When Leonard Williams fell to the Jets with the 6th pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Jets had no choice but to take a player widely considered to be the best player in the draft. Defensive line wasn't a need for the Jets, but taking the best player available at your selection early in the draft is often a good strategy to follow.
What followed was a highly promising rookie season for the USC man which ended with 63 tackles and 3 sacks, a good season by any stretch, but there is a lot more to come from the 6'5 300lb man who moves with surprising agility. He led the Jets in QB hits with 32, which is reason enough to suggest those sack numbers will increase.
NFL.com have named him as a making the leap candidate, saying:
New York Post beat man Brian Costello wrote during minicamp that Williams played fast, looked more sure of himself and "was dominant at times" during practice. Jets defensive line coach Pepper Johnson, an old-school guy not known for hyperbole, told reporters that Williams has taken his game to "another level."
"He's physically capable of being one of the better defensive linemen in the league," Johnson said, via NJ.com.
Williams has the tools, mind-set and coaches to become the Jets' version of Richard Seymour for the next decade. It's "those little seconds" that matter, and we expect The Big Cat to make them up in 2016.
Now the Jets have one of the better defensive lines in the league, however it's far from settled right now. Gone is Damon Harrison who anchored the line and made it near impossible to run on the Jets, and Muhammad Wilkerson is no closer to being signed long term, and he's not any happier about it either. Not to mention he's also coming back from a broken leg.
Sheldon Richardson is suspended for the first game of the year, and is one dumb decision away from landing in serious trouble. The Jets need Leonard to take that next step in 2016, and if you believe Pepper Johnson, that's exactly what he's going to do.
I've never been a fan of predicting statistical performances before the players even see the field, but I'd be absolutely shocked if Williams didn't improve in pretty much ever statistical category. He's got the size, he's got the strength, he's got the feel for the position, and if he's playing quicker this year...I'd be very afraid if I were opposing offensive lines.