The Green & White have 14 potential starters on offense and defense — out of 22 roles — that are age 25 or younger at this very moment. That’s a little less than 64% of the starting lineup.
Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh have such high hopes for all of these prospects drafted over the past three or four years but only one has made Pro Football Focus’ yearly “Top 25 Under 25” list in 2022. The silver lining is that the Jets roster the lone youngster to receive this elite honor in the AFC East.
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Quinnen Williams Ranks No. 22 on List of Future Stars
Last year, the Jets actually had two players make this ranking, defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and offensive tackle Mekhi Becton. In 2022, only Williams got the nod being that Becton was sidelined with injury after Week 1.
NFL analyst Trevor Sikkema wrote:
Williams hasn’t burst onto the NFL scene like we thought he might after looking completely unblockable in his final season at Alabama, but he still needs to be on this list. Williams recorded just 2.5 sacks in his first season, but over the past two years, he has recorded seven sacks and six sacks, respectively. On paper, he’ll have Carl Lawson and Jermaine Johnson on the defensive line with him in 2022, which should open the door for more one-on-ones on the inside and more flashes of that elite pass-rush potential.
At first glance, this doesn’t look great for Douglas considering Williams is one of the only prospects on the roster that was drafted by ex-general manager Mike Maccagnan. There are other factors to consider, however.
Firstly, rookies don’t make this ranking, meaning you won’t find players selected in April on this list. The Jets had a “home-run” draft in 2022 according to most assessments and grades.
Two, not too many second-year prospects make PFF’s top 25 under 25. Only linebacker Micah Parsons, wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, offensive tackle Rashawn Slater, center Creed Humphrey, cornerback Patrick Surtain II, quarterback Trevor Lawrence, and tight end Kyle Pitts were chosen.
That’s seven total from the 2021 draft class and Lawrence doesn’t even deserve it — his ranking is based solely on his potential.
The point is that most youngsters take two years to receive this honor and really establish themselves in the NFL. That means you’d focus more on the 2019 and 2020 draft classes here in 2022 — which were much weaker groups for the Jets. It would be expected that more players from the 2021 class, as well as any premier rookies, make that jump into top-25 relevance this season.
Although Gang Green had the only AFC East prospect on the list, each rival did get one honorable mention from Sikkema and PFF. They were: Jevon Holland (Dolphins safety), Tremaine Edmunds (Bills linebacker), and Michael Onwenu (Patriots guard).
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Williams Becoming Team Leader at Age 24
Williams joined “NFL Total Access” last week and told the panel that he has “huge expectations” for himself in his second season under Coach Saleh. “I feel like I gotta push myself — we push each other — but I gotta push myself to [be] an unbelievable presence and [go to] unbelievable places so I can be the player that I want to be.”
Although the defensive tackle didn’t earn a ‘C’ on his jersey last year, you could tell that he was becoming a leader within the organization. Williams may only be 24 years of age but he’s a veteran of the franchise and one of the few athletes that were on the roster pre-Douglas.
After the Denver Broncos shutout loss, in particular, the Alabama product was very outspoken in calling out himself and his teammates for repeating the same mistakes early in the season. The Jets ended up responding with one of their biggest upsets of the year in Week 4.
Williams also told reporters that “in New York, you gotta win,” after the Week 1 loss in Carolina. Veteran Sheldon Rankins emerged as a team leader in 2021 but it will be interesting to see if either of these two gets voted a captain this year now that Foley Fatukasi is in Jacksonville.
A third option on the defensive line could be Carl Lawson, but Williams’ candidness and his extended tenure at One Jets Drive could give him the leg up on his veteran teammates.
“I firmly believe in leader by example,” Williams told the Total Access crew, “to be a great leader, you gotta do what it takes to have the team follow [you].”