7 Takeaways from Jets' Drafting of 'Big Cat'

Posted May 1, 2015

Leonard Williams Has an Artist's Mindset, Models His Play After J.J. Watt & Wants to Please the Fans

There were plenty of wrinkles to the Jets' selection of Southern Cal defensive end Leonard Williams with the sixth pick of the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

After hearing from GM Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles, not to mention Williams himself both on his conference call with Jets reporters and on a videoconference interview with's Eric Allen, here are seven takeaways from the pick of the night the morning after.

1. True to His Word

We heard Maccagnan a week ago talk about the pitfalls that accrue to teams straying too far from their value boards. He was true to his word with the first pick of his Jets regime, taking the player who was in the top three on the Jets' board and thus the BPA (best player available) at No. 6 and said it had nothing to do with any perceptions about our quarterback situation.

"We weren’t trying to compensate for the quarterback or not compensate for the quarterback," Maccagnan said. "We were just trying to take the highest player available. I think when you pick that high, you can’t go for need and reach before something with a guy that’s more athletic and a lot better than the guy you are trying to reach for. So we took the best player available for us.

2. Tangibles and Intangibles

Maccagnan said there were plenty of reasons Williams got such high grades. "He's very big physically, talented, very young — he won't be 21 till sometime in June," the GM said. "We feel has a very big upside and a lot of potential."

We're not saying Mike Mac had a soft spot in his heart from having scouted and helped to draft a certain player by the name of J.J. Watt for the Houston Texans in 2011. But then again, Williams said he has tried to model his game after Watt.

"The biggest reason is because obviously he's one of the best to ever play the defensive line," Williams told "Also, his versatility They kind of used me like that at USC, playing all along the line. I try to see how he does it."

3. Shouldering the Load

Williams had shoulder surgery at the end of the Trojans' 2013 season after playing with the posterior labrum injury all year. "It hasn't been a problem for me or even a question for a long time," he said, adding he does a little rehab routine at the end of every lift to "make sure it doesn't happen again."

Maccagnan doesn't think so: "In our process we felt very good about him from a physical standpoint."

4. Splitting Up the Front 7

Bowles was quietly emphatic that with Muhammad Wilkerson, Pro Bowler Sheldon Richardson and Damon Harrison already anchoring the D-line, adding Williams to the mix will not contort the Jets' scheme into a 4-3.

"We're still a 3-4," Bowles said, adding, "We have already incorporated some 4-3. We’re a multiplex defense. We kind of run both of them anyway. It depends on the game and depends on the team.

5. Similar Breeds of Cat

We drafted an excellent first-round DE 15 years ago in Shaun Ellis, who became known as "the Big Katt" during his 11 seasons in green and white. Leonard Williams, on the other hand, has been known as "Big Cat." The New York Times reported in a feature two weeks ago that he got that moniker because he has a leonine mane of hair and a certain ferocity on the field.

"My name is Leo," he said during an interview at the NFL Combine in February, "so Leo the Lion." Simple enough.

6. Artist at Work

Also in that Times story, Williams recalled how he had an art class at USC when he was a freshman. Being a reggae fan, he sculpted a ceramic bust of Bob Marley that so impressed the prof that he suggested Williams enter the college's "Artletics" show for student athletes, which he did in 2013-14. "I just decided to do ceramics because I like to work with my hands."

Similarly, he told Matt Barbato on he likes to perfect his hand play and work on his body lean through practice-practice-practice just as he would his ceramics techniques. And Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian said in a story at that Williams "loves football, loves being around his team, loves practicing. He loves playing the game for all the right reasons."

7. Williams: The Bottom Line

Leonard had a sometimes tough upbringing in Daytona Beach, FL. His father is in a work camp serving time for various offenses until 2019. At times his family had to stay in homeless shelters. But he came out of it with great maturity and sensibility on and off the field, and since he excelled in LA, he doesn't figure to be fazed by NY.

Above all, he seems to want to be a crowd-pleaser. As he told Eric Allen tonight, "I'm looking forward to seeing the Jets fans and hope they love me as much as they love me on the West Coast."


VIEW: 2015 Season Schedule

READ: Familiar Jets Foes in AFC North & West

READ: Jets Select Southern Cal DE Leonard Williams

WATCH: Jets Brass in the Draft Room

WATCH: Bowles: Williams' 'Play Spoke for Itself'

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