The problem with Quinnen Williams or Ed Oliver at No. 3 for the New York Jets in the 2019 NFL Draft is a major and familiar one.
There can only be two.
The number of teams in the Super Bowl: there can only be two. The number of folks within a marriage: there can only be two (save for several interesting situations). The number of excellent Godfather films: there can only be two.
The number of stud interior defensive linemen on the field at once: there can only be, yes … two.
The issue surrounding the New York Jets potentially selecting Quinnen Williams or Ed Oliver in the 2019 NFL Draft is problematic and familiar.
Williams, standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing 303 pounds, and Oliver, standing at 6-foot-2 and weighing 287 pounds, both play the 3-technique. Neither are nose-tackle types who would be proudly lined up head-on with the center or in the A-gap.
Within the 3-4 base, three interior linemen are needed but only two 3-technique-type players (non-nose tackle types) can see the field at once. Within the 4-3, only one 3-technique type player sees the field while a nose tackle-type plays a little down the way.
Granted, over the last half decade and change, the nose tackle position has changed. In this zone-rushing dominant world that features speed and agility over mauling power, many teams use lighter nose tackles (1-techniques) in both the 3-4 and 4-3. It’s absolutely possible that the incoming rook or Leo can take on the nose tackle role, but it’s not ideal.
More importantly, just when the old-school base is granted, the actual base in 2019 becomes completely irrational.
There can only be two.
Whether it’s the 4-2-5 nickel, 2-4-5 nickel, 4-1-6 dime, 3-2-6 dime or any imaginable sub-package, only two interior defensive linemen can see a bulk of the action. Some variety of the 3-3-5 can be played at times, that would feature all three on the field at once, but it’s not a good idea save for a few plays a game.
The methodology boils down to playing in space; 300-pound players aren’t meant to do such a thing in today’s NFL (unless your name is J.J. Watt).
Rewind the clocks four seasons. Rookie general manager Mike Maccagnan owned the No. 6 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and promptly used it on Leonard Williams, the man who many dubbed as the “most talented player in the pool.”
For two frustrating seasons, either Leo or Sheldon was asked to play the edge. It led to several hilarious results and a misfit of a defensive structure Todd Bowles simply couldn’t avoid. With Steve McLendon employed, Bowles even put together a 4-3 base at times that featured McLendon and Williams on the inside with Wilkerson and Richardson outside.
It didn’t come close to working. A defensive unit needs that speed and agility on both edges. Eventually, Richardson was traded and Wilkerson was cut. Both players lost significant value over time and the Jets lost out on each’s first-round shine.
Like 2015, the 2019 version is tricky. What do the Jets do if they truly feel Oliver or (Quinnen) Williams is, by far, the best player in the pool? At the same time, the edge spot has gone completely bare for far too long (at least a decade and a half).
Is Oliver or Williams that much better than Nick Bosa or Josh Allen? Forget talent for a moment; the situation while properly developing the player means just as much (if not more) than pure talent alone. It’s this reason that makes it feel wise to select one of the two edges and call it a day.
Furthermore, Sam Darnold is entering his second year and Jamal Adams his third. Selecting the best available player while creating a horrid defensive fit won’t help increase the win total, the major factor that could attract Adams to New York for the long haul.
By no means would it be an egregious act to select one of the two big-heavies over an edge, but it’ll certainly have folks scratching their heads. A repeat of the 2015 strategical error coupled with bypassing a potential stud edge would mean allowing the defense to remain horribly incomplete, again, four years later.
At this very moment, only a true pass-rushing edge can work towards completing the defensive structure.
Ed Oliver or Quinnen Williams very well may hear his name called this Thursday night. Just remember this one important truth: there can only be two. As currently constructed, there are already two employed by the New York Jets.