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Fact or Fiction: What's next for Leonard Williams


In this series, the crew is presented with four statements, and they must decide whether they are fact or fiction.

Leonard Williams will have more than 11.5 sacks in 2021.

John Schmeelk: Fiction - In his six-year career, Williams has only finished a season with more than five sacks twice. It is hard for defensive tackles to get sacks, and it is often a product of what's happening around them. Does a quarterback hold the ball long enough for him to get home? Does the secondary force the quarterback to hold the ball? Williams has been amazingly consistent in his career in terms of applying pressure to the quarterback. According to Pro Football Focus, in each of his six seasons he has finished with somewhere between 51 and 65 quarterback pressures. According to PFF, he has also finished with between 17 and 23 quarterback hits. Last season is included in those tallies.

Sacks are often out of a defensive tackle's control and difficult to replicate. Here is the list of interior defensive linemen that have finished with more than 10 sacks in the last five seasons.

Aaron Donald (four times)

Leonard Williams (once)

Stephon Tuitt (once)

Chris Jones (once)

DeForest Buckner (once)

Fletcher Cox (once)

Jarran Reed (once)

Geno Atkins (once)

Calais Campbell (once)

The theme? No one not named Aaron Donald has gotten double-digit sacks from the defensive tackle position more than once in the last five years. It's a very hard thing to do. It's possible Williams gets more snaps as a true edge player, which could help his sack numbers, but I don't see it. The fact he falls short doesn't mean Williams won't have a great year, but he won't get to 11.5 sacks.

Dan Salomone: Fact – The number you need to pay attention to isn't 11.5; it's 26. That is Leonard Williams' age. Like he said in his press conference after signing a new three-year deal to remain with the Giants, he is still in the middle of his prime.

Lance Medow: Fiction - The 11.5 sacks Leonard Williams recorded in 2020 was a career high. Prior to that, his high was seven in 2016. In fairness, this was his first full season with the Giants and scheme and coaching is just as critical as individual talent so last season may have very well been the beginning of what Williams can build upon moving forward. I don't think it's a stretch for Williams to get nine or 10 sacks next season, but I don't think he'll top 11.5 because Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines are returning from injury, and according to multiple reports, New York is adding Ifeadi Odenigbo in free agency, pending a physical. With a few more pass rushers in the mix, I think, as we saw last season, the sacks will be spread across the board.

The return of Nate Solder drastically changed the Giants' plans on the offensive line.

John Schmeelk: Fiction - The Giants needed a veteran offensive tackle to compete with Matt Peart at right tackle, or serve as a swing tackle. Nate Solder will fill that role. Cameron Fleming was here to play that role last year and ended up the starting at right tackle after winning the offseason competition and Solder will do the same in 2021. No big deal.

Dan Salomone: Fact – It is never bad to have options, and that is exactly what Nate Solder's return gives the Giants. You can never have too many offensive linemen, especially one with 146 starts worth of experience under his belt.

Lance Medow: Fiction - When Dave Gettleman spoke to the media recently, he emphasized the importance of getting developing players on the field: "At some point in time, you've got to let the young kids play." In 2020, the Giants drafted three offensive linemen in Andrew Thomas (first round), Matt Peart (third round) and Shane Lemieux (fifth round). Those players will continue to get opportunities regardless of Nate Solder's presence and they could very well look to add additional talent through free agency and the draft. The value of Solder's experience can't be overlooked given the youth across the board on the line and he'll be very much in the mix for a starting job. But I don't think this drastically changes the team's plans at that position. The priority of improving the play on the line and continuing to develop players doesn't alter.

Seeing moves around the league in free agency has shaken up the draft.

John Schmeelk: Fiction - I haven't seen any moves, to be honest, that will alter what teams will be considering ahead of the Giants in the first 10 picks of the draft. No teams that might be interested in a quarterback has addressed that need. The teams that might select a receiver or offensive lineman should still be considering them based on their moves.

Dan Salomone: Fact – Free agency sets up the draft, so what happens in March always shakes up what happens in late April. Meanwhile, moves that teams do not make in free agency speak just as loud as the ones they do as they anticipate the caliber of players at certain positions coming out of the draft.

Lance Medow: Fiction - My mindset here is very similar to my response to the previous statement. The draft isn't simply about 2021. It's about finding talent that can contribute way beyond one season. That's why what a team does in free agency doesn't necessarily prevent them from drafting players at the same positions in April. On top of that, if you think quarterbacks tend to shake up the draft the most, the two teams that added potential starters thus far were the Bears (Andy Dalton) and Washington (Ryan Fitzpatrick) but I don't think either of those two players removes the possibility of their teams addressing that position once again next month. The draft will have plenty of surprises regardless of what happens in the remainder of free agency.

This will be the most unpredictable draft because of the limitations due to the pandemic.

John Schmeelk: Fiction - SLAM! I actually think the draft may be more predictable since teams will take fewer chances and are more likely to work off the tape rather than in-person interviews and workouts. Teams might also be less willing to take chances on player's with off-field or medical issues because they have less information than in a normal season. I believe this will make the draft easier, not more difficult, to predict. This should be much more of a consensus driven draft.

Dan Salomone: Fact – No NFL Scouting Combine. No individual workouts. A three-person cap at pro days. Limited medical information. Yes, this will be an unpredictable draft in terms of hits and misses.

Lance Medow: Fiction - It's a clean fiction sweep for me this week. Although there was a scouting combine last year, there were still limitations following that with respect to interacting with prospects, in person. So I think 2020 prepared teams very well for this year's process. Is the absence of a formal scouting combine notable? Sure, but the most important aspect of that event is the meetings with prospects as opposed to all the individual drills. With school's still holding pro days across the country, those measurements will be taken and teams will still have a chance to interview players. The setup is just a bit different than usual but so was the entire 2020 season and every team adapted. The film should always dictate decisions in the draft regardless of the circumstances of the country. With that being said, teams will still take chances even with limitations in the process. That's why I don't think the draft will be any more unpredictable than previous years.

With training camp here, view photos of every move made by the Giants this offseason.


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