Need or best player available? An age-old NFL Draft question may be one the San Francisco 49ers are forced to answer if Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams is available at pick No. 2.
But what if a blue-chip talent was available that isn’t an EDGE?
Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams is potentially going to force the answer if the 49ers prefer talent or need with a high first-round pick this upcoming April.
Put simply, the absurdly talented Alabama defensive tackle is a better talent than the popular Josh Allen, the linebacker/EDGE hybrid out of Kentucky, who is often found as the No. 3 player on many a big board. You could even make a case that Williams is more talented than Ohio State EDGE Nick Bosa, the best pick for the 49ers in terms of need and talent, as well as the consensus No. 1 prospect in this draft class.
Standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing in at 295 pounds, Williams possesses a very rare blend of speed and strength. He drew constant double teams at the college level due to his ability to bully interior linemen with superior muscle, and then use his incredible acceleration to chase down the quarterback or ball carrier.
Despite the fact Alabama routinely blew out opposition (meaning he didn’t finish a lot of games) and his constant attention by blockers, Williams notched eight sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss this season.
A simply staggering number.
His ability is so great, that Clemson targeted him with the same double-team tactics other teams have tried in the past. This worked to great effect, although Williams did make a few nice plays, but it would be a foolish error to judge Williams on the back of that one game.
The 49ers play in a division rich in quarterback and running back talent, Williams has the ability to help disrupt their game-changing abilities.
This brings us to the big question, however, should the 49ers forego the incredible talent of Williams? Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner has one interior spot locked down, while fellow defensive lineman Solomon Thomas improved his play being moved into the middle. Thomas deserves a full season in his most comfortable role.
But there’s a lot to be said for Williams being the 49ers’ selection in April. Williams is arguably the top prospect in the draft, and the possibilities of putting him and Buckner in the middle together is enough to make any 49er salivate. You could also work in a lot of packages where Buckner moves outside and Thomas partners with Williams in the middle, or use Buckner and Williams in the middle together on passing downs to put less attention on incumbent EDGE Cassius Marsh.
A lot could depend on if the 49ers find at least one exciting signing at EDGE during free agency. And while it doesn’t solve an immediate defensive shortcoming, the 49ers have to at least consider the idea of adding talent over need.
I’ve written articles on Williams going to the 49ers, and I fully would support this pick. I like Allen and I love Bosa. But if Bosa is selected at No. 1, I feel that talent like this supersedes need.
Williams may be gone at No. 1 to the Arizona Cardinals, too. But if the choice comes to between him and Allen, I believe that the choice is not as simple as some 49er fans believe.
Best player available or need? It may be possible that Williams may make the 49ers opt for the former.