Raise your hand if you had the Bengals drafting the first offensive tackle in the NFL Draft right after Bobby Hart signed his three-year deal.
No one? Me neither.
In back-to-back years, the Bengals invested in the offensive line with their first-round picks. Last year, it was Billy Price. This year, it’s Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams.
After an interesting first 10 picks which featured the Steelers trading up right in front of the Bengals, Cincinnati has added the latest piece to their evolving offensive line.
What brings to the Bengals
Technical prowess: He’s not an athletic freak, and he’s not a towering presence, but no offensive tackle has a better feel at the position in this class than Williams. His movement ability and hand usage is incredibly advanced for someone who just turned 21 years old last November.
JONAH WILLIAMS is the most mature, NFL psych ready player I’ve met since Andrew Whitworth. Full disclosure: I worked with him this offseason. Nonetheless, he’s will be terrific. YES he’s a LT. Can stop, start and govern his speed with athleticism A foundation piece. pic.twitter.com/zs5WSsIWCT— Paul Alexander (@CoachPaulAlex) April 24, 2019
Upside: Williams’ aforementioned youth will work in his advantage. Though he doesn’t have high-end athleticism, he’s far away from his peak and is in a great position to get better. His base level of ability will help him become even better with more experience.
Experience: At the best program in college football, Williams started from day one as a true freshman and maintained that status for three years. With 44 starts under his belt against mostly the SEC, Williams is battle-tested for the NFL.
Why the Bengals picked Williams
Need: With the top two linebackers off the board, Williams represented the best player available at their second-biggest position of need. An offensive tackle was likely to be picked within the first three rounds, and the board fell right for Williams to be the pick at 11th overall.
Readiness: Out of all the tackles in this class, no one was ready to start right away more than Williams. Hart’s contract may not guarantee his starting spot like some thought it would, and if they expect Williams to come in and start right away like Price did a year ago, he’ll be able to handle it.
Complete ability: While Washington State’s Andre Dillard was the more productive pass protector, Williams boasts much more ability as a run blocker. Williams’ weaknesses involve his size and athleticism, but he can make any block in any scheme in both the run and passing game.
“The shortest path to somebody is directly to them, you know, directly to their center of mass,” Williams told Pro Football Focus’ Austin Gayle. “So, for me, if we’re talking an inch or 5/8 of an inch or whatever we’re talking about with arm length, you can easily overcome that just by shooting your hands inside.
“Obviously, it is advantageous to have longer arms. I understand that. But I think you can overcome a lot of that.”
Positional Versatility: At Alabama, Williams started at right tackle in his freshman year and at left tackle in his sophomore and junior years. He’s proficient enough as a blocker to play all five spots on the line as well, providing extra value for the Bengals. Expect him to play tackle exclusively, though.
Improve the offensive line at all costs: For the second straight year, the Bengals’ offensive line will likely feature two new starters on the right side. Newly signed John Miller will man the right guard spot and Williams may have the upper hand at right tackle. This new duo should be much better than the last two.
Don’t count out Williams playing left tackle this year either.
Zac Taylor, Jim Turner and Brian Callahan. “He enables us to get the best five offensive linemen on the field. Natural position is left tackle.” — Taylor— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) April 26, 2019