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Over the next month or so, we're going to be reviewing some of the top draft prospects at each position to assess some potential candidates that the Jets will show interest in. We continue today with a look at the 2019 interior defensive linemen class.
Jets Needs: Interior Defensive Linemen
Over the past few years, the Jets have gone from being stacked with defensive line talent to a situation where they may now be looking to upgrade again. 2016 Pro Bowler Leonard Williams will play the 2019 season on his fifth-year option, but it remains to be seen if Steve McLendon and Henry Anderson will be re-signed with the Jets already having decided not to pick up Mike Pennel's option. Anderson could be a priority after he was tied for the team lead with seven sacks last season.
While there's been plenty of discussion about the scheme the Jets will play in 2019, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will run a versatile scheme that will enable him to use his linemen in a variety of ways, so that shouldn't limit the type of players they could target.
Whether or not adding to their defensive line depth is a priority for the Jets should depend upon how high the team is on last year's draft picks, Folorunso Fatukasi and Nathan Shepherd. Each has potential, but they didn't make much of an impact as rookies.
2019 Draft: Interior Defensive Linemen
Some experts believe that Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams is the most talented player in this year's draft. However, with some blue-chip edge rushers and the usual desperation to land a franchise quarterback early on, it's possible Williams could fall to the Jets at No. 3. Williams was too powerful and quick for most offensive linemen at the college level and is expected to be disruptive from the get-go at the pro level. Pairing him with his namesake Leonard inside could provide the Jets with one of the best defensive interiors in the league. Do the Jets really want that to be the focal point of their defense again, though?
In any other draft, scouts would be salivating over Houston's Ed Oliver, but he was somewhat overshadowed by how good Williams was last year. Injuries limited Oliver to just eight appearances last season, so durability is a concern. He was still very productive though, despite the fact Houston opted to play him at the nose tackle position which may have held him back to some extent. Oliver's quickness is also what stands out about his film.
In the event the Jets trade down, Oliver or one of the other potential first-rounders could interest them. Clemson duo Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence, Ohio State's Dre'Mont Jones and Mississippi State's Jeffery Simmons are potential candidates.
Wilkins is a versatile player who can play inside or out and is solid against the run and rushing the passer. His teammate Lawrence is probably the best nose tackle prospect in the draft at 342 pounds, although he was controversially suspended at the end of last season for a failed drug test. Jones was a disruptive pass-rusher with 8.5 sacks in 2018, but also had 10 penalties. Simmons is good against the run but might not be a consideration for the Jets due to some off-field issues. He's also coming off a torn ACL.
Possible Day 2 selections include Miami's Gerald Willis, who is good against the run, Jerry Tillery, a disruptive pass rusher from Notre Dame, and Khalen Saunders, a rising small-school prospect with good athleticism from Western Illinois.
In the mid-to-late rounds, Washington's Greg Gaines had an impressive senior year and may be underrated, so he'll be looking to boost his stock at the scouting combine. Arizona's PJ Johnson is also receiving plenty of buzz after having a big year as a junior-college transfer and then opting to enter the draft.
A late-round pick to add some young depth is also a possibility for the Jets. Wisconsin's Olive Sagapolu is a 342-pound nose tackle who could be an interesting project, while Temple's Michael Dogbe is an improving player who might be flying under the radar despite flourishing as a full-time starter in his senior year.
It's difficult to predict what the Jets' defensive line will look like in a few years, but there's a strong chance they could draft at least one defensive tackle in this year's draft. If they stick to a "best player available" approach then they could even end up selecting one with their first pick, whether or not they trade down. Later on in the draft, a run-stuffer with good size and the ability to play the nose tackle position could add depth in an area of need.