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Quinnen Williams film analysis: The best defensive lineman in the draft

If the Bills intend to trade up, Q should be their target.

We’ve spent a few weeks breaking down the potential picks for the Buffalo Bills at ninth overall, but what if the Bills are interested in reaching higher for their first-round pick? One player in this draft class seemingly fits the measurement thresholds, production, and traits that are exactly what this defensive unit is missing. How does he hold up under the microscope? Today in the film room, let’s look at Quinnen Williams—the defensive tackle from Alabama.

Williams is, overall, a great athlete for a defensive tackle, as his 4.83 40-yard dash indicated. He’s not in the same league as Ed Oliver and Aaron Donald, who are the definition of “freak” athletes, but his athletic gifts stand out nonetheless. This is a player who has extra opportunities for impact plays because of his speed and strength.

What immediately stood out to me when watching Williams is that he always knows where the ball is. Misdirection doesn’t fool him, and neither does a moving pocket. But he’s not just aware of where the play is going; he is also acutely aware of what the best angle of attack will be. I frequently saw Williams set up a two-way read for the running back, hold back the offensive lineman, and make the tackle where the running back headed.

He was able to do this because he’s so dang strong. Maybe not in the sense of a bulldozer who drags linemen out of the way, but more as an immovable boulder. Both his upper body and his core were strong enough to control a single lineman and hold his ground against a double team. I didn’t see many plays where he outright collapsed the pocket with a bull rush, but I think that’s due to the number of double teams he faced. Regardless, this is a player who will control the line of scrimmage in the NFL.

When Williams hits a player with a punch, he’s knocking them onto their heels. He also has a solid array of pass-rushing moves to work with. I saw a nice hump move, a rip, and a spin used as a secondary effort. However, by far his favorite move was the swim (arm-over). He outright steals the souls of linemen with that move. He runs it extremely cleanly, and it’s a great match for his speed and power. It’s his top technique for splitting double teams.

Williams plays with excellent pad level. He’s usually the low man on each play. That attention to detail (along with his great pass-rushing moves) speaks volumes about his work ethic and the quality of coaching he received. Also highlighting that are his performances as the season went on as he faced tougher competition. In the second half of the season, Williams had 11 of his 19.5 TFLs and 6.5 of his 8 sacks. When playing top-25 teams, Williams had 7 TFLs and 3.5 sacks (in five games).

Williams may have emerged from obscurity at Alabama’s defender factory (as obscure as a four-star recruit could be), but by the end of his redshirt sophomore season there was no doubt that he was the best player on the defense. He may not be an elite athlete, but he’s still a very good one—and the level of technical polish (and advanced mental game) he displayed is extraordinary for such a young player.

Williams has traits that would allow him to excel as either a nose tackle or a three-technique disruptor tackle. In the Buffalo Bills’ rotation-heavy 4-3 scheme, he’d be uniquely valuable. It’s fair to consider that he might be the top player on Buffalo’s board, and that they might be willing to trade up for him in the right scenario. Not to mention, he’d fill the team’s missing Williams quotient in more ways than one.