Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Film room draft preview: University of Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams

Apr 22, 2019 at 7:58 AM

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Today we look at University of Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams.

49ers fans might riot if the 49ers select another defensive tackle in the first round. But hear me out: this wouldn't be a justifiable response to drafting Quinnen Williams, who, along with Nick Bosa, is considered to be a top three player in this year's draft. Williams isn't just another defensive tackle.

He's a generational talent at the position who offers an immediate upgrade to the interior of any defensive line he lands on. And yes, he's a much better talent coming out of college than DeForest Buckner was.

But fans shouldn't worry about what happens to Buckner's role if the 49ers were to hypothetically draft Williams. Buckner primarily plays the 3-and-5-technique defensive tackle spots and Williams primarily plays anywhere from the 0 nose tackle spot to the 2 technique along the interior.

Williams only played two years at Alabama but racked up 91 total tackles, 26 tackles for a loss, and 10 career sacks. Per Pro Football Focus, he received its highest grade this season with a 96.0, led all FBS defensive linemen with 55 total quarterback pressures, and posted a run defense grade of 96.5, also the highest in FBS.

Like Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams' 10-yard split time of 1.67 puts him in elite company and ahead of notable defensive linemen like JJ Watt, Cameron Jordan, Jabaal Sheard, and former 49ers edge rusher Aldon Smith.

At the combine, Williams posted a 4.83 40-yard dash (1.67 10-yard split) but was about average for his testing across the rest of the tests. He truly is a case of a player who doesn't wow anyone with his results but he certainly pops on film and it's easy to see why he's considered the best player in the draft by some analysts.

Where he wins


The first thing that immediately pops on Williams' film is his quickness and ability to get off the ball at the snap.

He utilizes a great first step getting off the ball that enables him to effectively beat blockers to any gap, get up field, and make plays. On multiple occasions, he displayed the quickness and balance to beat blockers at the snap. Here on this sack against Texas A&M, he utilized a lateral step to slant into the opposite gap, shifted his weight, showing great balance, and burst up field into the opposite gap. He was able to avoid the initial punch of the blocker in front of him, showing why he is so effective at disrupting the timing of the blocking in the run game or the timing of the quarterback's drop back in the passing game.

On other occasions, he displayed great up field burst with his first step, showing that he has the quickness and the ability to gain superior leverage into any gap he rushed. On this play against Ole Miss, Williams' initial burst up field prevents the blocker from gaining leverage on him, and the more remarkable aspect of this play is the blocker got off the ball at the snap a hair faster than Williams and still could not account for Williams' powerful burst.


Williams utilizes a variety of pass rush moves to win match-ups against offensive lineman.

Arm over

His best move by far is an "arm over" or swim move. Here against Ole Miss, Williams blows up the guard with an initial bull rush and once he lifts the guard into the backfield, he quickly executes an arm-over to get into the backfield and stuff the zone read for a tackle for a loss. His power and strength when he has a low pad level are equally as phenomenal.

Similar to an arm over move, Williams executes a "club-swim" move on the LSU center here after swatting away the punch of the left guard. In the next clip after it, Williams executes a double swim move to defeat the double team and record his second of three sacks he had in this game. Again, power and strength are on display from the start of the play to the whistle. He effortlessly keeps his feet moving and stays level while fighting through the double team.

In the third and final clip above, Williams is aligned in a "tilted" nose technique where he angles in toward the center/A-gap. This has two advantages: 1) it allows the defender to squeeze the gap in front of them and 2) prevents any blocker from getting square enough to block him. The LSU offensive line slides its protection to the left and Williams beats the right guard with an arm over to get into the backfield. He doesn't record a sack but he gets pressure on the quarterback and flushes him from the pocket.

Bull rush

Williams blends an old school bull rush with a phenomenal base of strength to wreck the timing and throw of opposing quarterbacks.

Williams gets a great lateral first step from the 0-technique nose tackle spot, which gives him the necessary leverage to squeeze the A-gap to his left. He gets his hips turned and square to the blocker and pushes his way into the back field, and gets his hand up into the throwing motion of the quarterback, forcing the quarterback to short arm a deep pass that goes out of bounds.

Another variation to the classic bull rush is the "fork" or "bull fork" technique where the defender's rush seeks to lift the blocker's pad level by controlling the elbow and hands of the blocker. Williams demonstrates this technique here to get into the back field by pushing the blocker off balance. The blocker's hips turn outward as Williams stays square to the line of scrimmage while rushing up field.

In my own opinion his best collegiate rep came against Missouri above where he recorded a sack and safety. The play highlights his best traits: strength/power, quickness, a solid pass rush move, a great first step, and a relentless motor.

Rip move

Another effective move in his arsenal is the rip move, which he uses to great effect because of the base of strength he possesses.

Here against Ole Miss, Williams starts out as the 3-technique tackle on the left and gets a good lateral first step. As he speeds around the arc into the A-gap, he lowers his shoulders, gets his hips square to the quarterback, and drives his inside arm up into the defender, preventing any attempt to grab hold of him. His strength carries him through the block into the back field to disrupt the timing of the throw.

The athleticism and speed on his rip move are equally as dangerous as his strength and power, as seen in the clips above.


In run defense, Williams was equally as difficult to move and frequently made plays in the backfield or by chasing down the runner.

One way he was able to make plays in the back field was by demonstrating sound gap integrity by anchoring down at the point of attack and resetting the line of scrimmage for his defensive line. On several plays he was able to squeeze the gap and quickly shed the blockers, giving his defense leverage to win the down.

The second way Williams wins on run defense is by playing an effective 2-gap technique and shedding the blocker when he has a chance to make the play. In a 2-gap technique, the defensive lineman looks to rush head-up on the blocker while his hands control the blocker's armpits, thumbs-up, elbows turned in. The defensive lineman looks for the ball, sheds the blocker and fills that gap to either side of his blocker.

Where he needs to improve

Like Bosa, there isn't much to dislike with Williams' skill and ability and he hardly has any flaws. The one main criticism, if there is any, is that he tends to play with a high pad level, which can negate the power and speed of his pass rush.

A high pad level can quickly diminish a pass rusher's speed or a run defender's leverage when tracking the ball carrier. Although it didn't consistently happen, Williams did get caught with a high pad level, leading to him being quickly stopped in his tracks. However, I do think Williams will be a three-down defender for any team that takes him and I think fatigue was a factor in his pad level as it tended to be a hindrance late in a down series or against teams running a hurry-up, no-hudddle offense. In the NFL, that won't be an issue.

Fit for the 49ers?

Williams is undoubtedly a fit for the 49ers and is versatile enough to play anywhere along the interior defensive line from the 4-technique to the 0-technique. The most important thing 49ers fans seemed concerned with is how the presence of Williams affects the role of star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. In reality, the person most affected would likely be Solomon Thomas since his natural fit seems to be more in the interior than the edge and taking Williams would be passively conceding that that Thomas was a mistake.

In this play, Alabama is running a wide-9 front against LSU. One way the 49ers would likely employ Williams in it is by twisting the tackles. In this play, Williams goes second behind defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs, defeats the blocks of the running back and guard, and shows great short area quickness to bring the quarterback down as he tries to scramble.

The wide-9 defense can be employed against the run and pass and presumably the 49ers will spend a great deal of time in it as they try to do both. Williams would be a great fit in this front. Defensive line coach Kris Kocurek regularly employs two 9-tech defensive ends on passing downs and then shifts his interior defenders from two 3-tech spots or 1-tech and a 5-tech or 3-tech and 2-tech, etc., all of which would limit neither Williams nor Buckner.


Williams is an elite prospect in this draft and is a generational talent at the defensive tackle position. He translates his power and strength into a formidable combination when disrupting the timing of the offense, is a player who can quickly win with speed or an effective pass rush move, and can anchor down against the run by being tough to move or by demonstrating sound gap integrity.

The 49ers should not hesitate to draft Williams with the number two pick if Bosa is off the board to the Cardinals. Ideally, the play would be to add a second pass rusher at number two but Williams is just too good to pass on for pass rushers like Josh Allen or Brian Burns. Those players are fine in a trade back. But if they stay at two and Bosa is gone, there shouldn't be any hesitation to run the card up to the podium with Williams' name on it.

All statistics courtesy of Sports Reference CFB unless otherwise stated.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

1 Comment

  • mbniner
    Picking Williams should be on the table whether Bosa is there or not. Bosa has a tremendous amount of hype but I don't see him as the next coming of Reggie White. The old Niners did very well with Stubblefield and Bryant dominating the middle. We have Ford at one DE and we could draft another in the 2nd round for development. I'm not convinced that our next biggest need is WR. A second ER or an OT is more of a need. By the way, Thomas is a square peg in a round hole for the Niners. He would probably do very well in a different scheme.
    Apr 24, 2019 at 9:00 PM

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