Jets Select Southern Cal DE Leonard Williams

Posted Apr 30, 2015

Green & White Take "Big Cat" at No. 6, Jets' Seventh Defensive Player in Last 6 First Rounds

Updated, 10:40 p.m. ET

The first draft move of the Mike Maccagnan/Todd Bowles era of Jets football was a surprise and yet again had a familiar feel to members of Jets Nation. Staying pat at their sixth pick of the draft, the Jets selected big, athletic, young Southern Cal defensive end Leonard Williams.

Williams for one was pleasantly stunned as he became the seventh consecutive defensive player in the first rounds of the last six drafts.

"It was a big surprise for me. I thought the Jets were going to go for someone on the offense just because they are already known for having such a great D-line. I was really surprised but also really excited to be a part of the great tradition and great D-line."

"At the end of the day, Leonard was the best player on our board — we were kind of surprised he fell to us," Maccagnan told reporters at 9:15 p.m. ET, about a half-hour after Jets personnel in Chicago turned in the card with Williams' name on it. "He was just too good of a value to pass up at that time."

In three Trojans seasons, Williams (6'5", 304) averaged seven sacks and 12 tackles for loss per season. Further, he forced five fumbles and deflected eight passes, picking off two, with his big hands and long reach.

The last offensive player we selected in Round 1 was QB Mark Sanchez, also from USC, fifth overall after we traded up in the 2009 draft. Of those six defensive first-rounders since, three have been defensive linemen — Sheldon Richardson in 2013, Quinton Coples in '12 and Muhammad Wilkerson in '11.

"I'm excited. I know it doesn't look like it on my face. It's been a long day with minicamp," said Bowles, the first-year head coach with the defensive background. "You can never have enough defensive linemen. All our defensive linemen have to play all across the board."

Bowles added that he was highly impressed with Williams, who won't turn 21 years of age until June, when the player came for his scheduled visit at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center a few weeks ago.

"Obviously, his play speaks for itself," Bowles said. "When he got here, just meeting the young man, how mature he was, how full of life he was, the passion he has for playing football, it kind of connected with me."

Some draft experts thought the Jets were trying to trade up to Tennessee's second spot to take Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, even while the Titans were on the clock, but Maccagnan said the Titans seemed to have a lot of interest in Mariota. "At that point in time, we researched it and we decided to sit."

On the flip side of No. 6, many thought our new braintrust might trade down to add another player to their current crop of six picks.

"We gave the pick its full allotment of time. There weren't any trade options that came across our desk to make it worth it to move out of the pick," Maccagnan said. "So we went back to just try to maximize our return and take the best player available."

He added that Williams was one of the top three players on the Jets' value board. And in fact many draft analysts felt Williams was perhaps the best athlete available in this draft. Jets reporters asked him if he would be playing with a chip on his shoulder after five teams passed on him, letting him drop to the Jets.

"I just want to not really prove other teams wrong but just really prove the Jets right," he said. "I really want them to be proud of their decision and let them know I'm coming in with a lot of passion and I'm willing to put whatever it takes on the line to make a lot of great plays and be successful."

Williams is the 14th player out of the University of Southern California that we've drafted since we morphed from the Titans into the Jets in 1963. He's also our fifth first-rounder from USC and our first defensive first-round Trojan, following in the footsteps of T Marvin Powell (fourth overall, 1977), T Dave Cadigan (No. 8, 1988), WR Keyshawn Johnson (No. 1, 1996) and Sanchez. RB Joe McKnight (fourth round, 2010) was the last Trojan selected before Williams.


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