NFL scouts that have made their way through Stanford's program gathering information about draft prospects are in agreement that defensive lineman Leonard Williams is the best defensive player they have seen, according to Cardinal head coach David Shaw.
"You ask [the scouts] the question 'Who is the best offensive player you've seen? Who is the best defensive player you've seen?'" Shaw said, according to ESPN. "... All of them said Leonard Williams at USC [on defense]. It's not just me, everybody sees it."
With that admission, Shaw paid the Trojans star one of the highest compliments, and left little doubt as to how Williams stacks up with the top defensive draft prospects in the nation.
Shaw is preparing to face Williams this week with help from a top draft prospect of his own in Stanford left tackle Andrus Peat. Both juniors, the two will be eligible for the 2015 NFL Draft if they choose to forego their last year of NCAA eligibility. Of course, Shaw wouldn't mind if Williams departs after 2014 and Peat stays in school for the 2015 season.
"Hopefully Leonard will be a top-five pick this year and hopefully Andrus will be a top-five pick next year," Shaw said, per the report.
For now, Williams is dealing with an ankle injury that could hamper him against Stanford on Saturday in what will be one of the marquee matchups of the day in college football. He was a dominant player last season at both defensive end and defensive tackle in amassing 74 tackles -- a very high total for a defensive lineman -- 14.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. Stanford offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren said Williams "adversely affected our game plan" while playing with a shoulder injury last season, according to the report.
Nevertheless, early reviews on Williams' potential as a pro aren't without some concerns. NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks evaluated some film of Williams, and came away wanting to see more consistency from Williams before stamping him approved for the elite category.