2019 NFL Draft: Quinnen Williams confident, stress-free before combine

2019 NFL Draft: Quinnen Williams confident, stress-free before combine

Editor’s note: NBC Sports Bay Area will dive deep into top defensive NFL draft prospects the 49ers could select at No. 2 overall or the Raiders might take at No. 4. This is the first in a series of stories about former Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams leading up to the draft.

NEWBURY PARK -- Quinnen Williams has a Twitter app on his iPhone and isn’t afraid to use it. Same goes for Instagram these days.

The hulking Alabama defensive lineman doesn’t post much on social media, but he does scan his mentions enough to hear the buzz surrounding his path to the NFL draft.

It’s tough to criticize someone so likeable off the field and so dominant in the trenches. It’s hard to find fault in a prized talent and consensus top-five pick, but Williams detractors exist in dark corners of social media.

Alabama coach Nick Saban calls the chatter “rat poison” that’ll hurt you if you let it. Williams considers it a guilty pleasure. The 21-year-old Birmingham native hears the good and bad, but nothing sticks.

Spend time around Williams, and you’ll see why: This kid’s confidence is unwavering. So is his drive to improve, no matter what you say.

“I see it. I listen to it, because I get tagged so much on social media,” Williams said this week in an exclusive sit-down with NBC Sports Bay Area at Kobe Bryant’s athletic training academy. “I enjoy it sometimes, but I know it doesn’t mean anything. It’s like watching a movie. You know most things in a movie aren’t real, but you enjoy watching it anyway.

"That’s how I look at the mock drafts and all the media talk. Nothing that’s said is going to stop me from working hard.”

People are telling Williams how good he is these days, how high he’ll be drafted -- most believe he won’t make it to the Raiders at No. 4 -- and how great he’ll be at the next level, yet his ego remains firmly in check.

“I know I’m a huge draft prospect and this and that, but if I let that go to my head and not train and not focus, other guys working harder are going to pass me by,” Williams said. “…You can’t let winning or status give you a big head. That’s how you get beat.”

Williams knows full well how he got here, by working hard the Alabama way. He isn’t about to let up now, just because he’s enjoying life in the L.A. area training for next week’s NFL Scouting Combine.

Sure, he’s been to Malibu and dipped a toe in the Pacific. He has made an NFL Network appearance and met some famous folks out West. But he hasn’t sacrificed a minute’s work for something fun.

Williams is out here grinding in paradise, and believes he’s better for the experience. He has been working with skill players lately, trying to match their combine stats and times. If he can keep up with them athletically, Williams should be heads above his position group.

He played last year’s breakout season at 295 pounds -- he gained weight fast after switching from defensive end to tackle -- and was considered slippery over scary. He’s trying to become an agile yet imposing force on the defensive line.

“Right now, I feel like I’m a way better player now than I was coming into this process,” Williams said. “I lost a lot of body fat. I’m toned up, stronger and quicker because I’m leaner. I’m focused on body mass, and getting that Aaron Donald body.”

He was famously called a 300-pound bar of soap last year. That might not fit anymore.

“I’m a 302-pound ball of muscle now.”

A more technically proficient one at that. Williams isn’t just studying to pass combine tests. He's shoring up soft spots he identified through self scouting.

“I already know what my weaknesses are,” Wiliams said. “I don’t need other people to tell me that. I know the NFL scouts and coaches can see them and point them out, and I’m doing all I can to make those weaknesses strong. I don’t get into the negativity out there. That’s not me.”

Williams and other top NFL draft prospects are looking to show progress at next week’s combine, a weeklong job interview with individual athletic tests, medical examinations and one NFL team meeting after another.

[RELATED: Quinnen Williams reveals what he'll buy with first NFL paycheck]

It’s a grueling stretch for draft prospects, but Williams isn’t worried about any part of it. He’s living stress free and easy these days, soaking up every moment of this pre-draft process with complete faith that the hard work put in will help him realize a dream come draft day.

“I love it. I love all of this,” Williams said. “I’m really confident in what I do. I love football. It’s my life, and has been since I was 4 years old. It’s all I know. Working with Coach Saban and … all these D-line gurus, it made me fall more in love with the game.

"Now I’m getting a chance to go to the NFL, a place I’ve been dreaming about since I was 5, 6 years old. I get to meet people I’ve looked up to and eventually play against them. I honestly can’t wait.”

NFL free agency: Raiders target George Iloka agrees to Cowboys contract


NFL free agency: Raiders target George Iloka agrees to Cowboys contract

The Raiders added one former Bengals defender earlier this week. They were not able to add another.

Safety George Iloka, who reportedly visited the Raiders earlier in the week, has agreed to a one-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys.

The team announced the deal on Saturday.

The Raiders reunited linebacker Vontaze Burfict with defensive coordinator Paul Guenther on Tuesday, and tried to do the same with Iloka, who spent the first six seasons of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals. The 28-year-old spent the 2018 season with the Minnesota Vikings.

Missing out on Iloka isn't the worst thing in the world for the Raiders. They addressed the safety position over the last week with the additions of Lamarcus Joyner and Curtis Riley.

NFL free agency: Raiders sign QB Mike Glennon to back up Derek Carr


NFL free agency: Raiders sign QB Mike Glennon to back up Derek Carr

The Raiders wanted an experienced backup quarterback behind Derek Carr, and got one Friday by signing Mike Glennon.

Now they hope he never plays. It’s still a vital role in meeting rooms and on-the-field, should an emergency arise on game day. Young bucks can get caught in the headlights. Veterans won’t be as good as the starter, but can generally function better being inserted into a game without many practice reps.

He has hopped into action during five seasons and has 22 starts, meaning he can handle short-relief or a stretch as the starter.

That calms some fan's nerves after the Raiders released AJ McCarron, who has already signed with the Houston Texans, leaving Nathan Peterman as the only non-Carr quarterback on the roster.

Glennon steps into the No. 2 slot having completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 5,107 yards and 35 touchdowns with 20 interceptions over five seasons.

Peterman is still with the Raiders on a futures contract, and is the No. 3 guy at the moment.

Many will look at the signing and wonder if it impacts the possibility of drafting a quarterback next month. It’s hard to rule anything out, but the disciplined choice would be to address the pass rush early and often in the 2019 NFL Draft, though a quarterback could get taken later in the selection process.

But…having Glennon on the roster won’t prohibit the Raiders from taking Kyler Murray or Dwayne Haskins. Would the Raiders eliminate the prospect of taking Quinnen Williams because interior pass rushers P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst were drafted last year? Absolutely not.

A edge rusher is the team’s most pressing need and must be addressed with quality and quantity before the season starts.

The Raiders don’t have to take a quarterback now in the draft, and adding Glennon takes the pressure off the demand to get another one down the line. Glennon should be viewed as a reliable backup who can step into service if Carr isn’t available.