 2012. Jacksonville and Oakland would be smart to take a look at Williams, and if he is to somehow drop out of the top ten, watch for many teams to be interested in trading up to acquire this future star.

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