Leonard Williams' best fits include Buccaneers, Titans, Jaguars


The key to building a dominant defense in today's NFL is to start at the line of scrimmage.

The general managers and coaches responsible for constructing the premier defenses in football typically began with a big-bodied defender who has the size, strength and athleticism to wreak havoc against the run or pass at the point of attack. These bears at the line are also high-motor players with a relentless competitive spirit and exceptional hand skills.

As the 2015 NFL season approaches, Bucky Brooks is poring over film to determine the best of the best in the NFL. Click on each group below for full analysis and rankings.

I've surveyed the 2015 class with that premise in mind, and I believe USC end Leonard Williams is the only defender capable of having an immediate impact on a franchise's fortunes from Day 1. Sure, there are others in the class with the potential to deliver occasional "splash" plays, but there isn't another defender with the talent, physical tools and energy to make a difference on every snap.

Williams, who measures 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, is a gifted defender with extraordinary balance, body control and explosiveness for his size. He dances up and down the line of scrimmage like a ballerina, yet displays the strength and power to manhandle blockers. Williams' hand-to-hand combat proficiency is superb; he shows technical skills that are remarkable for a player just entering the NFL. Whether he's slipping past blockers on pass rushes using a quick arm-over move or showcasing an impressive butt-and-jerk maneuver on running plays, Williams excels at controlling blockers at the line with his length and hand strength. In addition, he plays with leverage and proper pad level, which makes him nearly impossible to neutralize in one-on-one matchups.

Critics will point out that Williams doesn't consistently chase down plays from the back side or fully utilize his repertoire of moves at the point of attack. But he displays all of the tools defensive line coaches covet in "blue chip" defenders, suggesting he could be an extraordinary player at the next level when he puts the pieces of the puzzle together.

I know I've heaped a ton of praise on the USC standout during this scouting report, but Williams is a rare find at the position, and coaches are salivating over his potential, despite a lack of polish. If I had to compare him to a former/current pro, I would cite Richard Seymour and Kevin Williams as prime examples, factoring in talent and athleticism. Both players earned multiple Pro Bowl honors as versatile defenders along the line, and I would expect Williams' career to follow a similar path, provided he lands with a team that uses the right scheme for him.

Keeping scheme fit in mind, I've come up with five teams that could enable Williams' talents to blossom:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 1 overall pick)

Lovie Smith wants to find someone to complement tackle Gerald McCoy on the front line and help the Buccaneers become a dominant force in the NFC South. The presence of Williams on the outside would discourage opponents from extensively double-teaming McCoy. The USC standout destroys one-on-one matchups and excels at creating disruptive plays in the backfield. In addition, Williams is an active run defender, adept at slipping through cracks to hit ball-carriers in the hole. Tampa Bay must build an elite defense if it wants to slow down the explosive offenses within its division. Adding Williams could significantly impact the Buccaneers' playoff chances in 2015.

Tennessee Titans (No. 2)

The addition of Dick LeBeau to the coaching staff underscores the importance of improving the Titans' defense in 2015. The wily coaching veteran can craft a host of exotic schemes designed to disrupt the timing and rhythm of opposing offenses, but Tennessee still needs to stockpile blue-chip players with exceptional skills. As a dynamic defender with a rare combination of size, strength and athleticism, Williams fits the bill. He dominates at the point of attack and creates the kind of chaos that LeBeau appreciates and likes to make the focal point of his exotic-blitz scheme. Most importantly, Williams is a high-motor player with the toughness and tenacity to help Tennessee's defense re-emerge as a bully in the AFC.

Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 3)

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Gus Bradley's defense plays as hard as any unit in football, but the Jags' lack of blue-chip players leaves them routinely coming up short in big games. Not only would Williams upgrade the talent along the defensive line, but his presence would create big-play opportunities for his teammates. Whether by occupying blockers at the line of scrimmage so that the linebackers could run and chase or by attracting double-team attention as a pass rusher, Williams would help Jacksonville's defense get back on track and win a few more games in the AFC South. If Williams shows coaches he can play inside on nickel downs and outside on regular downs, the Jaguars could finally have the pieces in place to legitimately compete for the first time in Bradley's tenure.

Oakland Raiders (No. 4)

The Raiders are starting to assemble a young collection of dynamic talent on defense. Khalil Mack and Sio Moore are intriguing players on the second level, but the team needs a disruptive playmaker at the line of scrimmage. Williams is not only a dynamic force as a versatile lineman, but he is a difference-maker capable of helping a unit improve quickly with his dominant presence up front. Whether he's utilizing his superb rush skills or his underrated run-stopping ability, Williams is the kind of "hard hat and lunch pail" player Jack Del Rio needs to help the Raiders turn the corner in the AFC West.

New York Giants (No. 9)

The return of Steve Spagnuolo as coordinator means the Giants will focus intently on rebuilding the defensive line and attempt to develop a deep rotation that overwhelms opponents throughout the game. Williams would be a perfect fit in the Giants' scheme as an inside-outside rusher with outstanding size, strength and movement skills. He can fill a Justin Tuck-like role in the rotation while giving the G-Men a young, talented pass rusher to complement Jason Pierre-Paul (provided Pierre-Paul re-signs with the team) along the front line. Spagnuolo places significant emphasis on the defensive line within his scheme, meaning the addition of Williams could play a huge role in New York's defensive reconstruction.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.



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