Jameis Winston has character issues. Marcus Mariota has system-quarterback issues. A host of other players, including Oklahoma’s Dorial Green-Beckham and Missouri’s Shane Ray, have drug or violence issues. Or both.
And then there’s USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who has all of the talent and none of the character flaws. There’s no such thing as a sure thing, but is it possible that Williams is the closest bet to a sure thing in this year’s NFL Draft?
“Yeah, I think so,” Bleacher Report NFL Draft lead analyst Matt Miller said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I really do think so. He is so athletic and so versatile that you can make him work in just about any defense. I gave him the same grade that I gave Jameis Winston. I think he’s a special caliber player. If I’m a defensive coordinator, I’m looking at him and saying, ‘Okay, he’s not going to be J.J. Watt, but you can use him in a lot of the same ways.’ He plays 3-4 defensive end, he can play inside as a pass rusher on third down – he can really just be a chess piece on the defensive line, and that’s so valuable in today’s NFL.”
At 6-5, 302 pounds, Williams was a terror for opposing offensive lines last fall, recording 80 tackles, 7.0 sacks, one interception and three forced fumbles . A number of high-profile draft experts believe Williams is the best prospect in this year’s draft.
And yet, no one knows when he’ll be drafted.
“He might not even be drafted in the top five,” Miller said. “If he gets past Oakland, maybe Washington drafts him.”
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers appear set on drafting Winston; the Tennessee Titans will likely draft Marcus Mariota – or trade the pick to a team that will; Jacksonville, which has the third overall pick, is said to be high on Florida pass rusher Dante Fowler; and the Raiders, who had the worst offense in football last year, will likely take Alabama’s Amari Cooper or West Virginia’s Kevin White at No. 4.
That leaves Washington at No. 5, the New York Jets at No. 6, and the Chicago Bears at No. 7.
Williams, for what it’s worth, said this week that he feels he should be taken with the first overall pick. While that likely won’t be the case, it’s hard to imagine the best player in the draft falling past the top three or four picks.
But it’s possible.
“The Jets right now don’t need a 3-4 defensive end unless they feel like Muhammad Wilkerson is not going to re-up with them,” Miller said. “(Williams) will be, I think, a fascinating player to watch because he is so incredibly talented and the upside is all there. But are teams going to pull the trigger on a defensive lineman that early? It’s going to be kind of crazy, I think.”