Joe Williams has quickly climbed in Average Draft Position(ADP) as of late. Partly due to landing spot and partly because of coach speak. Prior to the draft, many people were not sold on Williams ability to play at the next level. This includes San Francisco’s GM John Lynch, who stated he was removed from their draft board completely. Eventually he landed with the 49ers and the rumors he may start began to swirl. The question is; are these rumors warranted or is Williams being overhyped?
Williams grew up in Pennsylvania before he decided to head east to play collegiate ball at the University of Connecticut. Williams rushed for a total of 6 yards on three carries during limited action his freshman year. Prior to his sophomore campaign, Williams was dismissed from UCONN after being charged with credit card theft. He then attended ASA college in 2014. He finished the season by eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark, finishing with 1093 at 6.7 yards per carry. In 2015, Williams transferred to Utah and became the primary backup to now NFL pro, Devontae Booker. The 2016 season started with Williams abruptly retiring from the team. Within a month, injuries tore through the Utah Rbs Williams decided to make a comeback. With his new found role of top dog in the backfield. Williams made the most of his opportunity rushing for 1,407 with 6.7 yards per carry. .
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The Good:Williams had a stellar season after returning from retirement. He has a canny ability to get small and burst through the hole. This is evident from his 4.41 time posted at the scouting combine which ranked in the 88 percentile. He has home run ability and is a threat to score each time he touches the ball. He also posted an excellent broad jump of 125”. These numbers show that not only does he have track speed, he also has lower body explosiveness. He is able to rip off chunks of yards and get to the second level fast. During his senior season he had multiple games over 200 yards against UCLA and Indiana. Williams is listed behind Carlos Hyde, an oft injured player, and Tim Hightower who projects to have more of a third down role. The new 49ers coaching regime have no ties to Hyde and the team could let him walk after this year. Williams could see the field early and often in his career if Hyde sustains and injury or is ineffective.
The Bad:Obviously we have to start with his brief retirement, missing a month of football. Although he is fast he has deficiencies in in lateral quickness which was on display with his abysmal 7.19 3 cone drill. This ranked in the 22nd percentile, while his 14 reps on bench ranked in the 8th percentile. He has the tendency to run upright which inhibits his ability to lower the pads and run through tackles. He also has shown to be a below average blocker. His best comparisons would be Jerick McKinnon and Antonio Pittman. Both were great athletes coming out of school but neither have had NFL success. Williams only caught 19 passes in his final two years at Utah showing he offers very little on third downs. Although he may see early work in his career he figures to be in a running back by committee, possibly averaging 5-8 touches. Williams is currently 23 and will turn 24 prior to the season. This pegs him as an older back of the 2017 draft class. The Conclusion:Williams is coming off the board around pick 3.09 in 12 team rookie drafts according to MyFantasyLeague ADP. This number has been on the rise and Williams has been seen coming off the board as a late second-early third round pick. I think this offers a decent buy low opportunity as Williams could see a starting role early in his career. His retirement causes concern and he may lack a dedication to the game. His comparable players are less than stellar and again are seen as a red flag. At his current price he is a player I will be targeting in the early third. His red flags cause a major concern and I do not believe in his talent long term. I will look to flip Williams after big game or a Hyde injury.