2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Southern KR Willie Quinn

From now until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

Willie Quinn/WR Southern – 5’5/1 148

The Good

– Elite short-area quickness, changes directions without any loss of speed, and makes defenders look downright silly with his COD ability
– Appears to have excellent long speed, 4.3 type, and routinely got behind even Division One defenses
– Quick to the tuck, big threat with the ball in his hands, and top ability to make people miss in the open field
– Able to separate in route tree and quickness stresses CBs, who have a tough time staying in-phase and staying on their feet with his ability to break down, use double-moves, and overall agility
– Dynamic kick and punt returner whose athleticism shines and size is mitigated
– Does a nice job of getting under and square to punts and didn’t see evidence of him bobbling the football, all catches are clean
– Shows body control along the sidelines and able to track the football over his shoulder
– Makes tougher catches than you expect, good feel for open zones and able to settle, make catches over and across the middle in traffic
– Football IQ and performs well in scramble drills, gets himself open and doesn’t quit on the play
– Experience playing in the slot and as the X receiver
– Versatile player who was a star receiver, kick and punt returner, and even threw passes, gadget usage
– Regarded as a high-character, driven athlete, who showed durability in his career despite small frame

The Bad

– Incredibly undersized, hands almost certainly small, and will cap his role in the league
– Dances too much as a receiver and a returner and won’t have the type of time and space in the NFL
– Struggles to finish catches downfield when contested, easy to play the pocket and knock the ball out of his hands
– Obvious competition concerns, played at a small school
– Trouble catching the ball outside his frame when asked to adjust to poorly thrown passes

Bio

– Four year starter
– Career: 231 catches, 3192 yards 26 TDs, 27.4 kick return average 6 TDs, 16.5 punt return average, 4 TDs
– 2016: 63/960/11 as a receiver, 26.4/24.5 averages as kick/punt returner (only eight punt returns)
– Two-time First-Team All SWAC as a receiver (2014 and 2016), and returner (2015, 2016), second-team returner in 2014
– Thrown three career touchdown passes
– Says he averaged 41 yards per catch as a junior in high school
– Suffered second-degree burns in home gas line explosion when he was 12 years old, underwent weeks of physical therapy and doctors told him he’d likely never play sports again

Tape Breakdown

Yes, Willie Quinn is the smallest guy we’ll profile on the site. And arguably the smallest guy in the entire draft class. But he also is one of the most interesting and definitely the most fun to watch.

At 5’5 150, it’s easy to move on to the next guy. But the NFL has proven it doesn’t care how big you are but how good you are. There’s a whole list of players with similar stature who have gotten a shot in the league.

JJ Nelson: 5’10 156
Jakeem Grant: 5’6 165
Trindon Holliday: 5’5 166
JJ Moses: 5’6 175
Brandon Banks: 5’7 149
Gerald “Ice Cube” McNeil: 5’7 145

Banks is who Quinn compares most favorably too. Like him, if Quinn is nothing more as a returner, the investment is still worth it because the risk is so low.

You might remember Quinn’s name from a 15 minutes of fame on Scott Van Pelt’s Sportscenter segment, highlighting his phenomenal game against Mississippi Valley State in 2015. It was a game where he had a punt return, kick return, and passing touchdown. Check out the clip by clicking this link.

Of course, that was against another small school half of you have never even heard of. What was most important was what he did against Division One competition and frankly, he excelled there too.

Southern played two D1 schools in 2016: Tulane and Louisiana-Monroe. Not powerhouses but a better gauge of Quinn’s talents (and Tulane had a decent defense). And Quinn played really well against both teams. Here’s his stats against both.

ULM: 9 catches, 69 yards, 1 TD
Tulane: 7 catches, 129 yards, 1 TD

In the 2015 opener against Louisiana Tech, he had a 100 yard kick return. And it was one heck of a play. Going to apologize if the quality and/or frame rate isn’t the best in any of these GIFs. The footage I looked at wasn’t exactly in 4K.

And then there’s this one against ULM, where he averaged 35.3 yards on four kick returns.

Quinn has serious wheels and I can’t wait to see what he runs at his Pro Day. Should be in the 4.3’s and I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if someone times him in the high 4.2’s. That’s going to be a critical number because obviously, when you’re fighting that uphill battle because of your size, you better be bringing something special to the table.

In college, he wasn’t just a returner. He was an accomplished receiver all four years with the Jaguars. Watch this double-move at the top of your screen, using his speed and agility to make the corner look stupid. Would’ve been a TD if the ball hit him in stride.

He wasn’t just a gadget or vertical threat either. He ran the entire route tree and showed off good hands and the ability to make tough catches, including this skinny post over the middle.

Against those two D1 teams – I watched more Southern football than I ever thought I would – he was the offense. Their most productive player and pretty much their only weapon (and they have a pretty good running back too, Lenard Tillery).That’s passing a big litmus test, someone who has punched up his level of competition and came out looking strong.

The concerns with Quinn are obvious and I really didn’t feel the need to show you them because you can probably already imagine what they are. His lack of size makes any pass thrown off-line an adventure that at worst, is going to hurt his YAC ability. He struggles to contest catches downfield, the jump balls, and there is the risk of ball security issues. He should’ve had a second touchdown against Tulane but the ball somehow got stripped out right before crossing the goal line and out of the end zone, resulting in a touchback.

He’s not going to get drafted. Holliday and Grant got selected in the late rounds but they played at big schools, lessening the projection. Quinn’s height and school is enough to take him out of the top 256. But like Banks, he should be sought after as a UDFA with the returner aspect as the focus. He’s clearly driven, overcome a lot in his life, and you should read this feature piece on his life story, via The Advocate. Not a guy you should count out.

And here’s the kicker – the Steelers could totally pick this guy up. In 2010, Banks – the guy we’re comparing him to – was signed as a UDFA by the Washington Redskins.

Who was Washington’s special teams coach who signed off on/advocated for Banks? Danny Smith.

I’d love to see him brought in. It’d be a lot of fun.

Projection: Priority UDFA

Games Watched: at Mississippi Valley State (2015), at ULM, at Tulane, Assorted Special Teams Clips

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun WatsonHaason ReddickMarshon LattimoreCorey ClementTim Williams
Jourdan LewisTakkarist McKinleyBrad KaayaNathan PetermanO.J. Howard
Charles HarrisAlvin KamaraTyus BowserDavid NjokuDeMarcus Walker
Chidobe AwuzieDeShone KizerMarlon MackCameron SuttonZach Cunningham
Corey DavisCarl LawsonPatrick MahomesKareem HuntEvan Engram
Derek RiversRyan AndersonJoshua DobbsJordan LeggettSamaje Perine
Corn ElderBucky HodgesJames ConnerCooper KuppStanley Williams
Fred RossJamaal WilliamsGeorge KittleEjuan PriceChris Wormley
Jeremy McNicholsJoe MathisDerek BarnettAmba Etta-TawoGareon Conley
Taco Charlton Elijah McGuireRyan SwitzerTanoh KpassagnonTre’Davious White
Brian HillMatthew DayesDonnel PumphreyJosh ReynoldsNazair Jones
De’Veon SmithDavis WebbObi MelifonwuTJ WattJohn Ross
Jerod EvansVince BiegelJosh CarrawayJosh MaloneKevin King
Fadol BrownChris GodwinNate GerryJordan WillisStacy Coley
Zay JonesJimmie GilbertGlen AntoineTarell BashamDuke Riley
Rayshawn JenkinsChad KellyTrey HendricksonJeremy SprinkleJoe Williams
D’Onta ForemanCarlos WatkinsDamontae Kaze

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Mark

    It’s a shame that the SEC woke up and started giving scholarships to black athletes, which significantly impacted the quality of play on the field and court (baseball, football, and basketball). I had the pleasure of watching Jerry Rice, Chris Burkett, Leon Seals, etc.. play weekly. Now kids from the SWAC are barely getting drafted. I guess it’s a good thing, however, a lot those players never see the field at the D1 schools.

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    Shout out to my alma mater. This guy is puny but absolutely electric with the ball in his hands. Definitely a supreme talent compared to that of his peers, seemed like he got at least one return TD per game. I wish him the best, but with that being said, the steelers better not waste another draft pick fishing for another miniature return guy.

  • Steelers12

    might be an interesting prospect to bring in as an Undrafted free agent but i doubt Steelers would interest him with our WR Depth

  • SFIC

    That’s just one of the other player’s son, right? 😉

  • Alex Kozora

    Definitely won’t be a draft pick for anyone. But as a UDFA, I’m all for it, even with a crowded room.

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    I’m with you on that. He is definitely talented and way stronger than his size would indicate. You really search high and low for these guys, good work.

  • LucasY59

    invite to camp, sure …one in a thousand?

    make the roster, um, more like one in a million (so you’re telling me there’s a chance!)

  • Alex Kozora

    Oh it’s better than that, haha.

  • LucasY59

    I just wanted to use the dumb and dumber quote

  • Darth Blount 47

    Make this kid Mr. Irrelevant. Just because. That would be a cool story. The Denver Broncos currently hold the last pick. Let’s see if people can chase this little lightning bolt down in the thin air up there in Mile High country.

  • Chris Burton

    Safety Joshua Burton Weber State University.

  • Warren Tiger Morgan

    I love how the writer keeps saying SU played against two D1 schools. Southern is a D1 school that plays for football championships in the SWAC.