Entering the 2013 NFL Draft, one of the biggest concerns for the Baltimore Ravens was whether or not they would address the nose tackle position.
They reloaded the defensive line by signing veterans Marcus Spears and Chris Canty in free agency, but both figure to play almost exclusively at defensive end in Baltimore’s 3-4 defense.
Nose tackle was still a looming uncertainty, with the underachieving Terrence Cody being the only true nose tackle on the team. Sure, Haloti Ngata may be moved inside to start at nose tackle, but with many new faces, that’s still yet to be determined. So if the team truly only had Cody at nose tackle heading into the draft, improvements needed to be made.
The Ravens did just that by selecting Missouri Southern State defensive tackle Brandon Williams in the third round.
The team never shies away from delving into the crop of small-school prospects in the draft, and Williams fits that bill. Playing Division II football led to Williams accumulating impressive stats.
He recorded 16.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and five forced fumbles in 2012 and earned conference defensive player of the year honors.
In his sophomore year, he recorded 17 tackles for loss and nine sacks despite starting just seven games.
Sure, the lack of competition helped skew his stats, but he also had an impressive performance during Senior Bowl week.
Facing some of the draft’s top offensive linemen, Williams showed an impressive burst off the line. He, for the most part, was able to get good leverage on his opponents, however, he did get caught standing straight up too early on plays and also got too low on others.
He also displayed an array of pass rush moves, including his spin move, which isn’t necessary for a 3-4 nose tackle, but it’s certainly welcomed.
He’s a strong player with a frame that is as finely crafted as a 335-pound body could be. The majority of his physical make-up is muscle, and he seems to have the necessary endurance to play frequently at a position that lacks depth for the Ravens.
If Ngata is moved to nose tackle, Williams would battle Cody for the backup job. If that’s the case, Williams, even though he’s the newcomer, would likely win the battle.
Cody is a free agent after the 2013 season, but he could be looking for a new team sooner than later if he is beaten out by Williams. He’s never lived up to his second-round expectations, and if he were to lose out to a rookie, it’d be hard to justify keeping him.
But, if the Ravens plan to primarily use Ngata at defensive end still, then Cody’s roster spot could be safe, but his playing time likely won’t be.
Assuming Williams can adjust to the severe increase in talent that he’s facing, he’ll certainly outshine Cody in training camp and subsequently win the starting nose tackle.
Williams’ role this season will rely heavily on the Ravens’ plans for Ngata and Cody, but with his strength and athleticism, he’ll be a welcomed commodity who will have quite a large role in his rookie year.
He can be a disruptive player who will easily find his way into the backfield, especially with two Pro Bowl edge rushers (Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil) to go along with Ngata, Canty, Spears, Art Jones and Pernell McPhee.
With immense talent around him, Williams is in a prime position to excel as a newcomer.