Leoanrd Williams of the New York Giants is No. 7 on a list of the NFL’s best defensive tackles assembled by ESPN. The list was compiled by asking more than 50 coaches, execs, and scouts from across the NFL. The participants gave their best 10 to 15 players at the positing and then ESPN collated the information to formulate their list.
Defensive tackle has arguablybeen the Giants strongest position group on the roster, and the deepest. New York just retained Williams by signing him to a three-year, $63 million deal with $45 million guaranteed. Let’s take a look at the rest of the list:
- Aaron Donald, Rams
- Chris Jones, Chiefs
- DeForest Buckner, Colts
- Cam Heyward, Steelers
- Fletcher Cox, Eagles
- Jeffery Simmons, Titans
- Leonard Williams, Giants
- Stephon Tuitt, Steelers
- Vita Vea, Buccaneers
- Grady Jarrett, Falcons
Also receiving votes were Washington’s Jonathan Allen, Jets’ Quinnen Williams, Cardinals’ J.J. Watt, Bears’ Akiem Hicks, Saints’ David Onyemata, Chiefs Jarran Reed, 49ers Arik Armstead, and Ravens’ Calais Cambell.
The list is full of talented players, so it’s not a huge surprise that Williams is not ranked higher. He’s coming off a season with the highest amount of pressures and sacks which earned him the contract extension. He aligned all over Patrick Graham’s defense and did an excellent job with just about everything he was asked to do.
Williams had the fifth-highest pass rush pressure (PRP) rate from the interior defensive line when analyzing players who played at least half of their teams defensive snaps. PRP is a formula that combines sacks, hits, and hurries relative to how many times the player rushes the passer. Only Donald, Tuitt, Jones, and the Jets’ John Franklin-Meyers were higher than Williams.
Williams was also fourth in DPR pressures behind Donald, Tuitt, and Heyward. Williams also ranked fifth, according to Pro Football Focus, in run defense rankings; ahead of him are Donald, the Jets’ Foley Fatukasi, the Bears’ Brent Urban, and the Ravens Derek Wolfe.
Williams had a career type of season last year and he now needs to try and keep that same energy as he heads into 2021. He was the focal point of the front seven in terms of upfield penetration, while also being the cog for the Giants four-man pressure package with stunts/twists. A big criticism of Williams heading into 2020 was his inability to finish sacks - he only had a half sack in 2019 - but he disproved the notion after generating 11.5 last season.
He has to continue the production and should have a lot more help with the additions of Azeez Ojulari, Elerson Smith and Ifeadi Odenigbo. Williams ranking at seven is no slight to the talented defensive lineman. Vita Vea is a beast that has been dinged up and Stephon Tuitt is a very underrated defensive lineman as well.
Simmons is an up and coming defensive linemen who is only 23; his impact on the field is palpable when watching Tennessee’s defense, despite the fact that the defense was pretty horrendous last season. However, there’s certainly an argument that Williams, at this point in their careers, could have been ranked over Simmons, but we’re splitting hairs here. They’re both talented in their own right.
Hopefully after 2021 there will be another very talented Giants’ player that would be getting some love in Dexter Lawrence, who could be in for a big season. Williams was a disruptive force for the Giants last year, and Lawrence, in a much different body, can also be incredibly disruptive as well. Under the skilled teaching of Patrick Graham, there could potentially be two Giants on this list after the season - let’s just hope the defense continues to play up to their potential.