NASHVILLE -- The Jets, for the first time in a long time, are not interested in drafting a quarterback, as GM Mike Maccagnan proudly acknowledged on Tuesday. That puts them in a very powerful position with the third overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Teams that need quarterbacks can get desperate around the draft. Just ask Maccagnan, who surrendered three second-round picks to move up three spots so he could draft Sam Darnold a year ago. And when there's no consensus on the top quarterbacks - and there really seems to be none this year - prices can really go crazy. That's why Maccagnan said he'd be looking for market value "and then some" for the No. 3 pick.
Will he get it? That's one of the many mysteries at the top of the draft, but I fully expect the Jets to keep trying from now until the moment they are finally forced to call in their pick on Thursday night. They could find a partner with the Oakland Raiders at 4, the Cincinnati Bengals at 11, or as everyone has been speculating for days - the Washington Redskins at No. 15.
But I doubt they're dropping out of the Top 10 unless they're overwhelmed with an offer that includes a second and third-rounder this year and a first-round pick next year. And if they were to switch spots with the Raiders at 4, they'd likely end up picking the same guy they would have picked at 3.
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So who is that? I believe the Jets will end up passing on the edge rusher they so desperately need in favor of the man one scout told me was "the safest pick and best defensive player - maybe the best overall player -- in the draft:"
Alabama DT Quinnen Williams
This is not an easy pick, because I think that Kentucky DE Josh Allen will be available, and I wrote on Tuesday that I believe the Jets should stay at 3 and draft Allen, the most productive pass rusher in the entire draft. And they might have to make the choice between Allen and Williams because I have bought into the widely-held belief that the Arizona Cardinals are going to take Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray at No. 1, and then I'd expect the San Francisco 49ers to take Ohio State DE Nick Bosa at No. 2 (And by the way, if the 49ers don't, Bosa might end up being the Jets' pick instead).
So why Williams over Allen? I keep coming back to this quote from new Jets coach Adam Gase, when he was asked about building a pass rush at the NFL owners meetings last month. He was asked how desperate the Jets were to find an "edge rusher" and he answered "It's about getting the right pass rusher or getting the right group of pass rushers. I don't know if it's really, 'Hey, one guy fixes this at this spot.' It's just about making sure that we build the model the right way."
In other words, they need pass rushers, not just an edge rusher. And really, they don't have much of an interior rush either. They start 33-year-old Steve McLendon in the middle - a valuable veteran presence whose best days are behind him. They also have Nathan Shepherd, who had a disappointing rookie year, and right now looks like a bust of a third-round pick.
The 6-foot-3, 303-pound Williams would be a huge upgrade over both of them. And while he's not exactly Aaron Donald, he could have that kind of impact in the middle of the Jets' defensive line. In fact, the word he used was "dominant". He believes he can be a "dominant" player in the NFL.
The Jets' hope and theory would be that he could be dominant enough to draw attention away from disappointing DE Leonard Williams and whatever edge rusher the Jets employ this season. And he could play the middle in a 3-4 or a 4-3, since it's starting to seem like the new Gregg Williams defense is going to be a hybrid between those schemes.
He certainly was dominant at Alabama, where he had eight sacks and 19 ½ tackles for loss last season. About the only knock on him is he looks pretty slim for a 300-pounder. But it's not as if he gets pushed around, and he has plenty of pass-rushing moves as well as 4.8 speed.
What about Houston DT Ed Oliver, you ask? I know it was a popular rumor in the last week that Gregg Williams was in love with him and that he'd be the Jets pick. I never bought that. I think that was the Jets' way of trying to bait the Raiders - who apparently love Oliver - to trade up.
From what I've heard, the coaches - Gregg Williams in particular - are enamored with Quinnen Williams. No one seems to think the Jets' "interest" in Oliver is real.
Besides, Williams is the safer pick - a clean prospect on and off the field. And really, this is a can't-miss moment for Maccagnan. He got his quarterback in last year's draft, his playmakers in free agency, and now he needs to find a linchpin player for his defense. He can't and shouldn't take a chance with a lesser player or one with too many question marks - not at 3, where, as Giants GM Dave Gettleman has noted, is where "gold jacket" players can be found.
Allen or Williams could fit that description. But my bet is the Jets ignore their most glaring need and take the best player. Given a choice of those two, Williams is the clear favorite of most around the NFL.
I believe the Jets will agree.