INDIANAPOLIS – The closest Quinnen Williams gets to boasting is merely to say he is a “really good football player and I can play this game.”
The Alabama defensive tackle has the potential to be a star in the NFL, to be an interior wrecking ball in a league that pays attention to those who can, such as an Aaron Donald or Fletcher Cox.
But while players like Nick Bosa or Kyler Murray will acknowledge they feel they should be the No. 1 pick in April’s draft – a pick currently held by the Cardinals – Williams all but shrugs off the idea.
“I know going No. 1 doesn't mean nothing for real,” Williams said. “Like a guy (with) five stars in high school, it's the same thing. Going to Alabama, you could be a five-star on the sideline. So I know being a No. 1 draft pick, you could go to the NFL, and if you don't work, you going to be on the sideline. And I want to play.”
Like Bosa and Murray, Williams is a player the Cardinals could consider with that top pick. He is one of the few players linked with the Cards in mock drafts, and certainly, the team could use a disruptive force up front with veteran defensive tackle Corey Peters.
At 6-foot-3 and 303 pounds, Williams – who worked as a defensive end earlier in his career – isn’t the biggest player inside. But neither is Donald, and that hasn’t stopped the Rams superstar from causing havoc inside.
“What flavor are you looking for?” said NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah. “Quinnen Williams, to me, I think you can make the case inside pressure can affect the quarterback more than anything else. Having somebody in there that can be disruptive run and pass, there is a lot of value there. Pretty unique talent that way.”
Williams knows about being on the sideline. The majority of his production at Alabama came just this year, after sitting behind eventual NFL draft picks Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne. He had eight sacks and 19½ tackles for loss as a redshirt sophomore.
“I didn't really get impatient waiting my turn because I knew the guys in front of me were good,” Williams said. “I knew the best players were going to play. And playing at Alabama there's a lot of great players, but you also have to work your tail off.”
His overall inexperience will be taken into account – his babyface and braces underscoring that he doesn’t turn 22 until December – but his athleticism is hard to ignore. He ran the 40-yard dash in only 4.83 seconds, fast for a 300-plus pounder. He took only 1.67 seconds for the first 10 yards, a short burst necessary to make noise inside.
It wasn’t his athletic moves or his stats that Williams pointed to as his biggest strength, however, saying it was his football IQ that will set him apart. Multiple times he talked about finding an opponent’s tendencies on video, a habit that is sure to endure himself with NFL decision-makers.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden noted that for all the importance of edge rushers, it is the interior guys that are closest to the quarterback to start with, and that Gruden won Super Bowls with interior pass rushers like Reggie White and Warren Sapp.
Whether Williams can reach those heights is to be determined. Whether he is the top overall pick is also in question. Williams isn’t sweating such details at this point.
“I don't really have a selling point,” Williams said. “I don't really sell myself to NFL teams. I really just answer the questions they have to the best of my ability and let my actions speak for itself.”
Images of prospects going through drills at the NFL Scouting combine in Indianapolis