Pro Football Focus has been compiling a list of the top players under 25 years old at each position. Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams made the cut.
Leonard Williams, New York Jets (85.1)
Today’s NFL of multiple fronts and adaptive personnel packages means some players no longer play in one traditional position on defense, and so we have mirrored the flex offensive positions to recognize these defensive line Swiss army knives. Leonard Williams is the embodiment of that. Williams recorded seven or more pressures from five different alignment techniques along the defensive front for the Jets, which made up 44 of his 55 total QB pressures. Williams has been especially good defending the run, and was the only player to come within five total defensive stops of the Giants’ Damon Harrison among all interior defenders in 2016.
I have a love-hate relationship with Pro Football Focus. They post a lot of meaningless mindless stuff like, “This player had a 74.6 grade last year,” but then they also have insightful articles like this.
They offer players at each position, but they created an exemption for Williams as a flex defensive lineman because Leo doesn’t just have a single position in the Jets defense. He lines up in multiple spots on the line.
I also think they do a nice job of subtly displaying the difference between a position and a role. Does Williams play the same position as Damon Harrison? No, Harrison tends to be a pure run stuffer in the middle of the defense. Williams’ role within the defense, however, put a lot of the burden of replacing Harrison on him in 2016 as they note the number of stops he put up. He was a big part of the reason the Jets remained near the top of the league shutting down the run even after losing an impact guy like Harrison.