Some people aren’t high on Alabama T Jonah Williams because of the perception that he has short arms. While there is nothing Williams can do to change his length, Florida T Jawaan Taylor made wholesale changes in high school in order to lose more than 50 pounds. They both probably don’t have to make any alterations in order to be first-round picks in April.
The 6'4½”, 302-pound Williams rose through the 'Bama ranks for three seasons to where he was the Tide's left tackle starter for all 29 games in 2017-18. He didn't allow a sack all last season as a junior and was named a unanimous All-America pick as well as the SEC's Jacobs Trophy winner as the conference's best O-lineman.
“I’ll play wherever a team wants me to play,” Williams told reporters this week. “I was the best offensive tackle in college football, so I know I can play at the next level.”
His size, arm length (33 5/8") and wingspan (81¾") are on the small side for LT in the NFL, though, which will encourage speculation that he's headed to RT or G for the team that selects him in the draft.
“I think that’s a small portion of what it takes to be a tackle at the next level,” Williams said of his arm length. “I think if you look at a lot of the really successful tackles over the past 10 years — Joe Thomas, Joe Staley, Jake Matthews, Jason Peters, La’el Collins, Riley Reiff, Ryan Ramczyk — just a couple guys off the top of my head that have shorter arms than me — I don’t think that’s necessarily a huge deal. I’m proud of the way I play. My approach to the game makes me a great player. So if my fingers were an eighth of an inch longer, I might be good enough? I think the way that I play is what defines me as a football player.”
The Jets, who hold the No. 3 overall selection in the first round, have starting openings at both center and left guard. While Williams sees himself as a football player first, he clearly wants to continue to protect the quarterback’s blindside.
“I want to be on the field and there are five O-line positions. If they want to put me at tight end, I’ll play tight end. If they want to put me at receiver, center, guard – I’ll play it,” he said. “I want to play, I know I’m capable of playing left tackle at the highest level. I’ve proven I can do it in college, so it’s really up to an NFL team. If they see me fit and they need a left tackle, I believe I can fill that spot. But if they have one and want to put me somewhere else, I just want to play.”
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Taylor wouldn’t have played collegiately at Florida had he not transformed his lifestyle at Cocoa High School. At 383 pounds, he labored through practices and workouts and delighted in too many chips and Hostess cakes. But he flipped his script and started to eat vegetables, salads and lean proteins, making it easier to move to the second level.
“I just lost it pretty much my junior year going into my senior year of high school,” he said. “I lost 52 pounds within two and a half months, just changed up my eating habits and I worked out three times a day that whole summer.”
Taylor is fighting Williams for the top tackle spot in many pre-Combine mock drafts. He measured 6'5", 312 in Indy, although his program weight as Florida's three-year starter (33 of his 35 starts came at RT) was 328. He has one of the top wingspans among linemen at the Combine at 84¾". But after the measurements were done, it was disclosed that Taylor won't do any drills at Lucas Oil due to a slight hamstring strain.
Like Taylor, Williams did meet with the Jets. The latter was asked about potentially suiting up for the Green & White and blocking for Sam Darnold.
“That would be a dream come true as well,” he said. “He’s a great quarterback and I would love to go out and block for him too.”
The consensus is the strength of the offensive line class is on the inside. But Williams and Taylor both believe they are ready to make an immediate impact on the outside.
“The NFL is the highest level of football but in my opinion the SEC is the highest level of college football, particularly when you’re going against those D-ends every day and every game, every day in practice,” Williams said during an appearance on NFL Network. “I think that’s the way you get better is iron against iron, playing against guys like that, so I think that really benefited me.”