Editor's note: Alabama will play Clemson on Monday night for the national championship.
If Jonathan Allen calls a college defensive lineman dominant, it’s wise to listen.
Plenty of NFL Draft prospects will take the field for the College Football Playoff semifinals Saturday. They won’t all play for No. 1 Alabama against Oklahoma in the second of two semifinal matchups after Clemson faces Notre Dame in Cotton Bowl.
From Allen’s perspective, there’s no doubt his Alma mater enters with a huge advantage in one area thanks to a specific standout, Quinnen Williams.
“I’ve been telling people for two years to watch out for him,” Allen said to NBC Sports Washington about the 6-foot-4, 289-pound lineman. “He’s just dominant. Technique-wise, he’s the top one out there. Athleticism. Just a baller.”
The NFL Draft community concurs. Williams is a projected top 3-5 selection should the redshirt sophomore declare for the April draft. Another Alabama defender, safety Deionte Thompson, should hear his name called in the first round.
Others playing Saturday with first-round hope include Oklahoma wide receiver Marquise Brown, Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell and Notre Dame linebacker Te’von Coney.
Allen, Washington’s 2017 first-round selection, chopped up opponents during his stint at Alabama, earning Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year honors in 2016. The run-stuffing Daron Payne took over as the Tide’s top lineman the following season and then reunited with Allen after Washington selected him 13th overall in the 2018 draft. Williams kept the forceful tradition alive.
He finished the regular season with eight sacks and 18 tackles for loss, two more than Allen generated in any individual season. Against rival LSU, Williams controlled the line of scrimmage with 2.5 sacks and 10 tackles.
It’s natural to compare Williams with his predecessors. Allen passed with an explanation.
“He’s his own thing. I can’t compare him to anything,” he said of Williams. “He’s a baller. I’m not even going to label him. Wouldn’t do him justice.”
Despite all that hype, there’s another lineman with the sir name Williams who likely pushes back on Quinnen Williams overwhelming Oklahoma. The Sooners’ offensive line, led by draft prospects Cody Ford and Ben Powers, is a formidable crew.
“I think the O-line is pretty much a sure hit,” Redskins’ seven-time Pro Bowl tackle and famous Oklahoma alum Trent Williams told NBC Sports Washington. “All five of those will be playing on Sundays.”
CBS Sports ranks the powerful Ford and Powers among the top 100 draft prospects in the 2019 class.
When asked for a specific Sooner fans should watch with the NFL Draft in mind, Trent Williams cited a much smaller human.
“Hollywood Brown!” Williams exclaimed.
The 5-foot-10, 168-pound junior won’t run over defenders. No need since he flies past would be tacklers. Brown had 75 receptions for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns during the regular season. CBS ranks Brown the No. 31 overall prospect.
Ferrell, who had 10.5 sacks in 13 regular season games for Clemson, is one of three Tiger defensive lineman ranked among the top 15 overall prospects by CBS. Only two will play Saturday. Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence is one of three Clemson players suspended for the Cotton Bowl after testing positive for a banned substance. Lawrence's absence puts more focus on the Tigers’ other impressive tackle, Christian Wilkins.
Notre Dame’s defense doesn’t lack for talent. All three levels include Day 1 or 2 two prospects, including the 231-pound Coney, who can play inside and outside. He ended the regular season with 107 tackles.
Cornerback Julian Love is another Day 2 hopeful while tackle Jerry Tillery may join Quinnen Williams in the first round.
Defensive line doesn’t rank high on the Redskins’ lengthy list of needs for next season. It’s highly doubtful the latest Alabama dynamo falls to Washington’s likely landing spot in the late teen’s, though that was the conventional thinking before Allen slipped to 17. The Redskins pounced then. Good bet they would again especially if the front office asks Allen for an opinion.