I have a confession. When Roger Goodell announced the Jets first round pick on Thursday night, I wasn’t immediately jumping up and down in uncontrollable celebration. Stunned silence is a more accurate description. Whether it was just was because the time was nearly 2am, that Williams had never been really been a realistic option on the cards or that the D-line was the one area coming out of 2014 which was in good shape, it certainly took me a while to process what Mike Maccagnan had just done. Skip forward five minutes and the realisation that the Jets had actually nabbed the widely touted ‘best player in the draft’ and the impact he could have on the team was beginning to dawn. I think it was just shock (and the effects of excess caffeine).
In his pre-draft press conference Maccagnan was clear in his intention to take the best player available; it just turned out that the player, due largely to Washington unexpectedly taking Brandon Scherff at five, was one he (and most others) didn’t expect to be there. No wonder the clock nearly ran down to zero. It must have been quite a quandry for the first time GM; a veritable Sophie’s choice. If he didn’t take Williams (the obvious BPA), his credibility would have been under scrutiny and if all the signs on the ‘Big Cat’ prove correct, always ruing what could have been. On the other hand, everyone in that war room must have known that the Wilkerson trade rumours might as well have been announced by Goodell immediately after the pick, they came so quickly. Do you take the best player at the risk of at least seeming to shop one of your current stars, or just the best player who fulfills your need? Macc went for the former and after a rather delayed reaction (or maybe my dislike of surprises!), I’m really glad he did.
Williams has been touted as a once in a decade defensive end in terms of his athleticism and strength. Oozing raw talent, he was named USC’s most valuable player and best defensive lineman, in a 2014 season where he racked up 80 tackles, seven sacks, one interception and forced three fumbles. He has already said he would like Tom Brady to be his first NFL sack, but considering the Jets don’t meet the Patriots until week seven, it seems likely it’ll come far before then. Why wouldn’t you take him?
But can the Leo the Big Cat and Big Mo co-exist on the Jets d-line? During his time at USC, Williams played in nearly all positions along the line at some point, making him a flexible addition to the group that was the Jets’ only ray of sunshine in 2014. Combining Williams, Wilkerson, Richardson and Harrison, the only thing missing seems to be the ‘son’ on the end of his name. This supremely terrifying and versatile combination does give the opportunity to possibly play 4-3, mix things up on the line or play a hybrid system. Along with many other Jets fans, I’d hate to see Wilkerson leave the Green and White but realism must prevail at some point. If, as predicted, Williams turns out to be as good or better than Mo, then Maccagnan has played his cards (or at least the ones he was unexpectedly dealt) shrewdly, regardless of what happens with Wilkerson. However, for at least 2015, it looks like Todd Bowles has on his hands a monster defense, one which should strike fear into the hearts of any NFL opposition.
Moving the focus onto tonight’s next round, it’s probably time for the Jets to turn to their more pressing gaps. Big names remain available at various positions of need. TJ Clemmings and Jake Fisher are interesting O-Line options but may not last until the Jets second pick. At edge rusher, Randy Gregory, whose athletic credentials graded him as a top-10 calibre pick could still be available for someone willing to take a risk on a man who was unable to pass a drugs test he knew was coming years in advance and has question marks over his mental ability to deal with life in the NFL. Similarly to Dorial Green Beckham, still a possible wideout pick, who has a raft of off field issues, I hope the Jets steer clear, despite the obvious positives if the risk were to pay off. Eli Harold would be an attractive and safer option here. However, I’m not a GM in the national football league for many good reasons, not least my aversion to risk taking! Maccagnan and Bowles have so far shown great judgement in both free agency and in their first round draft pick, I trust them, at least for now.