Position: Defensive Tackle
Leonard has exceptional foot fire/quickness that he uses to routinely penetrate into the backfield and get around OL’s shoulder. He demonstrates impressive agility and coordination for such a big body that he uses in a very smooth spin move. His body control also stands out on attempted cut blocks as he often sheds it down to his feet while keeping his balance and continuing pursuit. In the ’14 Fresno State tape he beat the RT outside, ran the loop showing good flexibility in his ankles/hips, and balance to work inside and flush the QB outside the pocket. His overall athleticism/quickness is special for 6-5/300 and he uses it to win both inside and outside effectively/consistently.
Section Grade: 7.2
Pride / Quit
Leonard is a legit snap to whistle player who plays with a tremendous toughness in the trenches. His tenacity is as much of a part of his dominance at the POA as his immense strength and power. He has produced at a high and consistent rate in his three years at USC, earning first-team All-American honors in ’13 & ’14 while being named team MVP in ’14. Leonard was clearly the best player on a talent-laden USC defense who constantly collapsed the pocket and generated penetration to allow his teammates a greater opportunity for big plays. Leonard suffered one significant injury while on campus which was a torn labrum which he had surgically repaired this past offseason. Judging by his ’14 season, the injury has completely healed.
Section Grade: 7.4
Learn / Retain
Instinct / Reaction
Leonard displays a sophisticated understanding of playing with leverage at the POA, multiple positions on the defensive line, as well as the ability to take coaching well. In his ’13 tape I counted Leonard being drove back 2-3, sometimes 4 yards at the POA versus double teams due to an odd habit of forming a narrow base. This led him to getting high and crossing his feet at times, showing a need for greater lower body strength. I counted this happening 6 times in 3 games in ’13 and just 1 time in ’14 (vs Fresno State). From the outside looking in it tells me he worked on his technique, hitting the weights, and/or receiving coaching and applying them all to his game over the offseason. Williams has good instincts in terms of knowing when to shed based on reading the ball and doing so quickly. He also shows uncanny reaction time to timing passes at the LOS, batting down several balls in the tapes I studied.
Section Grade: 7.2
Strength / Explosion
Williams is a three year starter including starting 9 of 13 games as a true freshman in ’12, while missing just one game total the last two seasons. His body type includes a very well-rounded dispersion of muscle from head to toe with slightly more bulk from the waist up. Leonard has superb arm length which he uses extremely well and it rounds out a huge frame. Williams has put on close to 30 pounds since arriving on campus and has remained an extremely fluid athlete for his size. His initial overall quickness and exceptionally fast foot fire bring with it incredible explosion out of his stance, enabling him to go through or around the numbers of blockers. His strength can be best described as overpowering as he often puts blockers on skates while displaying a powerful push/pull technique to disengage at will. His rare combination of quickness/explosiveness/power/size enable him to control OL one on one while also showing the capability to penetrate gaps in odd techniques.
Section Grade: 7.9
7.5 Read & React
Stands up OL easily one on one setting up the opportunity to look past his man and read the ball, which he does very well. He consistently reads where the ball is, sheds at will, and makes tackles in the backfield or at the LOS. Also times the snap very well and even though he typically lines up 6 inches behind most of his DL counterparts to read the ball, his reaction time out of his stance is quick and powerful
7.5 Initial Quicks
Out of his stance Williams has elite foot quicks and a long, smooth stride, especially for such a big body, enabling him to beat OTs to the edge while also shoot the gap and knife through double teams on the interior. Quicker vertically than laterally, particularly in space.
8.5 Play Strength
Williams is an incredibly strong player, particularly in his hips which provide the base for his upper body to generate tons of power and explosive movement into blockers numbers. Has heavy hands that pack a vicious initial punch that often stands up OL, demolishes backs & TEs, and enable him to be the aggressor far more than not. Elite functional strength
8 Use of Hands
Possesses explosiveness and fast handwork that bends OL back or puts them on roller skates consistently. Has the ability to halt momentum and has good consistency in his placement center mass
8.5 Shed Blockers
A dominant player in even techniques with a consistent display of leverage of his stance paired with overpowering strength to stack/shed at will and reck the interior blocking scheme
7.0 Run at Him
Has the strength/power/jolt at the POA to stymie blockers and knife double teams but did struggle at times in ’13 versus powerful double teams in keeping a wide base/maintaining leverage. It was corrected for the most part in the tapes I saw in ’14, but is something to investigate
7.5 Pursuit / Range
Outstanding range for 300 pounds, showcases the ability to chase down ballcarriers and QBs on the LOS and the long speed to be a factor in backside pursuit. His motor runs consistently and I didn’t see any major loafs
His overall fluidity plus consistent technique in keeping his shoulders square on contact enable him to bring down ballcarriers easily and he does so with tenacity. Looks a little stiff in his hips to redirect laterally with as great of quickness as he moves vertically with, sometimes limiting his tackling ability
7.5 Closing Burst
With a full head of steam he moves gracefully/effortlessly for such a big body and has very good speed in tracking down the ball. Fluid mover
8.5 Power Rush
Possesses immense explosive power at the POA to jolt OL and get them upright, opening up themselves to Leonard disposing of them at will with a strong rip. Has an overpowering bull rush capability and enough brute strength to rag doll OL to the ground once he wins the leverage battle. Collapses the pocket consistently and wins here most often
6.5 Speed Rush
Not many players his size have possessed such a versatile array of ways to win rushing the QB at this stage of their careers. Leonard’s foot quicks and burst enable him to be able to shoot past interior OLs’ numbers and turn the corner. Showed bend in his ankles in the ’14 Fresno State game to run the loop and close the gap to the QB. Also has displayed numerous times a silky smooth spin move
Williams’ physical prowess has provided him with the rare ability to mask any obvious assignment blunders on film as he often beats whoever is lined up across from him. His biggest issue for me was the tendency to get a narrow base versus double teams in ’13 and get washed down the LOS or backwards. He has maintained leverage and gotten noticeably stronger in his lower half in ’14 but still can improve slightly in this area. Overall a very smart, hard-working player who plays disciplined football
Section Grade: 7.6
7.5 INITIAL QKS
7.5 PLAY SPEED
8.5 PLAY STR
Section Grade: 7.7
Overall Grade: B 7.5
Williams has a huge, filled out frame that he carries with rare fluidity and quickness. Elite level arm length on film with a tremendously strong lockout to stack/shed OL at will. Very quick off the snap with exceptionally light feet allowing him to penetrate creases for TFLs. Demonstrates the rare speed/power combo to go around the OLs’ numbers to the QB or through them. Often puts OL on skates with his bullrush while also showcasing special body control to execute smooth spins, rips, and swim moves.
Occasionally shows some stiffness in his hips to get low and redirect or move laterally with as much quickness as he does vertically, up the field. Versus double teams if he doesn’t get the initial knife through, can form a narrow base, stand up, and get washed out. Often overpowered opponents with ease, may experience a short adjustment period in the pros facing stiff competition consistently. None of these give me a lot of pause, but are worth noting.
Leonard was a highly recruited high schooler from Mainland High School in Daytona Beach, FL. He made an immediate impact as a true freshman appearing in all 13 games, starting 9, and finishing with 64 total tackles, 31 solo, 13.5 TFL, 8 sacks, and 1 INT. Williams went on to miss just one game in the next two seasons before declaring early for the ’15 Draft after his junior season. He finished his career with 217 total tackles, 110 solo, 35.5 TFL, 20 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 2 INTs. He earned back to back first-team All-American honors in ’13/’14 while being named the team MVP in ’14. Williams has lined up in every shade on the defensive line ranging from 0-5 and has played in the 3-4 defense the last two seasons.
Williams fills out a massive, long frame with a natural dispersion of his weight throughout his upper and lower halves. He has very long arms, excellent definition in his arms/legs for his weight, and no gut. His physical appearance is that of a special athlete which matches his on field play. Williams is ideally suited to play in the 3-4 defense due to his ability to manhandle 1 on 1 blocks while also having the quickness to penetrate gaps and get around the numbers. He can stack/shed OL with ease due to extremely powerful mitts and very long arms, locking OL out. He uses a push/pull method to rag doll blockers off him at will or stands them up and puts them on skates. He has struggled at times versus double teams when he doesn’t win the initial leverage battle and can’t knife through or get ahold of a single blocker. These instances (7-8 times) he forms a narrow base, stands up, and gets washed out rather than hunker down with a wide base. He has improved from ’13 to ’14 but is something to monitor as he will be faced with more of these situations in the pro game than college. His foot fire and foot quicks are what transcend him into such a disruptive and versatile player as he can get skinny through gaps and blow plays up in the backfield and move the QB off his spot consistently. Interior OL are too slow and not athletic enough while OTs are often not well-rounded enough to handle his rare blend of length and speed around the edge. His ability to get to the QB with both speed and power is special. He also demonstrates the ability to one arm stab OL, get perpendicular, and set the edge or use the same arm as a pivot to run a tight loop to the QB. He closes on the ball extremely fast, moving in space very smoothly and with a natural stride. Leonard’s immense functional strength, ideal size/length, and rare quickness make him an in immediate starter and potential perennial pro bowler who’s capable of playing in any scheme. He is an extremely safe prospect with a high floor/high ceiling who would be a top 5 pick in any draft.
Value – Top 3
Projection – Top 5
Pro Comp – Muhammad Wilkerson