FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The Jets added another Williams on defense Thursday, selecting Alabama nose tackle Quinnen Williams with the third pick in Thursday night’s NFL Draft. He joins a defense that’s run by coordinator Gregg Williams and features end Leonard Williams.
Leonard recently worked out with Quinnen in California and called the newest Williams “a beast” and “a stud.”
This was a huge pick for general manager Mike Maccagnan. He tried to trade down and recoup some of the picks the Jets sent to the Colts last year to move up to third to take Sam Darnold. No deal materialized that Maccagnan liked, though, so he ended up taking the best defensive player available.
“There was never a deal we felt good moving back from,” he said. “We’re very happy with the player that was available. From our standpoint, it was best player available at that point in the draft. Not only from a playing standpoint, but from a character standpoint, we feel really good about a very good young player with a bright future.”
The Cardinals selected quarterback Kyler Murray with the first overall pick and defensive end Nick Bosa went second to the 49ers. That left the Jets to choose among Quinnen Williams, Houston tackle Ed Oliver and Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen.
The Jets need an edge rusher — and statistically Allen was the best of the three — but Williams, 21, projects as a better player. Some consider his ceiling so high that he could end up being the best player from this draft.
“When you watch him, the conference he played in, the games he played in, when you look at his body of work, he played exceptionally well the whole season,” Maccagnan said. “He will be a really good addition to building a really strong defensive line.”
Williams, who is 6-3, 303 pounds, played all over the line for Alabama but was only a one-year starter. As a redshirt sophomore, he converted from defensive end to nose guard and still dominated on the interior. He had 71 tackles, 19 1⁄2 for loss, and eight sacks. The first-team All-American won the Outland Trophy as the top interior lineman in college football.
“He was impactful,” Maccagnan said. “He made plays. Showed up in both the run and the pass and was just a very dominant player against some of the better competition.”
The Alabama native is expected to play nose and end for Gregg Williams, who is known for mixing up fronts, and his versatility made him appealing.
“He has the ability to play up and down the line,” Maccagnan said. “There’s a lot of ways we can use him.”
Williams has been compared to Aaron Donald, a perennial Pro Bowl tackle for the Rams. Donald once was coached by Gregg Williams. Quinnen’s presence also could help take double- teams off of Leonard Williams.
“I know I’m coming in to be a dominant player up front,” Quinnen Williams said. “We know for sure Leonard Williams is a dominant player all along the board. Together we can do anything we work our butts off to do.”
As the draft drew nearer, the Jets had trade talks with multiple teams. Reportedly, the Raiders, Bills and Redskins were among them. Maccagnan said they talked to teams before Thursday and while the Jets were on the clock.
The Jets don’t have a second-round pick because they sent it to Indianapolis last year.
“We’ll probably look into it,” Maccagnan said. “If there’s a player or two we feel is worth going up and chasing, we’ll look into doing that.”
The Birmingham, Alabama, native dominated as a redshirt sophomore for the Crimson Tide. He earned first-team All-American honors and won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top interior lineman after registering 71 tackles, including 19.5 for a loss, and eight sacks. Williams, 21, also played on special teams and offense — in a jumbo package near the goal line.