"He was the best player on our board," Jets GM Mike Maccagnan said. "Surprised he fell to us. He was too good of a value to pass on.
The 6-foot-5, 291 pound Williams had 21 sacks over three seasons with the Trojans.
Jets head coach Todd Bowles said he believes Williams can be a three-down back.
"He's just scratching the surface of the player he can be," Maccagnan said of Williams.
Williams, 20, had 218 total tackles, two interceptions and five forced fumbles. He had 80 total tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, one interception and forced three fumbles during 2014 season.
"You can never have enough good players, especially on the defensive line," Maccagnan said.
In 2014, Williams was selected as USC's Most Valuable Player and Defensive Lineman of the Year. He was also a first-team All-Pac-12 selection.
Williams said he was surprised the Jets took him, as he expected them to pick an offensive player at No. 6.
Williams had shoulder surgery before the 2014 season, Maccagnan said, but the team said they were comfortable with his recovery since the injury. Williams said on a conference call that his shoulder is fine.
He was a finalist for the Hendricks Award and a semifinalist for the Lombardi Award, Bednarik Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy in 2014.
"Adding him to the mix makes us better," Bowles said.
There's no question that GM Mike Maccagnan made a bold and extremely shrewd decision in his selection of USC DT Leonard Williams at sixth overall. I applaud Maccagnan's discipline in a crucial moment of his early legacy. No one can ever question Mike Maccagnan's adherence to a "best player available" philosophy.
The question for me is what comes next?
Will the other shoe drop on all the Muhammad Wilkerson rumors? It makes a ton more sense now that Williams is the property of the Jets. The Jets are going to have to work fast if they want to turn Wilkerson into a first rounder tonight.
To say that defensive line is not an area of need is an understatement of the year for the Jets. With Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Quinton Coples and Damon Harrison under contract it is fair to say that the team has the players to build around for the next five to seven years -- if they so choose. Bringing in Williams stacks strength on strength ... assuming all the players are still playing for the Jets come September.
That said, it is also fair to say there might be trouble in paradise. Maccagnan has no allegiance to the roster. Muhammad Wilkerson is looking for a new contract, likely just shy of JJ Watt and Ndamukong Suh money. Damon Harrison will spoiling for a chance at unfettered free agency next year. Everything is running along smoothly for the Sons of Anarchy in 2015, but this series is a Gemma-killed-Tara moment away from a total reboot.
Williams was widely regarded by many as the best player in the NFL Draft and there was a highly likelihood that he would slide to the Jets ... and he did. The Jets were unable (or unwilling) to find a trade partner and weren't prepared to reach. I will confess that this very scenario was what woke me up in a cold sweat over the last two months. Nothing against Williams, he's extremely talented, but it just means that the Jets have some tough decisions ahead and the same number of holes to fill as they did yesterday.
Williams dropping to six didn't actually surprise me that much, because it always seemed possible when matching the teams ahead of the Jets with their primary needs. It's a bold statement for the Jets to stay true to their board and get a guy regarded as one of the most talented players in the draft even though they were already strong at his position.
The one thing I didn't want to see this weekend was a Muhammad Wilkerson trade and, on the face of it, this selection would appear to make that more likely. However, I'm still hoping the team will stick with Wilkerson - their most important player, in my opinion - and find a way to work Williams into the rotation.
That being the case - and assuming everyone stays healthy - you're likely looking at some kind of rotation where everyone gets a lot of reps and the likes of Wilkerson, Williams and Sheldon Richardson can play all over the defensive line.
We'll be getting into how everyone the Jets acquired this offseason fits into the defense in more depth once the draft is over, but ultimately there is no need to overthink things. Whether the team is aligned in a 3-4 or a 4-3 shouldn't affect the roles or personnel on the field too dramatically and Williams gives the Jets another weapon they can employ in a variety of ways in a defense that promises to be disruptive and dominant next year
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