Why Elijah Qualls Should Be Atop NFL Teams Draft Boards

Dec 31, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) is tackled by Washington Huskies defensive lineman Elijah Qualls (11) after a run by Hurts during the third quarter in the 2016 CFP Semifinal at the Georgia Dome. Alabama defeated Washington 24-7. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

University of Washington Defensive Tackle Elijah Qualls is versatile, sharp, quick, and strong. Those qualities should place atop NFL team draft boards

University of Washington Huskies defensive tackle Elijah Qualls is not yet a household name. You see, he is not a quarterback, shutdown cornerback, wide receiver nor running back. He is not even a bookend offensive tackle, tasked with protecting a franchise quarterback’s blind side. Enough about what he is not.

Elijah Qualls is a 6-foot-1 defensive tackle, a 321 pound mound of muscle whose presence in the defensive line of the Washington Huskies defense can only aptly be described as “immovable object”.  When he does not wish to move, not even a double team of the most powerful offensive linemen of the NCAA can push him around.

But when he does want to move, he moves like a cat. Bull rush, spin moves,swim, speed rush, you name it he has it.  And he’s coming for the ball handler: whether running back or quarterback.

Versatile Prototypical Nose Tackle

Elijah Qualls is versatile. While he is a defensive tackle, he is that rare breed of defender who is best suited in a 3-4 nose tackle. As a matter of fact, elite nose tackles are a rare find in the NFL Draft.

On one hand, the Kansas City Chiefs selected Dontari Poe 11th in the 2011 NFL Draft. In fact, Dontari Poe was projected to succeed in pass rushing downs.  On the other hand, the Seattle Seahawks selected top rated nose tackle prospect Jarran Reed at 18th in the 2016 NFL Draft. He was projected as a two down lineman.

But the most likely comparison is to former teammate Danny Shelton, a 6-foot-2 335 pound defensive tackle for the Cleveland Browns.  Shelton was selected 12th in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Qualls is prototypical for three very important reasons.  He has a very low center of gravity. His balance is low to the ground, giving him the advantage at leveraging against offensive linemen. He is very strong.  His initial impact at the point of attack is generally enough to give him an advantage, even in double teams.

Finally, he can get skinny.  While the primary role of a nose tackle is to chew up blockers and get big, the opposite occurs in passing plays.  Qualls has a fast football IQ that processes the play.  When its a passing down, he slides between or around blockers with a surprising burst and can wreck the play.

Scouting Report

Russell Brown at FanSided’s NFLMocks.com has written a pragmatic piece about the big man out of Petaluma, CA. In fact, he makes four observations which exemplify his production on the football field.

  • “Good size for a nose tackle (6’1 – 320 lbs.)”
  • “When he gets off the ball on time, has a great punch.”
  • “Has the ability to do line stunts (twist, pinch, slant) really well.”
  • “Seems quick going laterally for a big bodied tackle.”

While Brown expresses his reservations about college junior Qualls at the next level, his evaluation from NFL.com is another reiteration of a quality nose tackle.

Scouts appreciated Qualls’ effort in the semifinal against Alabama, where he played almost exclusively as a stand-up edge rusher despite his 300-plus-pound frame.Former high school fullback with nimble feet and surprising athleticism for his size.

Has feet to overcome early reach block and work back into pursuit. Looks to pursue and run through the rib cage of a running back at impact. Two-gap reader with ability to eat space and brace up to double teams. Has ability to stuff wash-down blocks and cuts. Plays with good body control.

Even More Upside

A defensive tackle with a fullback background affords some creative offense on the right NFL team.

In conclusion, Elijah Qualls will be participating in the 2017 NFL Combine. And so, the key events in his resume will be the strength events – day three bench press. Those will likely occur March 4th for the young man.
So much of the future rides on the accomplishments of the next several days.   Keep in mind that the teams already know the players based on film.  The combine is simply the frosting on that cake.

But to be fair, since they are spending a top draft pick on a player, NFL teams want that frosting too.