What if the New York Jets got another crack at the 2019 NFL draft with the benefit of hindsight?
When the New York Jets chose Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams with the third overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft, they earned mostly favorable reviews for their decision. While defensive tackle was far from the Jets’ biggest need, Williams was seen as the consensus best player available. Many analysts thought he was the best prospect in the entire draft.
Three years in, the Williams pick still possesses a “TBD” grade for the Jets.
Williams has been an excellent player in New York. I’d estimate that he is probably somewhere among the top 15 to 20 best defensive tackles in the NFL as things currently stand.
However, that’s not quite as dominant as Williams was expected to be when he came out of Alabama. Williams often shows flashes of being a top-5 defensive tackle but is yet to muster up the consistency that is necessary for carving out a full season of indisputable dominance.
Until Williams shows that he is a bona fide star rather than merely a “very good” player, there will be questions raised about whether he has warranted his status as a top-three draft pick.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m an avid fan of Williams’ game and believe he is still capable of becoming the all-world player the Jets drafted him to be. He remains only 24 years old, after all. But it’s just a hypothetical best-case scenario until it really happens.
For now, there are quite a few other players from the 2019 draft that appear to be more enticing assets than Williams at the moment. Williams is not even close to being considered the third-best player from a 2019 draft class that has produced a litany of stars.
Looking back on the 2019 draft, there are many enticing household-name players who went off the board after Williams. The 2019 draft features 18 players who have already made at least one Pro Bowl – 16 of which were selected after the third slot.
What if the Jets could do it all over again? Knowing what we know now, who would the Jets take at No. 3?
In this hypothetical re-draft scenario, let’s say the top two selections remain the same. The Arizona Cardinals stick with quarterback Kyler Murray and the San Francisco 49ers stick with defensive end Nick Bosa.
Who would the Jets pick?
Here are a few players who would be in consideration.
WR A.J. Brown (Original pick: R2, P51, Tennessee)
The second round of the 2019 draft was a gold mine for wide receiver talent, featuring three Pro Bowlers (and a fourth wideout who made the Pro Bowl as a returner, Mecole Hardman).
A.J. Brown was a star over his three years with the Titans, racking up 185 catches for 2,995 yards and 24 touchdowns in 43 games. He is now preparing for his first season with the Philadelphia Eagles following a blockbuster draft-day trade.
WR Deebo Samuel (Original pick: R2, P36, San Francisco)
Considered a possible future Jet for a fleeting period of time leading into the 2022 draft, Deebo Samuel is the next wide receiver on our list.
Samuel broke out in 2021 as he showcased unprecedented two-way dominance. He caught 77 passes while also getting 59 carries. Altogether, he logged 136 touches for 1,770 scrimmage yards and 14 touchdowns.
WR D.K. Metcalf (Original pick: R2, P64, Seattle)
D.K. Metcalf has been a consistent stud for the Seahawks since day one. He’s never missed a game, racking up 216 catches for 3,170 yards and 29 touchdowns over 49 appearances.
EDGE Maxx Crosby (Original pick: R4, P106, Oakland)
Maxx Crosby has developed into one of the NFL’s most devastating edge rushers. Through three seasons, he’s never missed a game and boasts career totals of 25.0 sacks, 57 quarterback hits, 43 tackles for loss, and 12 pass deflections.
In 2021, Crosby led all NFL defenders with 101 pressures; 15 more than second-ranked Aaron Donald.
Crosby is extremely enticing. He’s probably the best player of the four, relative to his position. His 2021 season was otherworldly, and his career-long consistency is impressive.
But when we consider where the Jets were in their rebuild at the time – needing to supplement the development of the young franchise quarterback they traded the farm for – I think we have to look toward the receivers.
Between Brown, Samuel, and Metcalf, my vote goes to Brown. When healthy, I think he is the best and most complete player of the trio. I won’t argue against anyone who prefers Samuel or Metcalf, though. All three are phenomenal options.
There’s still time for Williams to warrant his status as the No. 3 pick
Obviously, all of this is hypothetical. Each of the four players listed above was selected long after the Jets took Williams at No. 3. It’s silly to suggest that the Jets “should” have taken them over Williams back on draft day in 2019. Williams was a wise pick at the time.
Heading into the 2019 draft, the only other players considered to be legitimate options for New York at No. 3 were Kentucky EDGE Josh Allen, Clemson EDGE Clelin Ferrell, and Houston DT Ed Oliver. I don’t think any of them have turned out better than Williams.
Allen has a few more sacks than Williams, but relative to their positions, their pass-rushing ability is similar, and Williams is a much better run defender. Ferrell is a massive disappointment. Oliver is a good player but has fewer sacks, quarterback hits, and total tackles than Williams despite playing eight more games.
Nevertheless, the Jets need more from Williams. He was a No. 3 pick. Players selected in that spot are supposed to be enormous difference-makers who serve as one of the driving forces in turning around a downtrodden franchise. Williams has not made that kind of impact just yet.
The need for a Williams explosion is especially important when considering his contract extension negotiations are set to begin at some point in the near future (likely after this season). These looming talks make Williams’ 2022 performance crucial for both sides – Williams needs to explode to maximize his earnings, while the Jets need him to either prove to them that he is worthy of an enormous contract or make it clear that he isn’t.
Williams’ story in New York is yet to be completed. He still has the opportunity to fulfill the sky-high potential that made him the third overall pick.
We’ve seen Williams put together long stretches of top-5 play at his position. His second half of 2020 was phenomenal, as was his first half of 2021. Consistency is the key.
Can he put everything together in 2022?