NFL Scouting Combine

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O'HARA: Jonah Williams not worried about arm length, still a top OL prospect

The resume that Jonah Williams has compiled in three seasons as an anchor on both sides of Alabama’s offensive line shows that he has checked all the boxes required to make him one of the first offensive linemen taken in this year’s draft.

He started all 44 games in his three seasons at Alabama, and like his teammates he has been accustomed to playing in big games for college football’s winningest program over the last decade.

Versatility isn’t a question. He started all 15 games at right tackle as a freshman in 2016, then moved to left tackle and started all 29 as a sophomore and junior.

Durability and availability aren’t an issue, as 44 starts out of 44 games would indicate.

And there weren’t any glaring flaws when he went through the first battery of tests at this week’s Combine. He was measured at 6-4-4, 302 pounds with big hands. Pushing 225 pounds 23 times in the bench press put him in the middle of the pack.

View photos of the prospects that met the media on Day 1 of the 2019 NFL Combine.

But there was one rub for those who split hairs and parse pounds and inches. Williams’ arm length was measured at 33-5. That’s not at the bottom, but it was below the middle of all offensive line tests. That includes the entire group – guards, centers and tackles.

Most draft projections have Williams being taken in the top 10, perhaps as high as fifth overall by the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Williams didn’t seem concerned about his arm length in his media interview. He had done some research on other tackles, which likely indicates he wasn’t surprised by his measurement.

“I think that’s a small portion of what it takes to be a tackle at the next level,” he told reporters.

“I think if you look at a lot of the really successful tackles over the years, the past 10 years – Joe Thomas, Joe Staley, Jake Matthews, Jason Peters, La’el Collins, Riley Reiff, Ryan Ramczyk – just a couple guys off the top of my head that have shorter arms than me.

“I don’t think that’s necessarily a huge deal. I’m proud of the way I play. If my fingers were an eighth of an inch longer, I might be good enough. I think the way that I play is what defines me as a football player.”

It might seem like a small thing, but small things add up in the evaluation process. Arm length is important for offensive linemen. Longer arms give them a better chance to control the defensive linemen they’re blocking.

There is a question about where Williams is best suited to play in the NFL. Some teams project him as a better prospect at guard than tackle.

Changing positions from college to the NFL is not uncommon, even for high draft picks.

The Lions are an example of that. Last year they drafted Arkansas center Frank Ragnow and moved him to left guard, where he started all 16 games and missed only one snap because of a problem with a shoe.

“I’ll play wherever a team wants me to play,” Williams said. “I was the best offensive tackle in college football, so I know I can play at the next level. But I’m a competitor. I want to be on the field.

“I’ll play wherever a team wants me to play.”

Playing in the powerful SEC, and practicing against teammates such as defensive lineman Quinnen Williams, a likely top-five draft pick this year, has benefitted Jonah Williams – as it does teammates at all positions.

“Iron sharpens iron.” Jonah Williams said. “I think he (Quinnen) makes us better, and we make him better.”

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