TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama holds an annual junior pro day in early March for players remaining in college who should be legitimate future NFL draft prospects.
Quinnen Williams wasn’t on last year’s participant list. There was no reason why he should after he spent 2017 as a reserve defensive end.
“I wasn’t even thought about in terms of the NFL,” Williams said Tuesday at Alabama’s Crisp Indoor Practice Facility. “No scouts knew me.”
They know Williams now.
He was the most consistently dominant player in college football on tape last year, one prominent NFL draft analyst said, following a successful position switch. He was an overwhelming nose guard, totaling eight sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in 2018.
Now he’s an elite NFL draft prospect expected to go in the top five overall.
The rarity of his rocket-ship rise isn’t lost on Williams, who understands and appreciates his standing after a breakout calendar year. In reality, however, it hasn’t even been that long since Williams flew stealth, well under the radar.
“It was like seven months back that I wasn’t even starting, wasn’t even thinking about the draft or what came next,” Williams said. “It just sinks in sometimes, being here and that I don’t even have to perform. It’s crazy to be where I’m at now.”
Williams didn’t join Crimson Tide teammates in position drills or standardized pre-draft testing. There was no point in that after an excellent combine performance where he wowed most everyone with blazing speed and shocking agility for someone who's over 300 pounds.
Williams also had a procedure on his finger right after the combine -- he damaged some ligaments in a game last November, but played through it -- and didn’t want to risk a rehab setback by a pro day where he had nothing to prove.
Williams’ tape is awesome. His testing was A1, and he comes off jovial and football savvy in private meetings. General manger John Lynch and VP of player personnel Adam Peters represented the 49ers, who own the No. 2 overall pick and were among teams meeting with Williams on Tuesday.
General manager Mike Mayock lead a Raiders contingent at Alabama’s pro day, though the Silver and Black previously have met with Williams.
Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther wasn’t in Tuscaloosa for the pro day, but there’s time to schedule an expected private workout with him before the draft. Williams is a realistic option should the Raiders stay put at No. 4.
Williams wasn’t viewed as a top draft pick prior to this year, but the talent always has been there. He worked extremely hard to turn potential into production and capitalize on the new opportunity to create havoc on the defensive interior.
[RELATED: Who are consensus picks for Raiders, 49ers?]
That’s something Williams never, ever takes for granted.
“That’s why I do everything full speed,” Williams said. “I know how hard I had to work to get to this spot, and now that I’m here I’m not just going to feel satisfied. There’s more work to do. I’m very passionate about that fact.”