The Bengals added offensive lineman Jonah Williams out of Alabama with the 11th overall selection. It was surprising that the Bengals ended up having their pick of offensive tackles after the top 10, but head coach Zac Taylor and the Bengals feel like they got a good one in Williams.
“We’re very excited. We thought highly of Jonah ever since this process started — starting at the combine from the first interview,” Taylor told reporters after the pick. “Obviously his tape speaks for itself, so it’s a really exciting addition to our offense and to our offensive line room. High football IQ, great football character, the game means to much to him, and that’s the type of player we’re looking to add to this team...
“Let’s get him in the building and get it all sorted out with these linemen, but we do have a great plan in place. He’s a guy that we were really excited about. He fell to us, quite frankly. So we felt like it really worked out in our favor.”
Williams certainly does provide a question mark as far as what position along the offensive line he will end up playing this season. Initial thoughts would make you think he would be the starting right tackle, but Taylor doesn’t want to rule anything out.
“He’s played three years in the best conference in all of (college) football,” Taylor said “He’s done a great job at left tackle for them. Certainly he can play guard. He has great flexibility here, so he enables us to get our five best linemen on the field. So we’re excited to get him into the mix...
[Left tackle is] his most natural position, and he’s done a great job there. Again, he gives us a lot of flexibility coming into this building.”
Whether Williams comes in and starts at left tackle Week 1 for Cincinnati remains to be seen. We know that the Bengals at least have their future left tackle on the roster for whenever they feel Cordy Glenn isn’t playing to their standards.
Character was another common theme during the press conference, and that was one of Taylor’s main messages when he joined the Bengals.
“Out of all the positions in any sport, I think chemistry in the offensive line rooms is one of the biggest — especially on football teams,” offensive line coach Jim Turner told reporters. “That chemistry in that room is a big part of the success or failure of that offense. The head coach (Zac Taylor) made a great point in our draft meetings about this young man that we just drafted — Jonah Williams — and what he can bring to the table, and I felt the same thing. All we kept coming back to was his character.”
It is always great to get a player who will likely be around for a very long time (Williams only turned 21-years-old in November) who seems like he could have a huge leadership role going into the next era of Bengals’ football.
What held Williams back from likely being a lock to go in the top 10 picks was his size and athleticism. Many critiqued his short arms, which seems to be a common indicator of how easy of a time offensive lineman can play tackle in the NFL. Some even deemed Williams a guard at the NFL level. The Bengals don’t share those concerns.
“A phenomenal athlete. When we went to work him out down there at Alabama... The thing you’ve got to remember is he blocks everybody in the SEC,” Turner said. “So you always go back to these little pieces on players, and you’re like, ‘Well, this isn’t good. This isn’t good physically.’ But then when you watch the tape, if he blocks all the best players in the country that are getting picked in the first round, he’s a first round pick, and he’s going to be able to do it at this level. Again, we’re very excited. He played at Alabama, so not only is he blocking everybody in the SEC, he blocks everybody in practices, and practices against some of the best players in the country every day. So, it’s a big part of why he is the polished player that he is.”
It is clear Cincinnati views Williams as a high character guy who has a very long and bright future in this league. His versatility means he should see the field early, but it is obvious that he is destined to end up on the left side of the offensive line.
As far as the Steelers possibly taking away the Bengals top target at the time at pick No. 10, Taylor left little doubt if the team was disappointed when asked what the mood was when Pittsburgh moved up.
“That Jonah Williams is right there at 11 (laughs).”