Jonah Williams was one of the top players in the 2019 NFL Draft and the Bengals got very lucky that he fell to them at the 11th overall selection. The pick made perfect sense for a variety of reasons and he is the kind of player that can be a cornerstone of the franchise for years to come.
Let’s take a look at the five most important factors that Williams brings to the team.
Williams was starting at right tackle for Alabama, one of the best teams in the country, as an 18-year old true freshman in 2016. He was the best player on that line during that season and has gotten even better since. After Cam Robinson declared for the 2017 draft, Williams took over for him at left tackle for the Crimson Tide and had a fantastic two years to finish his career. This shows he has the ability to play either side and be great at both, which is great with the Bengals offensive tackle situation in flux right now.
Right now, Williams seems poised to be the left tackle for Cincinnati, as the team is sliding Cordy Glenn inside to left guard to make room for him. For Williams’ sake, keeping him on one side to start would be beneficial for his development, but he’s talented enough to adapt to the right side if need be.
A championship mentality
Williams comes from one of the most successful programs in college football and knows what it is like to win at the highest level. The hope is that he can bring that championship mindset with him to Cincinnati and help push them towards the pinnacle of the NFL.
Getting guys with that thirst for winning is very valuable to a NFL team and there is no culture more dedicated to it in college football than Alabama. The Bengals are still well behind the Redskins in the arms race for former Nick Saban players, but Williams makes two along with Dre Kirkpatrick.
Offensive line stability
The Bengals have needed a cornerstone piece for their offensive line ever since Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler were both allowed to walk in the same offseason. Getting a franchise left tackle to anchor the line could be the change that this offensive line needs to get back to its play back when they were consistently making the playoffs.
Fixing the offensive line will go a long way to help the offense flourish as a whole. Williams is about as good of a foundation piece you could ask for.
A natural leader
It’s a rare thing for a college player to play in 44 career games in just three years like Williams did, but that’s the norm in Tuscaloosa.
Williams was not only a part of three teams that played in the National Championship, he was a bonafide leader of each squad. He was one of the few players that seemed to be universally loved and respected by his teammates. With the Bengals roster in a period of transition, Williams can be one of the new leaders of the team and lead it into the new era as some of their long time players retire or potentially move on somewhere else.
A potential replacement for Cordy Glenn
This may’ve happened a lot sooner than we expected. To begin OTAs, Williams was put at left tackle and Glenn was moved inside to left guard. This seems to be the plan for this season, but there’s still plenty of time before the season begins for pieces to be moved around.
If Glenn retakes his spot at left tackle, he probably won’t have it for long. Glenn is signed through the 2020 season, but after 2019 he can be cut with no dead money. If his play does not improve in 2019, the Bengals may consider cutting him and Williams allows them to do just that. If his play does improve then the Bengals can keep him or even extend him likely for similar or cheaper money than he makes now. Williams gives the Bengals options, which is more than they’ve had with the offensive line in years.
Williams succeeding early is imperative for the Bengals and their future success. With the turnover and struggles on the offensive line in recent years the Bengals desperately need this pick to work out to start to rebuild it. With Billy Price they have taken an offensive lineman with their first pick in two straight drafts, from two winning programs no less, with the hopes of rebuilding the offensive line from the ground up.
If Williams can play up to his potential right away and Price can improve with better health, the Bengals offensive line will be in a much better place.