As we continue to make our way through June, my favorite non-football season month, our 30-Day Challenge series rolls on.
Today’s topic of debate is a player the Jacksonville Jaguars had a chance to draft, but passed on. It’s no secret that the Jaguars have made some questionable decisions on past draft days, so there are a lot of ways I could go with this.
Some scenarios that immediately come to my mind: Khalil Mack instead of Blake Bortles, J.J. Watt over Blaine Gabbert, almost any other first-round pick instead of Derrick Harvey.
However, the one draft pick that I can never get out of my head is when Jacksonville elected to take Dante Fowler Jr. over Leonard Williams in 2015. Williams is the player I wish the Jaguars would have drafted, but instead passed on. I was not too happy about it when it happened live during the 2015 NFL Draft, and well, I am still not impressed with the decision or with Fowler.
When comparing the two defensive linemen’s careers thus far, it’s easy to tell who has been more productive. Williams has started 31 games, recorded 131 total tackles, 10 sacks and two forced fumbles. Fowler has one career start (16 appearances), 32 tackles and four sacks.
And sure, it’s easier to put up more numbers when you play more games, but the ability to stay healthy is another aspect of Williams’ game that shouldn’t be taken for granted. He has appeared in all 32 games during his first two seasons. Meanwhile, Fowler tore his ACL about a week after being drafted, before pads ever came on. Of course freak things happen in football, and it was out of Fowler’s control, but it was obviously not an ideal way to start his career.
Maybe Williams is thriving because he plays in a 3-4 base scheme in New York, and perhaps if he played in Jacksonville’s 4-3 scheme then results wouldn’t have quite been the same. However, Williams was arguably the most versatile defensive tackle in the league last year. So I don’t think scheme is an issue for him.
Williams played all over the defensive line for the Jets, and he even saw snaps at linebacker. According to Pro Football Focus analyst, John Gatta, Williams played 47 percent of his snaps inside a defensive tackle, but also 19 percent at edge. You can see the full breakdown below.
Big Cat can be deployed anywhere. His 2016 snap breakdown:— John Gatta (@PFF_JohnGatta) May 22, 2017
47% at DT
19% at DE
19% at Edge
14% at NT
1% at LB
Pro Football Focus also recently named Williams as one of its best defenders under the age of 25 (Jalen Ramsey was also on the list). According to the website, Williams recorded seven or more quarterback pressures from five different alignment techniques! And 55 total pressures. PFF also noted his ability to stop the run.
Williams recorded seven sacks last season, and earned his first Pro Bowl nod. Fowler on the other hand lost his chance at a starting job to rookie Yannick Ngakoue in 2016.
I could go on about this, but I think I’ve made my case. Your turn. In the comments section below, please name the player the Jaguars passed on whom you wish they would have drafted.