But as the clock ticked, little development on that front occurred, and with every second that passed, it became clear the Jets would take Alabama’s defensive star Quinnen Williams.
The defensive tackle tops 300 pounds, with many adamant he is the best player from this class.
Like many on Thursday night, Williams has battled adversity to arrive at this point, with tragedy striking his family in 2010 when his mother Marquischa died of breast cancer aged 37 with Williams just 12. A now “humbled” Williams pays tribute to his mother with pink stars tattooed on his chest and insists the experience has helped him become the man he is today.
Legendary coach Nick Saban has helped nurture Williams’ character and well-rounded game, which marries speed, destructive force and piston-like hands. But with so many emotions spilling over throughout the night, the 21-year-old was surprisingly laid-back.
“It will be an easy transition just because I played for Alabama,” Williams told The Independent with a grin. “There are a lot of NFL guys who come from that background, so the transition is going to be very easy.
“And if I don’t know it now, I’m just going to ask the guy who already did it, so I’ve got the blueprint. Recently you had Da’Ron Payne and Jonathan Allen (who both went from Alabama to the Washington Redskins), a lot of guys who I can call in a second and ask them about things.
“It’s all about the process (in Alabama), they teach you about things that other schools don’t teach you about, things that go on in the NFL, because we have an NFL background, NFL coaches, we basically know everything that will go on in the NFL already.”
Jets head coach Gregg Williams usually deploys a 3-4 scheme, but has recently admitted he will have no problem flipping that in an evolving defense. While teammate and offensive tackle Jonah Williams, who was picked 11th by the Cincinnati Bengals, knows all about attempting to neutralise Williams in practice. A task he has likened to grappling with “a 300-pound bar of soap.”
His intelligence ought to play a big part in a smooth transition though, as he bids to learn the playbook and read plays off the snap. A litany of generic answers were delievered from freshly-drafted players on Thursday night, but Williams’ eyes lit up when given a chance to analyse how the NFL is evolving.
“The game is changing right now; without interior lineman, the edge rushers aren’t really edge rushers because you’ve got to have that person that can push the pocket so the edge rusher can get the set,” Williams said. “Because with just edge rushers, the quarterback can step up into the pocket and complete the pass to get the down.
“You have to have guys who can stop the run at an elite level. I feel like defensive tackles are evolving, that’s why they’re going high in the draft.”
After weeks of pestering coach Saban “nearly every day” for advice, Williams could not be better prepared, suggesting the transition might just be as comfortable as he expects.
And after placing a bullseye on Tom Brady ahead of next season’s AFC East meetings, the Jets are now delighted they ignored their instinct, staying at three to welcome one of the league's next stars to the Big Apple.
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