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Why I took Leonard Williams in the NFL Nation mock draft

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NFL Nation mock draft: Jaguars select DE Leonard Williams

Jaguars reporter Mike DiRocco breaks down his first-round selection.

BRISTOL, Conn. -- With the third pick in the NFL Nation mock draft, I had the Jacksonville Jaguars taking USC defensive end Leonard Williams.

Here are some things I considered before I settled on Williams:

Jaguars GM David Caldwell is more likely to trade down this year than he was in his first two drafts with the Jaguars, but that likely depends on what happens with the first two picks. The best scenario for a trade would be for one of the quarterbacks -- likely Marcus Mariota -- to still be on the board when it’s the Jaguars’ turn at No. 3.

The Jaguars certainly need to find an edge rusher. Even though the Jaguars were sixth in the NFL with 45 sacks, a significant improvement over the previous two seasons, they don’t have an elite rusher around which opposing offenses must plan. There are several prospects who potentially fit that description: Dante Fowler Jr., Vic Beasley, Randy Gregory, Shane Ray and possibly even Alvin “Bud” Dupree. Of that group, Fowler and Beasley, and possibly Gregory, are viable options for the Jaguars.

After listening to Caldwell during the Jaguars’ pre-draft news conference last Friday, it was apparent to me that receiver Amari Cooper is an option at No. 3. It only works, though, if the Jaguars believe that he can be a true No. 1 receiver like Dez Bryant, Julio Jones or Calvin Johnson. That seems to be the way that most draft analysts view Cooper, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Jaguars grab the former Alabama standout.

However, Caldwell said his team needs playmakers and difference-makers, and outside of the quarterbacks there isn’t a better one than Williams. The 6-foot-5, 302-pound Williams can play inside and outside and he’s a better rusher than he’s being given credit for (21 sacks) despite that not being his primary responsibility.

The Jaguars don’t need another big end , which is Williams’ natural spot, because they re-signed Tyson Alualu and signed defensive end Jared Odrick in free agency. But he’s such a rare talent and he can have a significant impact at various spots along the line of scrimmage. It’s never a bad thing to have too many good players. The Jaguars will find ways to fit him into the rotation.