FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Doing his usual pre-draft work, Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan watched video of five of Quinnen Williams’ games against top competition. He was struck by how dominant Williams was.
Maccagnan said he thought he was watching a compilation of Williams’ best plays — a highlight tape.
“I remember calling down to the video department,” he said. “I was like, ‘Are you guys just putting his tackles on the tape or are you guys putting all the plays on the tape?’ When you watched him, in every game he played in, he was impactful.”
That was one of many reasons the Jets used the No. 3 overall pick to choose the Alabama nose tackle on Thursday.
Williams’ ability to pressure the quarterback, stop the run, take attention away from end Leonard Williams and improve the defense as a whole has the Jets excited about the near future.
Maccagnan already is envisioning what defensive coordinator/mastermind Gregg Williams will be able to do with a group that also features fellow Alabama product C.J. Mosley and Avery Williamson at inside linebacker and Jamal Adams, Trumaine Johnson and Marcus Maye in the secondary.
“Any team would like to have a very talented group of players,” Maccagnan said. “I like the idea of Gregg Williams figuring out a way to utilize all the pieces we have in the most impactful way.”
Williams is planning to stick with a 3-4 defense, but he will use different looks to confuse quarterbacks and offenses. The Jets should be stout up front with the two Williamses, Henry Anderson and Steve McLendon at Williams’ disposal.
Quinnen Williams isn’t a classic edge rusher, but he has the versatility to play all across the line. He was a defensive end who converted to tackle as a redshirt sophomore and was named the nation’s top interior lineman after recording 71 tackles, 19 1⁄2 tackles for losses and eight sacks.
“Wherever they want me to do, whatever I need to learn, I’m coming in to learn it,” he said. “I’m a great learner and I can do it all. I can play all positions. It doesn’t matter where they put me, I can do it all.”
Williams’ personality, mental makeup and ability to handle real-life adversity also drew the Jets to him. At age 12, he lost his mother to breast cancer. He helped raise his younger sister, whom Williams refers to as his daughter.
Williams said it was important to be a good example for her. He’s done that by staying positive, working hard and fulfilling his dream of being drafted.
“I thought about my mom every last minute,” he said. “How I need to not get complacent, stay disciplined in everything I do and stay humble. That’s the main things I always think about when I think about my mom. I know she’d be very proud for sure.”
Williams remains driven to honor his mother’s memory and become the best player he can be.
He has been compared to Rams tackle Aaron Donald, the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year the past two seasons. The Jets can only hope he gets to that level, but they believe he has a very high ceiling.
“I definitely think he has the ability to impact the game both as a pass rusher and as a run defender,” Maccagnan said. “When you watched Aaron coming out of college, he was extremely disruptive and penetrated, made a lot of plays. Quinnen is very similar and did it in some people’s minds in one of the better conferences in college football.
“He just consistently played well and made plays. He has a bright future.”