Yahoo Sports' top 2019 NFL draft prospects, No 1: Alabama DT Quinnen Williams

Yahoo Sports

Leading up to the 2019 NFL draft, which starts April 25, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down 10 at a time, followed by profiles on our top 30 overall players.

Previous entries: Nos. 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30. Drew Lock | 29. Deandre Baker | 28. Taylor Rapp | 27. Garrett Bradbury | 26. Dexter Lawrence | 25. Jerry Tillery | 24. Josh Jacobs | 23. Christian Wilkins | 22. Cody Ford | 21. Noah Fant | 20. Andre Dillard | 19. Greedy Williams | 18. Dwayne Haskins | 17. Rashan Gary | 16. D.K. Metcalf | 15. Clelin Ferrell | 14. Jawaan Taylor | 13. Byron Murphy | 12. Jonah Williams | 11. Devin White | 10. Kyler Murray | 9. Devin Bush Jr. | 8. Montez Sweat | 7. T.J. Hockenson | 6. Ed Oliver | 5. Josh Allen | 4. Brian Burns | 3. Jeffery Simmons | 2. Nick Bosa

1. Alabama DT Quinnen Williams

6-foot-3, 303 pounds

Key stat: In his first year as a starter, Williams finished the 2018 season top 10 in the FBS and second in the SEC in tackles for loss.

The skinny: Williams was just outside of Rivals’ top 100 in 2016 as a four-star recruit coming out of Birmingham. He committed early to Auburn, which was his favorite team growing up, initially before reneging and flipping to the Crimson Tide just before his senior season after attending a camp there. Williams redshirted as a freshman.

In 2017, Williams joined Bama’s DL rotation — mostly as an end in their 3-4 front — and totaled 20 tackles (6.5 for loss) and two sacks in 14 games as a reserve for the national champions on a deep, talented defensive line. But in 2018, Williams broke out in a big way in his redshirt sophomore season, earning AP first-team All-America and first-team All-SEC notice and being named a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Award, the Bednarik Award and the Outland Trophy. He started 15 games at nose tackle and collected 71 tackles (19.5 for loss), eight sacks, one pass defended and a safety.

Williams, who turns 22 years old in December, declared early for the 2019 NFL draft. He only participated in the 40-yard dash and vertical and broad jumps at the NFL scouting combine and chose to stand on his numbers and not do positional workouts at his pro day.

Citadel quarterback Brandon Rainey is stopped by Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams. (AP Photo)
Citadel quarterback Brandon Rainey is stopped by Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams. (AP Photo)

Upside: Possesses a rare combination of quickness, base strength and playmaking ability. Raw upside to be an elite interior defender against both the run and pass. Only a one-year starter but dominated in almost every game for the national runners-up. SEC teams schemed to stop him on a thinner-than-normal Alabama defense and he still made his stamp in every contest. His 2018 production – 19.5 tackles for loss – doesn’t even begin to demonstrate how active and disruptive he was. It’s hard to find a game tape last season where Williams wasn’t double-teamed frequently. Turn on the tape of the CFB playoffs against Oklahoma and you see Williams, according to Bill Belichick, “basically ruining their scheme right now.”

Great feet and lateral-movement skills. Quick off the snap and outstanding burst. Extremely slippery defender — offensive linemen never can seem to get their hands on him. Lived in the backfield, and it wrecked opposing blocking schemes, affected play calling and required offensive linemen to point out his whereabouts before every snap. Played up and down the line in just about every technique and projects to the NFL as an extremely versatile defender. Can just about be used in any front and be effective. Bulked up from the 270-pound range in order to play nose tackle and didn’t lose any of his athletic gifts.

Has nice core strength and broad shoulders, plays with a low pad level and swats away blockers like flies to make plays in the backfield. Flashes a mean streak and will ragdoll blockers and backs to the ground. Showed up time and time in the biggest games — his LSU tape might be the single-best game performance last season by a 2019 NFL draft prospect, regardless of position. Instant-starter potential with multiple Pro Bowls in his future if he stays healthy. Easy projection to the pro game with his strong pass-rush arsenal and ability to anchor vs. the run. Even contributed occasionally to the offense in “jumbo package” near the goal line as a freshman in 2017 and actually outplayed 2018 fourth-rounder Da’Shawn Hand, who was a standout rookie for the Detroit Lions.

Hustle player — always revved up. Cares about football immensely. Bama staff praised Williams’ football intelligence and leadership skills — he routinely called players-only meetings with fellow defensive linemen to watch tape, teach and critique each other. Work ethic is top shelf. NFL teams have raved about Williams’ humility and his character. Strong-willed and driven. Good football genes — brother, Quincy Jr., was a first-team all-conference linebacker at Murray State last year. Has devoted himself to honoring his mother’s honor after she died from breast cancer when Williams was age 12. Just starting to scratch the surface of his immense upside.

Downside: Only average dimensions — height, mass and wingspan. Has a “fleshy body,” according to one area scout who has been through the program many times the past few years. Could use some body sculpting and strengthening. Whiffed on a few tackles in the hole. Short arms will keep him tied up on traps inside. Full athletic profile hard to pin down with incomplete combine testing.

Limited experience — one-year starter and one-year producer. Only one pass defended in two seasons — can do a better job of getting his hands up in passing lanes. Zero forced fumbles — hits like a truck but doesn’t always wrap and rip. Will flail around a bit at times and overrun plays. Can be cut-blocked at times and chopped down from the backside.

Best-suited destination: It’s a crying shame if someone passes on Williams for an edge rusher just to fill a need or allow positional value to dictate a selection. He’s a rare specimen with special disruptive ability and should be a top-three selection but could slip a pick or two later. We suspect that no one will trade up to get him – that territory is usually restricted for QB trades – which makes Williams likely to land with the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers short of some surprising, unexpected tumble.

They said it: “You had to gameplan around him. In our league, he can take over a game. What’s staggering to me is he did again and again, all season long.”

— Missouri head coach Barry Odom, to Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel

Player comp: Gerald McCoy

Expected draft range: Top-five pick

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