The New York Jets were the rare recipients of luck on the night of the 2015 NFL Draft when Leonard Williams fell to the no. 6 overall pick; many regarded Williams as the best player in the draft.
Two years later, the Jets are reaping the benefits of taking Williams despite not having a “need” for another defensive lineman. Now, Gang Green boasts one of the game’s most exciting young defenders who made even more strides in his second year.
Jets head coach Todd Bowles once said Williams was “running like a bull in a China shop,” but now, Williams is taking his incredible athletic gifts and pairing it with the understanding of how to be a successful NFL lineman. That is why he is the best player on the 2017 New York Jets.
What he did in 2016:
Williams, who is just 23 years old, had a tremendous season despite New York’s defensive struggles. He had seven sacks to go along with 68 total tackles in all 16 games this past season.
Pro Football Focus graded the former USC Trojan as the 11th best interior defender in the league with an 85.1 grade. Of the 10 players ranked ahead of them, eight have made a Pro Bowl. PFF also ranked Williams as the fifth-best run-defending interior defender.
Why he’s ranked No. 1:
Williams’ consistent dominance and positive play week in and week out make him the safest bet to have a tremendous 2017 season.
While Williams’ best game came in a 2.5-sack performance in Week 1, he was far from a “one-week wonder.” He recorded at least half a sack in seven games while totaling team-high 21 defensive hurries, according to Sporting Charts.
Williams’ emergence into a star is unprecedented for a young Jet. According to Radar360, since 1982, Williams has recorded the third-most sacks by a player in his second season in franchise history, trailing only John Abraham (13 sacks) and Sheldon Richardson (eight).
What to expect in 2017:
Williams should only get better as he enters the prime years of his career. His superb performance as a run-stuff interior defender paired with his pass-rushing abilities gives him the potential to be a top defensive player in the league. His upside is tremendous.
He also has a legitimate chance to become just the third Jet to reach double-digit sacks in his third professional season, and could break teammate Muhammad Wilkerson’s team record of 10.5.