Nose tackle Dan Williams holds up a Cardinals' jersey with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in New York Thursday night during the draft.
Dan Williams doesn't know much about the Cardinals' defense.
"Believe me," said the nose tackle, whom the Cards selected with their first round pick of this year's draft, I'm going to know something about it tonight."
Maybe the Tennessee product – who spent Thursday night in New York at Radio City Music Hall, waiting to be picked – wasn't sure the Cardinals were going to pick him, but the Card were. Coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves were clearly thrilled Williams was still on the board, with Whisenhunt saying Williams was 11th on the team's draft board.
That's why, when Williams fell and suddenly the draft reached picks 17 and 18, Whisenhunt dared to dream.
"The idea of Dan Williams being available at our pick was not something we realistically thought was going to happen," Whisenhunt said.
"Whenever you see a player like that, someone that's hard to find, when he was six, seven, eight picks away from us, you let your mind start to think 'We're going to have a chance to get this player,' and then you start to worry."
Most mock drafts had Williams going somewhere between picks 10 and 18. Reports were that Miami, which had traded down from No. 12 to No. 28, were going to take Williams had he remained on the board.
The draft continues tomorrow at 3 p.m. with the second and third rounds. Williams will be introduced to the Arizona media at a 2 p.m. press conference.
Whisenhunt said there was a lot of interest in teams wanting to move up to the 26th pick, although the Cards wanted to stay put. Graves also said there was never any consideration of moving up when Williams crept closer to their pick, noting "there were other candidates we would have been happy to select."
Williams broke out as a senior at Tennessee, giving credit to a handful of coaches – but none moreso than graduate assistant Chester McGlockton, a former NFL defensive lineman whom Williams credited for teaching him how to watch film and take notes.
At 6-foot-2, 327 pounds, Williams was considered the top pure nose tackle candidate in the draft. He acknowledged he needs to improve his pass rush skills, but that won't be the main skill the Cardinals want from him in the first place.
Whisenhunt praised Williams' "high motor," his ability to play a lot of plays at a demanding position, and noted Williams' 70 tackles as an interior lineman.
Williams didn't play nose tackle this past season but said of the transition, "I really don't think it'll be that big of a deal."
Whisenhunt did caution about Williams' immediate impact, stressing again that rookies have to earn his playing time, just as past rookies like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Steve Breaston and Tim Hightower have done.
But there was little question the position – along with inside linebacker – was the Cards' biggest need. Gabe Watson is the starter for now on the roster. Alan Branch has become more of an end in the 3-4 than a tackle.
The Cardinals have been considering re-signing veteran Bryan Robinson, a free agent who has started at nose tackle the past two seasons. Graves said Robinson's situation, along with other veterans, was something "we'll think about when we are at the end of the draft."
Williams does know a little bit about the Cardinals. He said fellow defensive lineman Darnell Dockett was one of the players he follows and tries to emulate.
Dockett knows a little about his new teammate too. After Williams was picked, Dockett tweeted on his new teammate.
"IT'S A CELEBRATION," Dockett wrote. "NOW I GOT TO TRAIN THE DOG and we shall GO BITE!"
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