6'6", 315lbs, 5.13 40yd
Which Legacy?One has been in the service of the king, and would like to be again. The other has flown the colors and namesake of our Broncos, in more ways than one.
A dismal 2007 season has set up the targets of what is to become one of the most crucial reloading seasons of Mike Shanahan's tenure, and one by one he is knocking them down. 10 key free-agent signings, 5 positions addressed, 2 low hanging draft picks for a day-of-the-draft trade, and 1 last, glaring hole, that is meant to be filled with greatness, whether from within or from without.
And from without, there is a special combination of talent, training, and timing that will present itself when Denver has an opportunity to select at #12 in the draft. It is a rare chance that Denver may not see again for years, and which will continue to write the chapters of a story that began long before this draft. But whose story will it be, and which legacy is meant to be carried on?
OT Boise State
6'6", 309lbs, 5.18 40yd
Always a Bronco
Its not just the colors, though something special does happen to any soul swaddled in the orange and blue. Call it the essence of the mountain states, a kind of ideal twilight zone, at altitudes that challenge the clouds themselves. And it is more than is held in the title of Bronco, though the term grasps well the rugged workmen, who do the work of gladiators and whose physical tools fashion the engines of war.
Ryan Clady almost has a perception of this. What he doesn't understand of the words required to express the idea, he understands of the idea itself, like a strange enlargement of the spirit, a taming of the fierce elements. The actions of a man in that environment are the actions of a defense against agression that is barely concealed and highly transparent. It is about being the only warm thing across miles of wasted labor and blind forces. It is about being the only light and spark in the darkness around you. A Bronco is a Bronco, whether in Boise or Denver, whether at a school that cannot gain recognition in the face of ancestor worship and ancient monarchy, or a franchise that can't draw the eyes of the Hall of Fame to its achievements.
Once a fighter, always a fighter.
The Once and Future Tackle
In Denver, Jay Cutler is King. But he was once a prince, and that prince had a guardian.
Cutler was kept clean and upright, and able to show the world what he could do amongst some of the fastest, fiercest defenses in college football. And Chris Williams was a big part of the reason for that. His pedigree is pure, and he left Vanderbilt as its best, and one of its brightest, tackles ever. And to be sure, the history books will probably not get this one entirely correct. Williams protected Cutler for one year out of three that Williams was starting at Vanderbilt. A good connection, but not the stuff of legends. But the great eye of history, which sees only the broadest abstractions, will remember it as Lancelot questing afar from Arthur.
It won't be the separation, but the reuniting, that counts.
- Physical: For all intents and purposes, these guys are nearly identical in terms of size and build. Clady has a little more definition, while Williams has a bit of a softer look about him, but Williams has a better build throughout, with wide shoulders and strong legs, while Clady has an undersized lower body. They have nearly identical speed, with both recording lows of 5.12 in the 40yd. The both can and should bulk up to handle LT duties in the NFL. Clady: 8 out of 10; Williams: 8 out of 10.
- Hands and Feet: Both have an excellent long reach, and both get into their blocks very well from the line of scrimmage. Williams is still learning to use his hands properly inside, and can be beat by fast edge rushers, while Clady has more of a problem with rushers who get low and go under his handwork, which tends to be excellent. Both have quick feet, thoguh Williams has a better grasp of how to protect his lower body from trash. Clady by far is the superior lateral mover and he shows very natural and effortless hip movement to sink low, and to slide, whereas Williams does not move laterally as well, nor does he pull or move to the second level as well. Clady, on the other hand, doesn't recover well if he gets beat around the corner, while Williams recovers and maintains in pass blocking with relative ease. Clady: 9 out of 10; Williams 7 out of 10.
- Technique: Clady has an edge in the handpunch department, which he uses like an aged veteran, knocking opponents off balance, stunning opponents and setting opponents up for good pulling blocks. His hand punch is truly vicious and one of his best assets. Williams rarely uses this type of aggressive technique and doesn't appear well versed in it, instead relying on more finnesse moves. Unfortunately Williams developed a habit as a junior that carried over into his senior season, where he seemed almost too finnesse. He would leave blocks unfinished while transitioning smoothly to new blocks, which looks good but has bad results. Both are good at mirroring fast DEs and quite effective at neutralizing an edge rush, as long as they mirror and don't try to overpower, and both get back into pass protection very well, with good foot slide. Clady: 9 out of 10; Williams: 8 out of 10.
- Power:This is an area where Clady must improve. He almost has to add about 20 pounds or he may never be fully effective in the run game. While he rarely gets tall in his stance, defenders can still manage to outleverage his light frame, and inline blocking is definitely not his strength. He is plenty aggressive, but his leg drive simply cannot match Williams, who could also add some bulk. Clady can be overpowered by more physical defenders, but Williams can hold his own against same. Williams however does have some undersize issues as well, and can be jolted pretty good with first contact, or lose his footing when drive blocking. Both can improve in this area, but Williams clearly has an advantage. Clady: 6 out of 10; Williams: 8 out of 10.
- Attitude: Everyone has heard of how poorly Clady did on the Wonderlic, and it is even worse when compared to Williams who scored quite highly. One effect of this that can clearly be seen on the field is mental lapses, of which Clady was guilty on far too many occassions. Williams is excellent in film study and in grasping the playbook and his responsibilities, even taking younger players under his wing. And while Williams would miss assignments from time to time, Clady opened up his 2007 season getting peanlized four plays in a row during Boise's second game of the year. One of the most penalized offensive linemen in Boise, Clady also found a way to respond, stringing together three games later in the season where opponents facing him recorded zero statistics: 0 sacks, 0 tackles, 0 pressures. Williams is regarded as not having much of a mean streak, but this is due more to his reliance on finnesse over aggressive moves. I don't give much thought to this implicated negative. Williams is also considered to be an exemplar of workout ethic, while Clady needs to be motivated in this regard. Where this translates to the field is anybody's guess, as it is Williams who is more guilty of passive blocking, especially at the second level where he rarely makes a statement, whereas Clady has that mean streak that just seems to always be looking for an enemy to take it out on. Sometimes to the detriment of his pass blocking, in fact, as he can get so caught up in the battle that he fails to let the pocket develop properly. Clady: 7 out of 10; Williams: 9 out of 10.
- Potential: The WAC isn't the SEC. they aren't even close. But at a certain point football players are football players, so it isn't like we are comparing apples and oranges here. But there is still good reason to doubt whether or not the handpunch that served Clady so well against Washington and Hawai'i would be as effective in the NFL. On the other hand, Williams has proven himself battle hardened by a stint in the SEC, but how much more does he have to prove? Both players have frames that can adjust to the rigors of the NFL, neither is too small or too slow. While both need to increase their strength to be immediate impact starters, Williams seems more ready to be an NFL runblocker, where he could move to LG (where he played initially at Vanderbilt) until he adds enough power to be less of a liability against powerful edge rushers. Clady, on the other hand, should be ready to come in as an NFL pass blocker, where he could spend time at RT until he adds enough bulk to hold up better at LT. Clady: 9 out of 10; Williams: 9 out of 10.
Both players have pluses and minuses, and the geography of the team that selects them will be uniquely changed by the combination of what they currently bring to the table with what they have the potential to bring. Williams could boost the interior running game while solidifying the depth and options on the QBs blind side. Clady could be part of a solid pass blocking game that keeps Cutler upright and provides insurance and depth to the tackle positions. Both players have the tools to excel, Clady with his agility and aggressiveness, Williams with his experience and tactical ability.
Denver can use either, but they can only take one.
If You Had To Chose, Which OT Would You Select?
This poll is closed