This is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I truly believe Jets fan should stop hating on Leonard Williams so much. I have two reasons why I believe Jets fans should stop: Leonard Williams is a good player, and hating Leonard Williams really does no good to him or his morale.
Believe it or not, Leonard Williams is a very solid football player. He may not be what fans expected with the sixth overall pick but considering that he made the all-rookie team (2015) and followed up that with a pro bowl year (2016), he’s already done a lot better than most in the NFL.
Through week 5 of this year, his career stats are as follow: 231 tackles, 32 TFLs, 88 QBHs, and 17 sacks. In the same time period (2015 through Week 5 2019) four-time pro bowler/one-time all-pro Fletcher Cox has totaled 197 tackles, 40 TFLs, 87 QBHs, and 32 sacks. Williams crushes Cox in the tackle’s category, is nearly identical in QB hits, and is within ten for tackles for a loss, the only category Cox is winning in a landslide is the sacks category where Williams has admittedly struggled throughout his career.
To continue this comparison, in the same time period, Fletcher Cox has played 67 games and 3433 snaps (roughly 74%) while Leonard Williams has played 68 games and 3665 snaps (roughly 80% of snaps). I would like to note that Fletcher Cox is the better player, I’m not arguing that, but Leonard is no slouch when compared and that’s my point. Both players have been the model of consistency for their teams, so why does Fletcher Cox get the praise he deserves while Leonard Williams is trashed daily?
I think the most obvious answer is winning, the Eagles have recently won a Super Bowl and look to be playoff-bound again this year while the Jets will be lucky to finish 7-9/8-8. Another obvious reason is what the Jets invested into Leonard Williams when they took him sixth overall, you expect a player like that to be towards the top of their position and I personally would put Leo in the upper end of his draft class and the NFL.
Look at how Leonard stacks up against notable DE/DT/First Round prospects from the 2015 draft.
Leonard Williams (6th Ovr): 231 tackles, 32 TFLs, 88 QBHs, and 17 sacks (One Pro Bowl)
Vic Beasley (8th Ovr): 125 tackles, 30 TFLs, 39 QBHs, and 31 sacks (15 in one year) (One Pro Bowl, One All-Pro)
Arik Armstead (17th Ovr): 112 tackles, 17 TFLs, 32 QBHs, and 11 sacks
Shane Ray (23rd Ovr): 94 tackles, 15 TFLs, 33 QBHs, and 14 sacks
Frank Clark (63rd Ovr): 147 tackles, 38 TFLs, 74 QBHs, and 36 sacks
Danielle Hunter (88th Ovr): 228 tackles, 59 TFLs, 66 QBHs, and 45 sacks (One Pro Bowl)
Now look how Leonard stacks up against the “big name” Defensive Ends/Defensive Tackles in the NFL (time frame 2015-2019)
Leonard Williams: 231 tackles, 32 TFLs, 88 QBHs, and 17 sacks (One Pro Bowl)
Akiem Hicks: 192 tackles, 44 TFLs, 63 QBHs, and 27 sacks (One Pro Bowl)
Brandon Williams: 173 tackles, 22 TFLs, 10 QBHs, and 4 sacks (One Pro Bowl)
Calais Campbell: 275 tackles, 66 TFLs, 101 QBHs, and 41 sacks (Four Pro Bowls/ One time All-Pro)
Cameron Jordan: 233 tackles, 69 TFLs, 101 QBHs, and 45.5 sacks (Four Pro Bowls/One time All-Pro)
Here are some other tidbits on the Big Cat. Leonard Williams was the 19th ranked run stopper and had the 14th highest run-stop percentage in 2018, according to Football Outsiders. That’s great considering the Jets had the 29th ranked statistical defense overall that same year. The Jets have remained in the top 10 for rush defense four out of the five years that Leo has been on the team. Leonard also (despite twitter saying otherwise) gets double-teamed quite often, 17% in fact, placing in the top 15 for double teams in 2018 (via Michael Nania).
To summarize, Leonard Williams compares with and deserves to be treated like an upper-level Defensive Tackle. Williams has consistently been a top-notch run defender who gets a lot of QB pressures but can never seem to finish. Williams has managed to perform well on bad football teams who often had the mentality of quitters, very little talent, and very poor coaching. Considering Leo’s “veteran presence” as a rookie was a mix of Mo Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson (both great people) while being “pumped up” by the walking zombie Todd Bowles, it’s impressive that Leo has held his own. I understand your frustration Jets fans, I really do, but Leonard Williams is just the wrong player to be trashing. Leonard Williams is going to get paid by someone, whether it is the Jets or not, I don’t know. He deserves to be paid well and some contender will be happy to swoop him off his feet.