FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – After intense speculation about the possibility of a trade, the New York Jets kept the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL draft and used it Thursday night to select defensive tackle Quinnen Williams.
With quarterback Kyler Murray and defensive end Nick Bosa off the board, the Jets – 29th in scoring defense last season – opted for Williams over outside linebacker Josh Allen and defensive tackle Ed Oliver. Williams becomes the highest-drafted defensive player in franchise history.
The pass-rushing Allen would’ve filled a pressing need, but general manager Mike Maccagnan felt Williams’ value was too high to pass up. Sound familiar?
In 2015, the Jets felt the same way about defensive end Leonard Williams (no relation) when he unexpectedly fell to them with the sixth pick. Williams and Williams are now teammates, playing under new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Since 2011, the Jets have picked a defensive lineman five times in the first round. The others: Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples, Sheldon Richardson, Williams and Williams. Wilkerson, Coples and Richardson no longer are on the team.
For Quinnen Williams, this capped a remarkable year. The former Alabama star began last season in relative obscurity, as he had played only 151 defensive snaps before 2018. He blossomed into one of the most dominant defensive players in the country after replacing Daron Payne, a first-round pick of the Washington Redskins last year.
An imposing blend of power and quickness, Williams finished last season with 70 tackles, seven sacks and a team-high 18.5 tackles-for-loss. He was a unanimous All-America selection and was named the winner of the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top interior lineman.
He solidified his draft status at the NFL scouting combine, where he ran the 40-yard dash in an impressive 4.83 seconds at 6-foot-3, 303 pounds. With no injury concerns and no off-the-field issues, Williams was regarded as perhaps the safest prospect in the draft.
Defensively, the Jets have declined in recent years, but they should be significantly improved with the additions of Williams and Pro Bowl middle linebacker C.J. Mosley, who left the Baltimore Ravens as a free agent. They also have Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams, the sixth overall pick in 2017.
They still have a need at outside linebacker, which made Allen (17 sacks last season for Kentucky) seem like a logical option.
The question now is how they will split up the playing time in their 3-4 base front. Williams joins a veteran group that includes returning starters Leonard Williams, Henry Anderson and nose tackle Steve McLendon.
Anderson re-signed in March, receiving a three-year, $25.2 million contract that includes a $17 million guarantee. Williams is making a guaranteed $14.2 million in the final year of his contract and appears to be in line for a long-term extension. With Quinnen Williams on board, they will have one of the highest-paid defensive lines in the league.