The Sacramento area has seen three players reach the NFL as a first-round draft pick since 2015.
Barring something unforeseen, that number will increase in about two months.
Jonah Williams – a 2018 consensus All-American with Alabama and a product of Folsom High School – is expected to have his name called on the first day of the 2019 NFL draft, which kicks off April 25 in Nashville, Tenn.
Should Williams be selected in the first 32 picks, he’ll become the 14th player from the region to go in the opening round.
Williams knows how to play with a winning squad. The offensive lineman was a starter for the Crimson Tide for three years. In each season, they played in the College Football Playoff title game, winning in the 2017-18 season. He also was on a Folsom team that won a CIF State championship in 2014.
One area product who showed out at the annual showcase for draft prospects was Roseville High graduate Kolton Miller. The UCLA offensive lineman set event records last year en route to being selected No. 15 overall by the Raiders and starting at left tackle over Donald Penn, a three-time Pro Bowl selection.
Now, Williams can be the next Sacramento-area player to be chosen in the first round. According to his draft profile on NFL.com, Williams is an “early entrant and three-year starter whose work ethic, attention to detail and desire to get better each day have made him a foundation piece of Alabama’s dominant run. ... His cerebral nature and potential versatility should make him a safe pick and successful, long-time starter in the NFL.”
Here’s a look at what draft analysts are saying:
Popular analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay agree on Williams being a first-round pick but are nowhere close on when he could be selected.
In Kiper’s most recent mock Feb. 18, he has the Minnesota Vikings using the 19th pick on Williams.
“Minnesota continues to be linked with offensive linemen in this draft, as free-agent signing Kirk Cousins was under heavy pressure in 2018 behind a makeshift line,” Kiper wrote. “Williams, who made 43 straight starts at tackle for the Crimson Tide, could move inside to guard. At 6-foot-5, 301 pounds, he doesn’t have the long arms that NFL teams like for their left tackles, but he could be an elite guard.”
McShay hasn’t checked in since Feb. 7, but he has Williams as the No. 5 pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Williams is a plug-and-play prospect who would fill the void left by free agent Donovan Smith,” he wrote. “He can handle speed rushes off the edge with quick feet and would help buy some time for Jameis Winston.”
The league’s official website provides mock drafts from six analysts: Bucky Brooks, Charley Casserly, Maurice Jones-Drew, Daniel Jeremiah, Chad Reuter and Lance Zierlein. They have Williams slated between 12th and 18th. Here’s what some of the more recent posters had to say:
Casserly on Williams going No. 12 to the Green Bay Packers (Feb. 19): “Green Bay needs pass rushers, but protecting Aaron Rodgers takes priority.”
Jones-Drew on Williams going No. 17 to the Cleveland Browns (Feb. 12): “Williams is a stud lineman who will help solidify this offensive line – and protecting Baker Mayfield is a must.”
CBS Sports also has mocks from six men: Will Brinson, Jared Dubin, Pete Prisco, Chris Trapasso, R.J. White and Ryan Wilson. All have Williams as a top-10 pick, going between fifth and ninth. Here’s a bit from the more recent posts:
Prisco on Williams going No. 9 to the Buffalo Bills (Feb. 26): “They have to protect (quarterback) Josh Allen better going forward. (Williams) can play guard or tackle, the latter his college position. If you have a franchise quarterback, he has to be protected.”
Wilson on Williams going No. 6 to the New York Giants (Feb. 24): “With two quarterbacks already off the board, the Giants focus on protecting 38-year-old Eli Manning. Are Williams’ arms long enough to play tackle in the NFL? Yes. It’s hard to believe this has become a talking point after Williams dominated the 2018 season. He’ll be a starter for the next decade, the only question is whether he’ll play on the left or right side.”
Danny Kelly puts Williams in a higher spot than other analysts, tabbing him to go No. 3 overall to the New York Jets.
Kelly says Williams is a “smooth operator who combines strong hands with great footwork; could dominate at either tackle or guard” and compares him to current NFL offensive linemen Jake Matthews (Atlanta) and Jack Conklin (Tennessee).
U-T San Diego
Eddie Brown has Williams going ninth overall to the Buffalo Bills in his latest mock, published Feb. 20.
“The Bills need to overhaul (quarterback) Josh Allen’s supporting cast on offense,” he wrote. “This season was Williams’ third leading a dominant Crimson Tide offensive line. His size and strength are NFL-ready and he’s an instant upgrade for Buffalo.”
Walter Cherepinsky has Williams going to Tampa Bay at No. 15. Expect to see movement here, as Cherepinsky updates his mock drafts at a higher frequency than other analysts.
“The Buccaneers missed out on the top tackle in the 2019 NFL draft by trading down, but for a 2020 first-round pick and a 2019 second-rounder, it definitely makes sense,” Cherepinsky wrote in his latest mock, which was released Feb. 26. “Besides, there are at least two other first-round-caliber tackles worth taking for the Buccaneers to improve their dire situation on the blind side. Jonah Williams had a great freshman year as Alabama’s right tackle. He then took over on the blind side with Cam Robinson gone.”
Count Mike Tanier as another analyst who sees Buffalo as a good fit for Williams.
“(Quarterback Josh) Allen has almost no one blocking for him ... so let’s upgrade his protection,” Tanier wrote Feb. 25. “Jonah Williams is a smooth, quick-footed technician who can also clock defenders as a run-blocker on the second level. He’s perfect for the Bills offense, which consists of handoffs on first and second downs and dealer’s choice bombs or scrambles on third downs. The Bills expect Allen to take a big step forward in the offseason. Williams can help make that happen.”
From Sacramento to the NFL
The Sacramento region has had 13 first-round picks in the NFL draft. Here’s the list with their draft year, position, high school, NFL team and draft position:
2018: OL Kolton Miller, Roseville, Raiders, 15th
2015: DE Arik Armstead, Pleasant Grove, 49ers, 17th
2015: LB Shaq Thompson, Grant, Carolina Panthers, 25th
2002: WR Donte Stallworth, Grant, New Orleans Saints, 13th
1997: WR Rae Carruth, Valley, Carolina Panthers, 27th
1987: DT Reggie Rogers, Norte Del Rio, Detroit Lions, 7th
1985: C Trevor Matich, Rio Americano, New England Patriots, 28th
1984: CB Don Rogers, Norte Del Rio, Cleveland Browns, 18th
1983: QB Tony Eason, Delta, New England Patriots, 15th
1983: QB Ken O’Brien, Jesuit, New York Jets, 24th
1982: RB Gerald Willhite, Cordova, Denver Broncos, 21st
1978: T Gordon King, Bella Vista, New York Giants, 10th
1978: LB Dan Bunz, Oakmont, 49ers, 24th