Scouting Report: Leonard Williams, DE, USC

Leonard Williams was a four-star recruit coming out of Mainland High School in Daytona Beach, Florida. rated him as the 5th best strongside defensive end in the 2012 class and 53rd nationally. Williams was heavily recruited by Auburn, Florida, and Florida State, but chose the Trojans of USC. After his junior season he chose to enter the 2015 NFL Draft and will be a very high draft pick this April.

College Career Overview

Exceptional college career starting as defensive tackle for USC earning him PAC-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. Moved out to defensive end for his sophomore and junior years and consistently dominated outside putting pressure on other PAC-12 offensive lines even while enduring a shoulder injury in his sophomore campaign.


DOB June 20, 1994 Bench (225 lb) N/A
Height 6’5″ Vertical Jump 29-1/2″
Weight 302 lbs Broad Jump 8’10”
Arms 34-5/8″ 20 Yard Shuttle 4.53 sec
Hands 10-5/8″ 3 Cone Drill 7.59 sec
40 Yard Dash (10 yd split) 4.97 sec (1.72 sec) 60 Yard Shuttle N/A


Stats and Awards

University of Southern California (2012-2014)
2014 – 80 tackles (9.5 for loss), 7.0 sacks, 1 INT, 3 PD, 3 FF First-Team ALL-American, First-Team ALL-PAC-12 (2014)
2013 – 73 tackles (12.5 for loss), 5.0 sacks, 1 FF, 1 blocked kick First-Team ALL-American, First-Team ALL-PAC-12 (2013)
2012 – 64 tackles (13.5 for loss), 8.0 sacks, 1 INT, 4 PD PAC-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year (2012)


Scouting Report

  • Williams is explosive off of snap when he starts moving, but he is typically 0.5 second behind the other defensive lineman. This causes him not to be as effective as he should be with his power. He still manages to gain leverage in pass rush against weaker lineman but it causes him to lose the edge in run support especially on goalline plays.
  • Consistent problem with lateness off of the snap means that is most likely his innate reflexes are slower. it is possible that he isn’t watching the ball for the timing of the play in favor of the offensive line movements, but the fact he has been doing this for the past three years makes me believe it is his natural reflexes.
  • Excellent swim move on running plays and uses it to penetrate into the backfield on pass rush plays. Bull rush is good in the beginning but he loses leverage throughout the play as his pad level rises. Needs to stay lower in his rushes. Bull jerk is a very effective move for him especially with his strength and natural power but he needs to execute the jerk portion of the move sooner to be more effective. Tried some spin moves and speed rushes in college, but his most effective by far is his swim move.
  • Sometimes slow on read-and-react skills especially on zone-option read handoffs, where he misses the running back completely.
  • Very active hands in pass rush and incredible at shedding blocks, but needs to learn to string pass rush moves together in order to fully utilize his skills.
  • Currently he is winning a lot of his battles by being more physically dominant over his opponents which is a natural crux to rely on in college. He needs to fix his technique and be more consistent with the stem of his rushes to be consistently effective in the NFL.
  • Scheme versatile in college and lined up at all positions along the defensive line. Should be a high quality 3-4 5-tech defensive lineman in the NFL as that is his best position to support his frame. Could also move inside to play 3-tech with good inside swim moves and power on guards, or could play as the 4-3 power left end for 4-3 defenses.
  • 3-4 defense relying on 1-gap pass rushers that shoot the gap could be ideal for him as well so that he doesn’t have to worry about disecting the run play and can make a natural play with his burst and strength through the hole.
  • Very high ceiling and definitely worthy of a high selection as he has all the traits of a dominant defensive lineman that you look for in terms of size, speed, agility, and length. With offensive lineman that are stronger in the NFL, if he improves his technique he has the natural ability to be a top 3-4 defensive lineman.

Film Study

Let’s take a look at his plays to discover how his abilities in the collegiate setting will translate to an NFL defense:

1. Pass Rush

A defensive lineman needs power, quickness, length, but more importantly technique to penetrate the backfield in the NFL.

Here Williams shows power on his bullrush, but his pad height still tends to rise at the end of the rush.

In this play, Williams does pushes strongly in the beginning with a bullrush, but needs to piece the “jerk” portion more quickly to fully shake the right guard.

Here are a few examples of his speed rushes showing his excellent burst off of the line of scrimmage.

Here Williams’ bullrush suffers when he allows a hand to punch him in the chest forcing him to stand taller. This causes him to lose momentum and not allow him to shed the block. Give credit to the offensive lineman for punching Williams in the chest and not letting go.

Here is Williams’ best move by far: The Swim Move. He uses it to shed blocks on running plays and to penetrate into the backfield on passing plays.

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Samuel Gold

Sam founded NFL Breakdowns after working his way through the journalist farm system and is enjoying life in the big league. Growing up outside of Washington, D.C., Sam didn’t choose the Redskins, the Redskins chose him. Out of a love for the game and an insatiable curiosity to determine why his beloved team was underperforming, Sam turned to studying film in NFL Breakdowns.