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Broncos Prospect Profile: Elijah Qualls, DT, Washington

Zac Stevens Avatar
April 9, 2017


Throughout the offseason, we’ll be profiling players who may end up in Denver when all is said and done with the 2017 NFL Draft. The Broncos clearly have plenty of holes to fill before they get back to Super-Bowl form and we’ll be examining a long list of players they may choose to help the franchise do just that.

Elijah Qualls has played many positions in his football career—from fullback in high school to standup edge rusher and defensive tackle in college—but it is almost certain he’ll settle along the defensive line in the NFL. At 6-foot-1, 313 pounds, Qualls has a unique combination of size and athleticism that give him the tools to succeed at the next level.

The former University of Washington product is projected to be a third-round pick in the draft. He is viewed as a high-risk, high-reward player.


As a junior in high school, Qualls rushed for over 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns while playing a combination of running back, center and defensive tackle. His athleticism is off the charts for a big man and his versatility will allow him to play all along the defensive line in the NFL. His athleticism also translates into a strong upper and lower body that allows him to attack offensive lineman in many ways.

“I can do anything you ask me to, I played everything from zero to outside linebacker, so there’s not much I can’t do,” Qualls said at the combine. “In high school I played basically everything except defensive back. That was got me into college, versatility has always been a friend of mine.”

As a first-team all-conference player in the Pac-12, Qualls uses his low center of gravity to plant himself in the ground and become an anchor in the middle of the defensive line. He is successful in holding the point of attack and can take on double teams without being moved. Qualls’ ideal fit at the next level is a run stuffing lineman that will eat up blocks and allow the rest of the defense to make plays.


While Qualls is an unusual athlete, his body currently doesn’t fit any one position. He either needs to lose weight and become a defensive end or gain weight and become a true nose tackle.

“Losing weight has never been a problem,” he said. “I can lose weight. I just wanted to be around 310 just because I didn’t know where people truly envision me—obviously I know interior—but some people like their D-tackles 325, some people like their tackles 310. I just wanted to kind of be in the middle—if you need me to get bigger I can do it, if you need me to lose some weight I can do it.”

His short legs and arms don’t give scouts much reason to think his frame will develop into much more than it currently is, giving him little room for growth. Additionally, there are many questions about his work ethic, both on and off the football field, and whether he’ll put in the time to succeed at the next level.

Along the defensive line, Qualls is viewed as a player that will hold his ground, not make plays. He is slow off the snap, doesn’t disengage from blockers and can’t get through the offensive line. Although it is rare that Qualls is pushed back, it is just as rare that he makes a push into the backfield.

How he fits in Denver

Projected as a third-round pick, Qualls does have his downfalls. However, he is a great potential fit with the Broncos. As one of the worst defensive teams against the run in 2016, Denver could use another run-stuffing defensive lineman even with the additions of Domata Peko and Zach Kerr. Whether Qualls played defensive end or tackle, he would eat up blocks and help anchor the defensive line against the run.

“I’m definitely a presence in the middle as far as the run game. I can eat blocks up,” he said. “That’s actually my favorite thing to do, because I know if I’m doing that, then somebody else is free or getting a one-on-one.”

As a rookie, Qualls would be a rotational player with the potential to be a starter in a few years. The biggest question with Qualls isn’t if he has the traits to succeed at the next level, it’s if he will have the desire and drive.

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