By Justin Byers | @Justin_A_Byers
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS – Jonah Williams has set out to prove that a measurement doesn’t indicate his ability to make plays on the football field.
Williams, a unanimous first-team All-American offensive tackle for the University of Alabama team that reached the championship game of the College Football Playoff last season, was regarded as one of the better tackles in the 2019 class and projected as a first-round draft choice. That was before his arm length – 33 5/8 inches – suddenly became an issue at the National Football League Scouting Combine.
The measurement raised potential concerns because to some NFL evaluators, the length of an offensive tackle’s arms could hinder an ability to deal with edge rushers. The arm length numbers ignited a debate on whether Williams possesses the physical traits to be a tackle or if he would be better suited to play guard. Williams is working to prove that one number doesn’t tell the complete story.
Williams was a three-year starter who left after his junior season. “I think I’m proud of the way I play, my approach to the game. That’s what makes me a great player,” Williams said. “So if my fingers were an eighth of an inch longer, it might be good enough.”
Offensive linemen have been under increased scrutiny, partly the result of inconsistent play by first-round draft choices. Former picks such as Ereck Flowers, who went to Jacksonville in 2015 and Cyrus Kouandjio, selected by Buffalo in 2014, have struggled at the professional level. The physical demands coupled with the mental capacity required to be successful in the trenches has proven to be too much of a burden for some offensive line prospects looking to make a way in the league.
For offensive lineman, their second day of evaluation included physical testing, an opportunity for Williams to combat the notion that he shouldn’t be considered an NFL-ready tackle.
Williams, who was measured at 6 feet, 4 inches and 304 pounds, demonstrated that he should be considered one of the top tackles in this year’s draft. In the 40-yard dash, Williams clocked in at 5.12 seconds, tied for the ninth-best time in the group of offensive linemen that included guards, centers and tackles.
In the broad jump, an indicator of lower-body power and balance, Williams came in at 100 inches, ranking tenth among offensive linemen.
Despite the short arms measured on day one, Williams silenced the critics with an impressive outing in the physical testing of the combine. Then there is the video evidence of the dominance throughout his Alabama career. “I’ll play anywhere a team wants me to play,” Williams said. “But I was the best tackle in college football.”