I’m beginning my rookie running back profiles with Jamaal Williams from BYU. He’s a 6’2”, 215-lb back who runs with power and finesse. In the 10 games he played in as a senior, he hauled 234 rush attempts for 1,375 rush yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. It seems the general consensus among scouts is that Williams is looking at a third round draft selection in April. At that value, he’s going to be a steal for any NFL team that lands him. Let’s check out some of his strengths and weaknesses.
- Size allows him to be a competent pass-blocker, and he is
- Elite balance: Always powers through initial contact and often needs to be gang-tackled
- Displays good vision on inside-zone runs
- Awareness is special, he can smoothly change hands on the run when he sees defenders approaching
- Amazing ball security; just four fumbles during college career
- Gives maximum effort even on blocking plays, does not give up until whistle blows
I was blown away by Williams toughness and his refusal to be tackled upon initial contact. He’s strong enough to power through arm tackles and it takes an army to bring this kid down. He has goal-line back qualities which is obviously a plus for fantasy purposes. His ability to move the ball from one hand to the other while he’s on the run and keep his stride was impressive on film. And finally, in the games that I watched, he seemingly never gave up on a play until it was over. There were a few instances where he failed to effectively block a pass rusher, but did everything he could to rectify his error. This clip specifically is what I am talking about:
- Lacks breakaway speed: On a few occasions he had distance from pursuing defenders who caught up to him before he reached the end zone
- Only had seven receptions as a senior, may not be a three-down back in the NFL
- Character concerns: Missed entire 2015 season, on record for underage drinking
The breakaway speed thing isn’t going to make-or-break him as an NFL back, and really I’m splitting hairs here. He still has the jets to get good yardage on outside runs and his stiff-arm helps. It will be interesting to see what he clocks in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. The lack of receptions is somewhat concerning, as he may come off the field on third downs for a more apt pass-catching back, but that’s really how the majority of the league rolls anyway. As for his character concerns, he did come back to play a full 2016 season after sitting out for all of 2015 and seemingly matured during his time off.
Matt Waldman, who had been watching Williams early in his college career, said that he believes the BYU back is NFL ready and that he could see how he matured just by looking at his physique as a senior compared to when he was an underclassman which says a lot about his intentions and mindset as he prepares himself for a professional career. In addition to Waldman, many other draft scouts and pundits including ESPN's Mel Kiper and NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah have given high praise to Williams with a third-round draft grade which is impressive given this year's strong running back class.