The New York Giants have multiple areas available for upgrade on defense, and on Monday they made a move to address one of them. The Leonard Williams trade is a bet on the former top-ten pick, but it was calculated risk to take.
The New York Giants were expected to be active as the NFL’s trade deadline neared, the question that lingered was would they be buyers, sellers, or both? On Monday, Dave Gettleman proved to be a buyer and specifically addressed additions to the defensive line. He didn’t need to go far to find a willing seller either.
For a 2020 third-round pick and a 2021 fifth-round pick, the New York Jets traded away Leonard Williams across town (Schefter). The former sixth overall pick in 2015 doesn’t need to pack his bags or travel far as he begins a new start. And by all means, a new start is what was needed for the 25-year-old defensive end.
After generating enough hype to warrant the discussion of being selected top overall, Leonard Williams was drafted sixth overall by the New York Jets, but never fully reached the potential that was attached to him. In 71 games played for the Jets, Williams tallied 17 sacks, 122 solo tackles, and two forced fumbles.
For a player out of USC that was meant to be a force on the defensive line, and ultimately a fulcrum of the pass rush, Williams never accomplished that expectation to its fullest. His greatest statistical season game in 2016, when he notched seven sacks and two forced fumbles (the lone two of his career). He followed up with just two sacks in 2017, and to date this season has recorded none.
So with all of the above, why did the Giants choose to trade for Williams? Especially for a third and fifth-round pick, and especially as Williams is playing into the last year of his rookie contract.
Because even though Williams has (yet) to live up to the expectations he entered the league with, he has been consistent regardless. And for a New York Giants team that is currently in the middle of the pack in regards to defensive team stats, a spark of some kind can help nudge this team in the right direction.
And at 25 years old, the Giants are betting long term on a first-round talent that still has time to possibly turn things around. That’s the key: time to improve and possibly leverage the fresh start and new opportunity that awaits him with the Giants.
The Giants rank 20th and 23rd in quarterback hurries and quarterback knockdowns respectively per Pro Football Reference. There’s a chance that Leonard Williams may never become a sack machine that perhaps many expected him to, but he still has the opportunity to help spark a defensive line that has been average at best.
At best, Williams could turn into the pass rusher that he was hyped to be. At worst, he remains a consistent player that can help better the Giants’ defensive line incrementally.
In the end, the trade for Williams for a third and fifth-round pick may prove to be a bet, but it should be viewed as a calculated one.