Over the past few days the possibility of the defensive tackle from USC, Leonard Williams, slipping to the Jets started to gain some traction but no one really expected it would happen. Not Williams, who thought he was the best player in the draft (probably because he likely is), not Jets fans and not Mike Maccagnan.
“We picked Leonard Williams today, with the sixth pick in the first-round, obviously we’re very, very excited about that,” Maccagnan said. “Basically at the end of the day he was the best player on our board and we felt surprised that he actual fell to us. We felt he was too good of a value to pass on at that point in time.”
Maccagnan said that going into tonight they had Williams third overall on their board, he plead the fifth when asked who the other two players were but best guess is Jameis Winston and Dexter Fowler Jr., and once Washington picked Brandon Scherff the Jets gave a collective Jersey shore fist bump as they knew they had their man.
“I was telling people internally there’s always unexpected things that happen in the draft. I think when you look through all the mock drafts his name consistently came up in the first three or four or five picks in the draft,” Maccagnan said. “I kind of stressed to everyone through the process you just try to build your board in a bubble and you try, in essence, to pick out the players from best to worst and when you go through the process you try to, basically, just try to think of any possibilities that may happen at that point and time.
“When we go through different scenarios we kind of thought it was a bit of a long shot but when it kind of presented itself we basically went back to my simple philosophy which is try to add as many good players to the organization as possible and the best player available at that point in time which is what we felt he was. So, again a very big, physically talented, very young player, he’s only 20-years-old going to be 21 sometime in June (June 20), so we feel he has a very big upside and a lot of potential.”
Maccagnan said they talked to every team in front of them, about possibly moving up, and every team behind them, about trading down, but they weren’t willing to pay the price to move up and they phone wasn’t ringing with any substantial offers to move down. So, as much as Maccagnan would have liked to trade down and collect some more picks to play with ultimately they were thrilled to sit back and take Williams, already stacked defensive line be damned.
Of course many will question the pick because, along with cornerbacks, the defensive line was the position of the least need for the Jets but there was no way the Jets could justify passing on Williams at six. Williams will play defensive end in the Jets 3-4 front, which Todd Bowles said will continue to be their base defense, but he can also play inside or outside when they inevitable sprinkle in some 4-3.
“You can never have enough D-linemen. I had a bunch of D-linemen in Dallas when I was there too,” Bowles said. “So, having a lot of good football players doesn’t matter. I think everyone on the D-line has to learn to play across the board in our scheme anyway so adding him to the mix just makes us better.”
Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson can both play inside or outside as well, then there’s Damon Harrison also able to main the inside in either a 3-4 or 4-3 and mix in some Quinton Coples and the Jets have an absolutely insanely talented defensive line rotation. Add that to what is probably the best group of cornerbacks in the league and this defense is going to be scary good and all types of fun to watch.
“We’re a 3-4 team.” Bowles said. “It gives us a chance to do some certain packages depending on the game but we’re still a 3-4 defense.”
Of course the selection of Williams will just further stoke the flames of rumors that the Jets will look to trade Muhammad Wilkerson but Maccagnan said that both he and Bowles will reach out to Wilkerson to ensure him that this pick was about making this team better, not preparing to move on from Wilkerson.
“Right now Muhammad is on our team and we’re not going to speculate,” Maccagnan said. “We’re not actively trying to shop Muhammad so at this point he’s a part of us and obviously at some point in time we’re going to talk to him and his agent and try to move forward.”
As for Williams thoughts on how he fits in with these defensive line, he doesn’t seem to care. He’s just happen to be in the NFL and is excited to learn from an already talented defensive line group.
“Really playing a 3-4 I know I’m going to be a defensive end in that type of scheme and I think it’s really cool coming into a D-line that’s already, they’re pretty young but also they’re veterans and they’re pros at what they do,” Williams said. “I think it’s really cool to come in at such a young age, as a rookie, and have such great D-lineman to model my game after and I don’t know really how I fit in exactly but I’ll leave that up to the coaches when I get there.”
Before the draft Williams said he felt like he was the best player in the draft and worthy of being the number one pick. Most players that feel that way and don’t end up going number one come into the league with a chip on their shoulder to prove the teams that passed on them made a mistake. Williams says he has a chip on his shoulder and feels he has something to prove but not necessarily to the teams that passed on him.
“Definitely but more than all I just want to, not really prove other teams wrong, but prove the Jets right,” Williams said. “I really want them to be proud of their decision and I want them to know that I’m coming in with a lot of passion and willing to put whatever it takes on the line to make a lot of great plays and be successful.”