Make No Mistake: Quinnen Williams Is the Best Player in the 2019 NFL Draft

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystApril 25, 2019

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 01:  Quinnen Williams #92 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts after sacking Jake Fromm #11 of the Georgia Bulldogs (not pictured) in the first half during the 2018 SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 1, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Quinnen Williams' domination at Alabama in 2018 became the equivalent of Thanos wielding the Infinity Gauntlet in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

As the demi-god stated in Avengers: Infinity War: "You're strong. But I could snap my fingers, and you'd all cease to exist."  

No obstacle proved to be a problem for Williams last season. His performance rivaled the annihilation Ndamukong Suh once bestowed upon the amateur ranks. 

Williams isn't just the best defensive tackle in the 2019 NFL draft class; he's the best overall prospect.

"I'm the best player in the whole draft class, because of the things I can do on the field and off the field," he told Yahoo Sports' Matt Harmon

The title doesn't come without competition. Ohio State's Nick Bosa largely ran the table as the top-rated prospect on most draft boards from the beginning of the 2018 season until now. Meanwhile, the Arizona Cardinals are widely expected to take Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick.

Williams provides something different.

The evolution of the NFL allows organizations to place emphasis on nontraditional positions. Generally speaking, four positions—quarterback, left tackle, pass-rusher and cornerback—hold premium value. 

The definition of a pass-rusher continues to change, though.

Last season, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones finished top three overall in sacks. Donald is a 3-technique, Watt plays all over the line of scrimmage and Jones excels as an interior pass-rusher. 

Franchises still want great edge-rushers, but interior pressure is more valuable than ever. It's difficult to find elite interior pass-rushers. A 300-pound prospect who dominates against the run and consistently rushes the passer is rarer than a franchise quarterback. 

Only so many prospects have the size, strength, quickness, agility and athleticism to hold their ground against multiple 300-plus-pounders trying to drive them off the line of scrimmage and blow by those same blockers when they set back to protect their quarterbacks. 

In this year's class, 13 edge-defenders are projected as Day 1 or Day 2 prospects in Matt Miller's latest mock draft. Three defensive tackles weigh at least 300 pounds and fit the aforementioned profile. One of them, Mississippi State's Jeffery Simmons, is currently recovering from a torn ACL. Meanwhile, five quarterbacks could be off the board in the first 40 selections. 

Rarity isn't the only reason why interior rushers are more valuable than ever.

An offense can game-plan against edge-rushers. Play-callers can move the pocket, chip with backs and tight ends or continually shift the blocking scheme in their direction. But a disruptive defensive tackle is nearly impossible to avoid. Quarterbacks become rattled when they don't have a pocket to step into as interior defenders create some push.

It's more than that, though. Bull-rushers who squeeze the pocket disrupt a passer's footwork.

"The big jumbos, the walruses, you know the big old hogs in the middle?" Chuck Smith, a nine-year NFL veteran and current pass-rushing guru who has trained with Donald, Geno Atkins and Von Miller, told ESPN.com's Hallie Grossman. "They've all been taught to push, to just bull-rush. But if you bull-rush, that takes too much time to get to the quarterback."

Collapsing the pocket is only the first step. Actual pressure on the quarterback is next level. 

In that regard, Williams is viewed as a game-changer. 

"Quinnen Williams is the new-school next generation of pass-rush D-linemen," Smith told Grossman. "He's big enough to do everything that every tackle has done in history. But the difference is, he's highly skilled.

"He is the new breed of hybrid that can do it all."

Williams, who won the 2018 Outland Trophy for being college football's best interior lineman, grew into a new position before he became an unblockable force. He's essentially a defensive end in a nose tackle's body. 

Williams signed with the Alabama Crimson Tide as a 265-pound defensive lineman and added roughly 40 pounds between his first and third seasons on campus, according to Bama Online's Charlie Potter.

"It feels great," Williams said in August of his body's transformation, per Potter. "… Not just gaining weight and fat but really in muscle so you can still be a dominant player out there."

The 21-year-old didn't just need to add mass; he also had to wait his turn behind other talented Crimson Tide defensive linemen. After the Washington Redskins selected Daron Payne with the No. 13 overall pick last spring, Williams blossomed at nose tackle because of a unique skill set. 

The added bulk allowed him to easily hold the point of attack, but his first-step quickness and movement skills didn't disappear. 

Williams has the power to overwhelm single blockers, as seen below, via 49ers Webzone's Rich Madrid: 

His quickness almost always places him at heels' depth even when he takes a false step, as he did in the following example, via SEC Network's Cole Cubelic: 

Power and speed are awesome traits, especially when a prospect has both. But the one constant found in Williams' game is excellent technique. He continually works his hands and rarely allows an offensive lineman into his body. 

Watch the following examples of Williams swatting away opposing hands, causing linemen to reach and lose balance, via Music City Miracles' Johnny Kinsley: 

Williams personifies the term unblockable. As a result, he registered 19.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 2018.

Pro Football Focus graded Williams as college football's best overall interior defender and interior pass-rusher. His 55 quarterback pressures led all defensive tackles, which adds validity to his claim that he's the "best pass-rusher in the draft," per SNY's Ralph Vacchiano

"The season he had may have been as good of a college football season that I've ever seen," San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch told reporters Tuesday. "He was just dominant."

Off the field, Nick Saban's tutelage helped turn the former 4-star recruit into a team leader and a true student of the game. An NFL executive heaped praise on Williams, according to NFL Network's Peter Schrager: 

The interview process added to an already impressive weekend in Indianapolis, where the unanimous All-American ran a 4.83-second 40-yard dash. 

Despite all of his recent success, Williams is far from a finished product.

"Oh, man, I gotta improve on a lot of things ... I'm definitely not perfect. I'm a one-year starter," he told Harmon. "... Once I'm in the NFL, man, I do want to get around great veterans, guys who did it at an elite level for a long time, and just learn from them, learn how to be a pro."

While Williams took over college football, Bosa left the Ohio State program early after he suffered a core muscle injury. That missed time doesn't make him any less enticing, but teams must take potential injury concerns under consideration. 

Even if he doesn't go No. 1 overall Thursday night, Williams will be the draft's best talent. 

            

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @brentsobleski.

Related

    Report: Zeke May Hold Out for New Deal

    NFL logo
    NFL

    Report: Zeke May Hold Out for New Deal

    Timothy Rapp
    via Bleacher Report

    Martavis Bryant Applies for Reinstatement

    NFL logo
    NFL

    Martavis Bryant Applies for Reinstatement

    Scott Polacek
    via Bleacher Report

    Players Not in Uniform Banned from Leaving Sideline to Celebrate

    NFL logo
    NFL

    Players Not in Uniform Banned from Leaving Sideline to Celebrate

    Charean Williams
    via ProFootballTalk

    Report: Clowney Won't Get Long-Term Deal

    NFL logo
    NFL

    Report: Clowney Won't Get Long-Term Deal

    Timothy Rapp
    via Bleacher Report