I have seen two schools of thought emerging when it comes to how the first round should play out for Denver. One says we finally need to address our MLB position with a playmaker (Rodney did a great piece recently on this point with Ryan Shazier). The other prevailing theory says that our offense was owned in the trenches in the Super Bowl and in several big games throughout the season. Thus, we should get strong, nasty, big OLinemen early and often in the draft.
I am on the fence as to what school of thought I subscribe to. I am not a draft expert, nor as knowledgeable as some of the other members(Bmike, Ozark, Scotty), but I figured I would try and highlight a guy that I think could be a solid Mike for us and would be late enough in the draft to give us flexibility to go BPA or Oline/BPA in the first few rounds.
Therefore, without further ado I give you...
AVERY WILLIAMSON ILB Kentucky. 6'1" 246 lbs
40 Yard Dash - 4.66 (4th best at combine)
Bench Press - 25 reps (Tied for 8th best with Ryan Shazier)
20 Yard Shuttle - 4.07 (3rd best at combine)
3-Cone drill - 7.11 (Just under Khalil Mack)
Vertical Jump - 30.5 in (Not so hot)
Broad Jump - 120 in (A little better than C.J. Mosely)
As you can see from the combine numbers (which I realize is only a small piece of the overall evaluation puzzle). Avery Williamson is decently athletic (not Shazier by any means but not too shabby) and backs it up with what I believe is Elway and Fox's biggest thing they look for: consistent production. Williamson has over 300 tackles in his career. 2013 he led his team with 102 tackles and was selected 2nd team All-SEC: 2012 he finished second in the entire SEC with 135 tackles and played in all 12 games in 2011 and 2010. All this in the toughest conference in college football.
In addition to his numbers, I watched some tape on him (I don't like watching highlights as they just show the good stuff and you can rarely see the play develop. Fortunately, they had some full games like the one above) and while I'm not an expert, I liked what I saw. He surprised me and looked really good in coverage from what I saw often blanketing his guy and causing the QB to look elsewhere or pull the ball down. He was also very active in the backfield, and made a few good stops on the goal line. Now he was by no means perfect, sometimes picking the wrong hole to plug or being driven out of a play by a lineman, but I think he is definitely coachable and has some talent. In the video above within the first minute you can see him jam a TE coming out of his break in coverage and sniff out a play in the backfield.
Finally, here is what some of the people that actually get paid to do this stuff said about him.
STRENGTHS: Williamson is an alert, active defender who locates the ball quickly. He slides past would-be blockers rather than taking them on forcefully when he can. He is not an overly physical defender who knocks ball-carriers to the ground but instead wraps his arms securely for the effective stop. Williamson is agile and quick and shows good awareness in coverage. He remains on the field, typically in coverage (rather than blitzing) on passing downs and can handle short and intermediate route duties.
WEAKNESSES: Does not appear to have more than average straight-line speed for the position, which could pose problems playing middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. Lack of physicality may be frowned upon by next-level evaluators when considering the hard-nosed approach that NFL inside 'backer is typically desired to take.
COMPARES TO: Looks like a guy who could put up big tackle numbers "in the box" at the next level, but must show better speed to the flanks if his stock is to rise significantly.
(Author's note: I think this was written before the combine because NFL.com had this to say:)
"Based on production, it's hard to understand why Williamson wasn't initially more highly regarded. He posted back-to-back 100-tackle seasons in his last two years with the Wildcats as the heart-and-soul performer on a porous defense, including 135 as a junior in 2012. Concerns about his pro potential centered around his speed and quickness, which he answered emphatically with a 40-yard dash of 4.66 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine last month, and a 4.07 20-yard shuttle time that ranked third among all combine linebackers: better than the top two outside linebackers in this year's draft, Buffalo'sKhalil Mack and UCLA's Anthony Barr, who are both potential top-10 picks (Mack might even go in the top five)." Not surprisingly, increased interest in Williamson followed.
Along with his three visits to the AFC's Jaguars, Patriots and Titans, jacksonsun.com reports that Williamson has also received strong attention from the Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams, Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers and New York Jets.
Good size. Plays with a good, wide base. Very productive tackler. Outstanding personal and football character — works hard, is accountable and commands respect. Smart, understands the game and can make all the calls and on-field adjustments.
So what says you MHR? Should we take a shot on another late round LB from Kentucky?