Sometimes things just fall your way. Luck. Karma. Good fortune. Whatever you want to call it.
For me it’s when an extra candy bar falls out of the vending machine at work. For the Arizona Cardinals it’s when the perfect nose tackle for their 3-4 defense falls right into their lap.
Dan Williams and the Cardinals. You two were MFEO (made for each other).
I was at the Cardinals facility for the pick; Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt and GM Rod Graves were like a couple of kids on Christmas who got the Red Ryder BB Gun they had asked for but never actually thought they’d get. They were giddy. Whisenhunt told the NFL Network, they had Williams ranked 11th overall on their board. Earlier in the day, well before the selection, my producer compared Williams to Beanie Wells. You don’t expect him to be there that late so if he is…pounce. And I applaud the Cardinals for not messing around by trading down hoping he’d still be there (Graves/Whiz said they got calls). If he’s your guy and he’s there, don’t spit in lady luck’s face. Take him.
When Mel Kiper Jr. released his final mock draft this morning in which he had the Cardinals taking the ‘Vols Nose Tackle at #26, that was exactly what I did: Mock it. I thought there was no way, literally no way, that Williams would be there. Most mocks had him somewhere in the teens. He was invited to attend the draft in New York; guys like that typically don’t last to the near-bottom of the first round. And yet there he was, how I don’t know.
In a league in which many defenses are now embracing the 3-4 defense, the NT position is vital. Someone who can fill the vacuum, eat space, and free up the playmakers around him to, well, make plays. But you don’t want some slow footed tub-‘o-goo in there either. That’s what made Williams so valuable; a one-of-a-kind player. The only nose tackle in the draft that was worthy of a first round pick. 330 pounds and yet still made 70 tackles (nine behind the line of scrimmage) last year for Tennessee under the guidance of veteran NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin (though on his conference call with reporters Williams gave extra credit to Tennessee graduate assistant coach and former NFLer Chester McGlockton).
Coach Whiz specifically mentioned Williams’ motor and how he was able to stay on the field for as many plays as he did last year even playing such a demanding position. Though in typical Coach Whiz fashion, he wasn’t about to hand a starting job to Williams on draft night. He made it clear Williams must earn it.
He’s not a pure pass-rushing NT, but that’s not what they need him to be right now. In fact if you want to read about why the NT is so valuable in the Cards system, read this from azcardinals.com’s Darren Urban.
Next up: Find a linebacker, maybe a corner. If you go offense, the Cards could use a tight end, wide receiver or maybe even a QB (John Skelton out of Fordham anyone?)