Quinnen Williams never takes rise to top NFL draft prospect for granted

Quinnen Williams never takes rise to top NFL draft prospect for granted

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.”

Raiders GM Mike Mayock reveals why he sent scouts home before NFL draft

Raiders GM Mike Mayock reveals why he sent scouts home before NFL draft

ALAMEDA – Raiders general manager Mike Mayock told his scouts to head home and stay there heading into Easter weekend. He made the decision to do so three weeks ago.

Mayock said it was his alone, an act that was well thought. All of the team’s pre-draft information had been gathered, and it was time for head coach/final say Jon Gruden and Mayock to make decisions those scouts would not be involved in. He was free to cut them loose and did so Friday.

Mayock didn’t expect the news to become such a huge deal, especially considering he had reasons for doing so.

“I’m kind of blown away by the whole story, to be honest with you,” Mayock said Thursday following the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

He decided to close ranks and prevent leaks from coming out of a building that had been porous over the last calendar year, before and after he was hired as Raiders general manager.

“I made the decision to do it three weeks ago, and I didn’t tell anybody,” Mayock said. “It was my decision. And, when the job got done and the work was over…I inherited a group of scouts, and some of them maybe with us and some of them may not be with us by their own choice or not. At the end of the day, when the job was over, I brought them together as a group and respectfully and professionally told them that the job was done, thank you very much and that we would be talking.

“And 40 minutes later we had a leak, which just reinforced the decision.”

Great turnover is expected in the personnel department after the NFL draft, an expected move considering Mayock has been working with scouts and evaluators hired by previous GM Reggie McKenzie.

[RELATED: Grading Raiders' three first-round picks in NFL draft]

The building was thinned considerably for Thursday’s first round, but Mayock said the team’s draft operation ran smooth with good communication between coaches and evaluators that remained in the building.

“I’m proud of the way we hung in there, and the work we did today,” Mayock said. “The cooperation between me and my staff and Jon and his staff was just outstanding.”

NFL draft rumors: Raiders were going to take Montez Sweat at No. 27

NFL draft rumors: Raiders were going to take Montez Sweat at No. 27

With the Indianapolis Colts on the clock at No. 26, the guy the Raiders wanted at No. 27 was still on the board.

Then Jay Gruden swooped in and stole Montez Sweat from his brother.

Washington swung a trade with the Colts for the No. 26 pick and took the Mississippi State defensive end. The Raiders ended up taking Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport is reporting that the Raiders were targeting Sweat and were prepared to take him.

"My understanding is that the Raiders were in fact going to take Montez Sweat had they not been jumped. But there was a significant development today with his heart situation. Sources say he was misdiagnosed with hypertropiccardio myopythy at the combine. In other words, as one expert told me today, the thickness of the wall of his heart was inaccurately measured. They believed he was a high risk. They found out this week it was not as much of a risk as they thought. He was already off some boards. Clearly, [Washington] believe he was fine, and they got a very talented pass rusher."

[RELATED: Raiders pick Josh Jacobs at No. 24]

We're sure Jon will let Jay hear about this the next time they get together for dinner.