Sylvester Williams Scouting Report: NFL Outlook for North Carolina DT

Ryan Lownes@@ryanlownesFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2013

BLACKSBURG, VIRGINIA - NOVEMBER 17:  Quarterback Logan Thomas #3 of the Virginia Tech Hokies runs with the ball for a touchdown as defensive tackle Sylvester Williams #92 of the North Carolina Tar Heels chases at Lane Stadium on November 17, 2011 in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
Geoff Burke/Getty Images

Sylvester Williams

Denver Broncos

First Round, 28th Pick

Having watched Sylvester Williams play at a high level the past two seasons, it is hard to believe that he has just five years of football experience under his belt.

The double teams he commanded at the heart of the Tar Heels defense are testament to the respect offensive coordinators had for his disruptive capabilities.

Williams may be one of the flashiest, most explosive interior linemen in this class, but will his lack of experience hurt him on draft day? 

+ Excellent initial quickness - Questionable instincts, awareness
+ Very disruptive penetrator - Does not change direction very well
+ Versatile interior force capable of playing one or two-gap - Struggles to break down and tackle in space
+ Utilizes a devastating swim move - Motor seems to run hot and cold


In terms of sheer physical tools, Sylvester Williams is easily one of the most intriguing in this defensive-tackle class.

At 6’2 5/8”, 313 pounds, he is wide-bodied with a powerful build and thick trunk. That strong lower body helps to make him very explosive. He displays tremendous quickness and speed for his size, running a solid 5.03 in Indianapolis.

While fairly athletic, Williams does not look natural when asked to change direction and may be a bit limited in that sense. With the exception of the aforementioned 40-yard dash, he failed to make a positive impression in most timed or measured drills at the NFL Scouting Combine.


Sylvester Williams actually has a bit of an uplifting story. After playing just one year of high school football, he thought he was done with the sport and actually worked at a manufacturing company making radiator parts before heading to Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College to pursue a degree.

The junior college standout played only two seasons with the Tar Heels, starting every game.  From what I have gathered, the first team All-ACC defensive tackle appears to be a solid locker-room presence with a strong work ethic.


While at North Carolina, Williams lined up at several positions along the Tar Heels interior. Usually aligned in a 4-3 front, he primarily occupied the 3-tech spot. He excels shooting gaps but also is capable of occupying blockers, playing both in one- and two-gap roles in North Carolina’s defense.

Pass Rush

Sylvester Williams is a disruptive, penetrating tackle that pushes the pocket and effectively pressures the quarterback.

A lightning-quick first step frequently puts blockers on their heels, and there are games in which he lived in the backfield. He demonstrates the power and quickness to win at the point of attack.

Williams is not without variety, utilizing a tremendous swim move. Additionally, he shows the ability to counter as a pass rusher. Good closing speed allows him put the heat on in pursuit.

Against the Run

Once again, Williams’ quickness and power allow him to be extremely disruptive behind the line of scrimmage.  The same moves that work when rushing the passer tend to also be effective against the run.

While he excels shooting gaps, Sylvester Williams also displays the ability to hold up against the double team. He anchors well at the point of attack, rarely giving ground.

One area of his game that I found to be inconsistent, however, was his recognition skills and awareness. He lacks range against the run and does not track the ball overly well.


If there is something Sylvester Williams still struggles with on a consistent basis, it is tackling. A massive individual, he appears to have trouble breaking down and tackling in space.

His limited football experience shows in this regard, as his tackling form is poor. In the future, Williams must make a concentrated effort to keep his eyes on the ball carrier and aim lower.

Use of Hands

In addition to the explosiveness I have harped on in this report, Sylvester Williams also wins with good leverage.

He can be a handful at the point of attack, utilizing a powerful punch and strong bull-rush.

His game may not be predicated on his ability to manipulate linemen with his hands, but he flashes violence at times and typically does a solid job of keeping blockers out of his body.

Future Role/Scheme Versatility

The best fit for Sylvester Williams would be a one-gap scheme that would allow him to utilize his disruptive penetrating ability. I believe he will be seen by most teams as a 3- or 1-tech in a four-man front. It is possible, however, that he could be viewed as a 3-4 defensive end in the CoreyLiuget mold.

Williams has a lot of pass rushing upside and, in the right scheme, he could develop into a force to be reckoned with in the trenches.

Draft Projection: Late First-Second Round


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