As Leonard Williams is set to hit free agency, the former top-10 draft pick is determined to unlock his full potential. Williams has been a solid defensive tackle in his five NFL seasons, but has failed to live up to the expectations of being the No. 6 overall pick in the draft.
Williams is seeking outside help as he's set to hit the prime of his career, reaching out to former Pro Bowl defensive end Richard Seymour for guidance.
"I've worked with guys in the past -- not so much on-the-field work, but just mentality, mindset," Seymour said on his meeting with Williams, via Mike Reiss of ESPN. "Here's the thing: In my mind, anybody can be good if they have a certain amount of talent. But what I try to give guys is the mindset of what it takes to be great, and to be great consistently. To develop a mentality over the course of your career. I'd say Leonard has all the tools for what it takes to be great."
Seymour can relate to Williams based on his draft selection, as he also was the No. 6 overall pick in the draft back in 2001. Playing the defensive interior to start his career, Seymour made five consecutive Pro Bowls and was a three-time First Team All-Pro in his first six seasons in the league. Quite a different path from the one Williams is traveling.
Williams has 266 tackles and 17.5 sacks in his first five seasons in the league. He did make the Pro Bowl in 2016, which was his best season (seven sacks, two forced fumbles, 68 tackles). The New York Jets decided to go in a different direction with Williams once Joe Douglas took over as general manager, trading him to the New York Giants for a 2020 third-round pick and a 2021 fifth-round pick (fourth if Williams signs with Giants). Williams was more efficient with the Giants, having 17 pressures, a 0.5 sack and 10 quarterback knockdowns in eight games. The Giants brought Williams in to store up the run defense with mixed results. They were fourth in yards per carry allowed (3.4), but were 20th in rush yards allowed (113.2) and still allowed 28.2 points (third-most in the NFL).
Seymour said his work with Williams involves specific defensive line drills. If Williams is able to get in the right scheme, that will be a strong step in the right direction to get his career turned around.
"I've been working with him, assessing what I think his strengths and weaknesses are, and what does he need to do to take that next step to be the perennial All-Pro player that he has the ability to be," Seymour said. "He's 25 years old. He's young. Athletic. Can run like a deer.
"My heart has always been whatever I can do to lend a hand to the young group of talent in the league, I'm willing to do that."