Defensive tackle was considered arguably the strongest position group in the 2019 NFL Draft. The AFC East took full advantage of that Thursday night.
Each of the New England Patriots’ three division rivals — the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Miami Dolphins — used its top 2019 draft pick on an interior D-lineman, plucking the top three available prospects at the position in their ongoing quest to take down Tom Brady.
Let’s break it down:
New York Jets
After quarterback Kyler Murray went first overall to the Arizona Cardinals and Nick Bosa went No. 2 to the San Francisco 49ers, the Jets used the third selection to jump on the draft’s best interior defender, Quinnen Williams.
New York reportedly made attempts to trade their pick but couldn’t find a partner. They got a stud, though, in Williams, who ran a 4.83-second 40-yard dash at 6-foot-3, 303 pounds and was a beast during his lone season as a starter at Alabama.
Recipient of the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top interior D-lineman, Williams racked up 71 tackles, eight sacks and 19 1/2 tackles for loss in 15 games. He and 2015 first-rounder Leonard Williams will form a formidable tandem up front for new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
After watching some surprising names come off the board in the top 10 (defensive end Clelin Ferrell to the Oakland Raiders at No. 4? Quarterback Daniel Jones to the New York Giants at No. 6?!) the Bills gladly used the ninth overall selection on Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver, whom they reportedly had tried to trade up for.
Oliver is undersized for the position at 6-2, 281 pounds, but he’s a superb athlete — the 4.22-second short shuttle he ran at his pro day beat the times of all but three edge rushers at the combine — and was wildly productive in college, totaling 14 1/2 sacks and 54 tackles for loss over three seasons. He also forced six fumbles and batted down 14 passes.
This was an excellent pick for Buffalo. Oliver, who’s been compared to Hall of Famer John Randle, was a steal at No. 9.
Brian Flores’ first pick as Dolphins head coach was a smart one. Miami drafted Clemson’s Christian Wilkins at No. 13, nabbing a player widely viewed as one of the safest selections in this year’s class.
Wilkins likely would have been a first-rounder in last year’s draft had he declared, but he opted to return for his senior season. The 2018 campaign proved to be arguably his best, as he finished with six sacks and 15 tackles for loss while helping Clemson win its second national title in three years.
A unanimous All-American last season, Wilkins ranked second among interior defenders behind Williams in Pro Football Focus’ pass rush productivity metric and also was a stout run defender. His four-year totals: 14 1/2 sacks, 54 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles, 14 pass breakups.
Wilkins also has been lauded for his intelligence, character and leadership, making him a great addition to a rebuilding Dolphins squad with a first-year head coach.
Thumbnail photo via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports Images