Former UW defensive lineman and PAC-12 first-teamer Elijah Qualls was drafted No. 214 overall by the Eagles.
College Experience: RS Junior
Height / Weight: 6-1 / 313 lbs.
Career Tackles/Sacks/TFL: 77 / 7.5 / 11.5
NFL Comparison: Dontari Poe, Ryan Carrethers, Danny Shelton, Corey Liuget
One of the most coveted assets that an NFL team can acquire is a defensive lineman with the physical skills to stay on the field for three downs. Elijah Qualls has demonstrated that capability during his three years at Washington.
Taking advantage of his tremendous size and the athleticism that comes from being a former high school running back, defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski was able to build a defensive unit around Qualls that maximized UW’s ability to control the line of scrimmage without having to commit extra defenders to the box. Because Qualls could flex between the three line positions, Kwiatkowski was able to disguise his sets and minimize the amount of blitzing that was required to generate pressure on the QB.
Qualls will move on to the NFL as a true interior lineman. He has the body type and athleticism to switch between a true 3-4 style nose guard and a three-tech position in the pros. That kind of flexibility will give him a leg up as he competes for rotational role with the Eagles.
Qualls’ success will depend a great deal on his physical fitness. While he is known for his overall physical fitness, Qualls has increased his playing weight to around 320 lbs. That might be a little bit too heavy if Qualls wants to impress with his ability to deliver an initial punch (thanks to natural strength and a low center of gravity) and then to use his quickness to get inside the stunned lineman.
The other question that Qualls will have to answer is related to his durability. He missed three games a year ago and was critiqued at times for “running out of gas” while he was on the field. In college, those issue can somewhat be mitigated by sheer numbers. In the NFL, there are fewer roster spots to allocate. Having players in place that have the endurance and stamina to stay on the field is an obvious priority.
All that said, NFL scouts have been generally bullish on Qualls since the NFL combine. He lost about 10 lbs. before the workout and impressed with 33 reps on the bench press — tops among all defensive tackles. In addition to the measurables, Qualls brings character and citizenship to his new team. Much has been written about his backstory. While at UW, Qualls was often singled out for his leadership and his accomplishments off the field.
Check out Qualls’ game film versus Oregon because ... well ... 70-21!