While Weber State football isn’t an NFL Draft machine — which is usual for programs at the FCS level — it has become a program where top players are now consistently discussed in the build up to the draft.
In 2018, defensive back Taron Johnson broke an eight-year drought with his fourth-round selection by the Buffalo Bills.
In 2019, offensive lineman Iosua Opeta grabbed NFL attention by hoisting an NFL Combine-high 39 bench press reps. He went undrafted but was quickly signed by the Philadelphia Eagles. By season’s end, he was on their active roster.
In the build up to this year’s draft — which begins Thursday and ends Saturday, airing on ESPN and the NFL Network — that prospect is defensive end Jonah Williams.
Williams anchored one of the country’s best defenses for multiple seasons. As a senior, he was both an All-American and the Big Sky Conference Defensive MVP. He finished fifth in the conference in sacks and was 12th in tackles for loss. He recored 15 career sacks, ninth in school history.
With the coronavirus pandemic nixing official pro days, Williams participated in an agent-arranged workout in March meant to attract attention and help his draft prospects. He posted great numbers: 30 reps on the 225-pound bench press, a laser-timed 40-yard dash of 4.67 seconds, a 35-inch vertical leap, a shuttle of 4.14 seconds, and a broad jump of 9 feet, 7 inches.
According to his agent, Evan Brennan, those numbers rank in the following ways when compared to participants at the NFL Combine: The best shuttle for any defensive lineman; the best 40-yard dash, vertical leap and broad jump among any defensive lineman over 265 pounds; and the second-best performance on bench press of any defensive end.
With the draft days away, some are pegging Williams as a draft pick.
In his fifth mock draft published April 13, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler slated Williams to be selected 227th overall — early in the seventh and final round — to the Miami Dolphins.
DraftScout.com currently pegs Williams as a projected seventh-round pick.
The site “Winners and Whiners” tabs Williams as a sixth- or seventh-round pick as one of its five defensive end draft “sleepers,” writing: “Big and very fast end who ran a 4.67 40, which is incredible for his size ... This is a really big dude who can move. A project that is worth taking late in the draft because of the physical tools.”
Steelers writer and podcaster Nick Farabaugh tweeted Williams was among eight of his “favorite sleepers” in the draft, and NBC/Rotoworld writer Thor Nystrom reported last week that Williams had a video call with the New York Jets.
The seventh round is right on the edge where NFL teams will evaluate if they should draft a player and grab their rights, or wait and jump into the free agency frenzy to try and sign a player as soon as the draft ends.
The NFL draft begins Thursday night with the first round. Rounds two and three are Friday, and rounds four through seven are Saturday.