Williams could be a name to watch for the Jets in Thursday’s NFL Draft.
If the Jets keep the No. 3 pick, they might be in position to draft Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams. If they trade down in the first round and acquire more picks, Alabama offensive lineman Jonah Williams could be an option.
General manager Mike Maccagnan already has made it clear that he’d be willing to trade down, and the Jets can’t go wrong if they wind up with either Williams.
They could use a versatile offensive lineman to help protect quarterback Sam Darnold for the next decade or more. They also could use a player who can line up at different spots in what will be a multi-look scheme under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
There’s that surname again.
Maccagnan addressed many holes in free agency and through trades in the offseason, getting running back Le’Veon Bell, inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, slot receiver Jamison Crowder and left guard Kelechi Osemele.
The Jets’ one glaring deficiency remains at edge rusher. It depends on what the Cardinals and 49ers do with the first and second picks, but if the Jets keep the pick, they should be in prime position to take a defensive player who can impact them for years to come.
Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen and Williams are projected as the three best on that side of the ball. It’s not expected that Bosa will drop to three, so the Jets could be choosing among Williams, Allen or Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver, whose name started picking up steam the last couple of weeks.
The 6-3 Williams was a defensive end who converted to nose guard last year when Da'Ron Payne left for the NFL. Williams studied video of Rams All-Pro tackle Aaron Donald, gained about 20 pounds to play at around 300 and dominated in his new position.
Williams finished with 71 tackles, eight sacks and 19 1/2 tackles for a loss as a redshirt sophomore. He received the Outland Trophy, given to college football’s top interior lineman.
According to Pro Football Focus, Williams tied for first in pass-rush grade (92.5) and pass-rush win percentage (20.6), and his 60 total pressures led all interior defensive linemen. His ability to play just about anywhere on the line and take double-teams off of Leonard Williams certainly makes him appealing.
“Coming from Alabama, I played a lot of different positions,” Williams said. “I played all across the board from end to nose tackle. I love a great challenge . . . But what sets me apart is my IQ level of football. I feel like I can break down film like a quarterback and watch different tendencies and things like that.”
Williams credits Alabama coach Nick Saban for playing a big role in that.
Saban is another name to watch for the Jets. New coach Adam Gase considers him one of his biggest mentors. Gase worked as an assistant under Saban at Michigan State and LSU and probably has reached out to Saban to pick his brain on some of his Crimson Tide players, particularly Williams.
“There’s a lot of stuff that I took from Alabama and took from how I was built at Alabama that I’m going to take to the NFL,” Williams said. “Everything about discipline, everything Coach Saban taught me, everything that Alabama and Coach Saban instilled in me to be the player I am today.
“I’m going to take a lot of those things, like discipline, attention to detail, how I watch film, my work ethic — just the Alabama standard in general — and take it to the NFL.”
Williams also said he learned from playing behind and watching Jonathan Allen and Payne his first two years at Alabama. Both were first-round draft picks of the Redskins.
The Jets plan to stick with a 3-4 front under Gregg Williams, but the aggressive and innovative coordinator also could mix things up and go 4-3 at times. Quinnen Williams should be able to play in both schemes, and he has the attitude and approach that could resonate with the Jets' new staff.
“I love and embrace the technique of football, the different calibers of football and going against the competition level in football,” Williams said. “Every week, you might go against the best of the best. This might be the best guard you go against this week, and then the next week this might be the best tackle you go against.
"Learning how to defeat those guys, learning those guys' tendencies is what I really love about football — and winning in general.”