With Muhammed Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson already in tow, the New York Jets did not enter Thursday's first round with much of a pressing need along their defensive line. But the top five teams passing on USC DT Leonard Williams quickly changed the plans. Williams, who was ranked No. 1 in the SI 64 prospect breakdowns, adds even more punch to what now may be the most formidable D-line in the league.
He'll instantly be able to step in and punish offenses against the run, thanks to an ability to convert his 6'5", 302-pound frame into a quick, powerful punch off the line. If there was a knock on his game, it was as a pass-rusher—he is raw there, to say the least. Williams has the natural athleticism to improve in time, though. Until then, the Jets can use him as yet another run-stuffing presence on early downs.
Strengths: Plays at an almost-unfair speed given his size. Williams can get off the ball and push the pocket in a straight line, but also can slide and stunt with the quickness of a true defensive end. As such, USC shifted him around its line throughout his career there, which no doubt will be the strategy for any team drafting him as well. Because of his power at the point of attack, is very difficult to move on run plays. Scheming away from him doesn’t necessarily work either because of his versatility and lateral footwork. If he gets his hands into a blocker early, it’s all but over; Williams leaves his opponents little margin for error. Was a force in college, despite playing at less than 100 percent much of the time.
Weaknesses: It’s odd to hear about a DT who averaged seven sacks per college season, but there are questions about Williams’s ability to translate his pass-rushing prowess to the pros. Some of that relates back to technique. When Williams fails to make the first move, he can open himself up to give blockers an easy shot at his chest. Still must continue developing his counter moves (not uncommon for an incoming rookie linemen). Until he cleans up his game, thereby becoming more consistent, the flashes of dominance will run a little hot and cold. Are any of the injury issues, in particular those related to his labrum tears, of a long-term nature? Nothing in there should chase a team away from taking him in the top five, yet Jadeveon Clowney’s lost rookie season will be in the back of GMs’ minds.
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