NFL Draft Sleeper: Could Jonathan Williams Step In And Produce Like A RB1 Immediately?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Despite sharing time in the backfield with Alex Collins, Jonathan Williams proved to be a productive running back in 2013 & 2014 while at Arkansas:

  • 2013 – 150 carries for 900 yards (6.0 YPC) & 4 TD
  • 2014 – 211 carries for 1,190 yards (5.6 YPC) & 12 TD

The 2015 season was supposed to be his true coming out party, but he broken his ankle during practice and ultimately needed surgery.  A running back with concerns about his feet is always going to fall down draft boards (while it was his knee, look at the fall Jay Ajayi suffered in ’15 due to long-term concerns).  That said, it’s possible that the missed time will give the team selecting him a chance to get a real steal.

Of course, it’s also possible that teams won’t view the 5’11” running back as anything more than a committee back.  In fact, there is a long list of concerns:

  1. Injuries – Obviously this is going to be something that needs to be watched
  2. Hands – In his three years at Arkansas he had a total of 26 receptions
  3. Fumbles – According to NFL.com he lost 5 fumbles in ‘14
  4. Unknown – All NFL teams have seen him as is a committee running back, so it’s hard to envision him as more than that

You put those four things together and it’s easy to imagine Williams not getting the opportunity to get a full-time opportunity.  That’s not to say that he can’t force his way into playing time, though.  Let’s take a look at what some people are saying about him:

NFL.com

“Has enough size, heart and talent to be a three-down running back, but was a proven commodity as a fresh runner in a committee approach at Arkansas. Williams is one of the more creative runners in tight quarters that you will find in this draft, but teams won’t have to sacrifice too much toughness in order to take advantage of his slashing style.”

ESPN

“He has outstanding make-up and stayed heavily involved with the program despite not being on the field. Based off of 2014 film evaluation, he is a bigger back with natural power and quick feet to potentially add depth in a rotational backfield.”

NFL.com compared him to T.J. Yeldon, who was a second round pick last season and given an opportunity to carry the load.  While he wasn’t necessarily successful (740 yards & 2 TD), he also wasn’t a bust and played for the Jaguars.  The comparison does bring a little extra intrigue to Williams, especially if that’s his ultimate upside.

Just think, if he had come out a year ago he likely would’ve been viewed as a potential second or third round pick.  One injury later and he’s dropping to the later rounds.  If he’s healthy he has the same upside that he did, though that’s a major question.  Time will tell, but there’s obviously the potential for a draft day steal.

Sources – NFL.com, ESPN

Make sure to check out all of our MLB Preason Team Top 10 Prospect Lists:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxHouston Astros
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansLos Angeles Angels
New York YankeesDetroit TigersOakland A's
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsSeattle Mariners
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota TwinsTexas Rangers
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Miami MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsMilwaukee BrewersLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesPittsburgh PiratesSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *