New York Jets rookie Quinnen Williams requires All-Pro status to justify his No. 3 selection in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Thirteen years was the expected length of time. Thirteen years suddenly halted after one great announcement at the 2019 NFL Draft. Thirteen years of suffering through edgeless, outside-pass-rushing-less New York Jets defensive football.
It didn’t happen. Thirteen years will leak into 14 seasons and counting if a third-round selection doesn’t immediately show up. The Quinnen Williams selection at No. 3 ensured the Jets continuing narrative that is “best available player” over the completion of a football unit.
Of course, John Abraham is the man signaling the incredible 13-year drought. Names like Bryan Thomas, Calvin Pace, Quinton Coples, the aging Jason Taylor and the bust Vernon Gholston have all attempted, but could never reach the proper turn out necessary. (Shaun Ellis turned inside-threat once Rex Ryan brought his 3-4 to town.)
Unless third rounder Jachai Polite marvels this summer—thus continuing to rely on non-premium talent at the position (see Jordan Jenkins, Dylan Donahue, Lorenzo Mauldin, etc.)—the drought will continue. It leads us to a familiar Florham Park story that continues to boggle the mind.
Big Q must achieve All-Pro status in order to justify the selection.
It’s not fair. Life rarely is. Williams, 21, joins a franchise in a similar 2015-type fashion that saw Leonard Williams enter with two big-heavies already in tow. Big Cat’s acquisition on top of Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson provided a situation tough to handle. Buddy Ryan would suffer through such an unbending collection of pieces.
A football unit works when each responsibility is productive. The free safety’s last-line-of-defense mechanism ensures the underneath zone-coverage backers can get out of the break and jump up. The corner in a deep-third zone who witnesses his first read on the outside stay flat lets him go in exchange for the strong safety who’s tasked with flat responsibility. The MIKE rolling with fill-and-spill duties remains inside-out, forcing the runner to the SAM who’s scraping.
The entire unit suffers if a singular responsibility breaks down. “As strong as the weakest link” is one of the truest forms of football.
Conventional wisdom led the football-loving world to believe it had to be EDGE or offensive line (an entirely similar story on the other side of the ball) in the first round of the draft. Of course, the big board didn’t allow an O-line possibility at No. 3, but that’s why trade-down potential remained massive.
Rewind the clock four years ago. Rookie general manager Mike Maccagnan graciously accepted the gift of “best talent in the pool” during the 2015 NFL Draft. USC’s Leonard Williams amazingly fell to No. 6. Best available player introduced itself the very first time in the Mikey Mac era.
Who cared that Big Mo and Sheldon were already employed? The Big Cat was so good the Jets couldn’t pass.
What transpired was chaos. Richardson, who qualified for the Pro Bowl in 2014 with eight sacks took a major step back. Far too often, the 300-pounder was asked to play the edge, a place where big guys fade away (unless your name is J.J. Watt or Calais Campbell and even they don’t take on the role full-time).
At the time, a 10-6 season while fielding a solid defense had the narrative pointing in the right direction. We quickly realized how fictional it was once the cupcake-like strength of schedule showed face.
Once Williams’s playing time increased in 2016, Big Mo’s 12-sack 2015 season turned into eight over the next two seasons combined. Richardson tallied just 1.5 in 2016 prior to the Seattle deal. And Williams, well, Leo has made the Pro Bowl just once in four campaigns—hardly “best talent in the pool” worthy.
What happened? Were all three players simply overrated? Was Williams completely unworthy of the top-talent tagline? Remember, many scouts thought just as high (if not higher) of Leo at the time than they do Quinnen right now. Leo’s 7.53 overall draft grade as per NFL Network far outclasses Quinnen’s 6.70.
While the answer to the previous issue lies somewhere in the middle, there’s no question the lack of a true edge destroyed the potential for all three interior studs. That’s just football.
“You take the best player on the board in the draft because ‘blue’ players are so hard to find,” an evaluator said, “but if you take the Jets’ defense and take their four best players, three of them play the position that just got drafted with the third pick. You’ve got Leonard Williams, you just paid Henry Anderson and then last year you used a third-round pick on Nathan Shepherd, who is pretty good. What is going on here?”
Within the 3-4 or even 4-3 base, there are few issues. Nathan Shepherd will hardly see the field. Steve McLendon as well, but that’s OK at his age. It’s the bread-and-butter part of the defense, the four-man line subpackage, when the fit really becomes an issue.
There are only two spots for four players (if third-rounder Shepherd is thrown into the mix). Certain 3-3 looks can deploy three, but throwing a 300-pound big-boy on the outside is never a good idea in this edge-pressure NFL that forces these guys to play in space.
Kentucky’s Josh Allen was there for the taking. Tom Coughlin had no issues accepting the edge freak at No. 7 and he did so with 300-pound Campbell currently on the edge, meaning he’ll probably slide back to the inside where he belongs.
Maccagnan’s choice means Quinnen Williams is head-and-shoulders better than Josh Allen. It means they believe the player who plays the position they didn’t need is miles ahead of the kid who mans down the position they’ve desperately salivated over for 13 seasons.
It’s not fair, not in the least, but Quinnen Williams must now immediately impact the league in a fashion worthy of such an unfit Déjà vu situation. If he’s not a Pro Bowler in year one and an All-Pro by his sophomore campaign, “best available player” will once again flame out as it has too many times prior.
The New York Jets edge need remains so outrageous the unfair becomes reality.