The story of Jamaal Williams’ collegiate career is a unique one. Over the course of four seasons in five years with BYU, he recorded two separate 1,000-yard rushing seasons and two separate 12-touchdown seasons. But in 2014 he only played in eight games due to a torn ACL. Then, in 2015 Williams was forced to take what was supposed to be his senior campaign off for violating the school’s Honor Code (he had to withdraw for spending a night with a co-ed). Its safe to say he was on a mission when he returned as a starter with the Cougars season. After an entire year away, he hadn’t lost a step and made a statement with 1,455 scrimmage yards on 241 touches and 12 rushing scores.
Williams’s strengths are in his size. At 6-foot-0, 212-pounds, he knows how to leverage his upper-body and is competent in pass-blocking. He possesses elite balance and toughness. He’s always powering through initial contact and frequently needs to be gang-tackled, using a strong stiff arm and solid spin-move to ward off defenders. The Rialto, CA native showed good vision on inside-zone runs and his awareness and ball handling skills are special: Williams can seamlessly switch hands with the ball without it affecting his gait at high speeds. Plus, with just five fumbles during his entire college career, ball security is not an issue. His finesse running style combined with his physicality has been likened to that of Matt Forte.
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As you’ll see when we break down Williams’ measurables, speed is not his best attribute. There were a few occasions last season where defenders caught up to him on breakaway runs. The opposition only gets faster and stronger in the NFL. And since he didn’t show well in agility drills at the NFL Combine either, there is legitimate reason for concern about his athletic profile. In addition, Williams only had seven receptions in 2016, but he did do more work as a pass-catcher earlier in his career which leaves us with yet another question mark heading into the draft.
Statistics from sports-reference.com.
With four seasons as BYU’s primary back, it’s clear that Williams is capable of a workhorse role. It’s encouraging that his yards per carry average peaked in 2016 after he took an entire season off. This shows dedication to the game and a level of maturity that could earn him a couple of bonus points in NFL war rooms. His reception totals are mysterious, however. He totaled 45 catches in his first two seasons but just 15 total in his final two. But the big picture is that Williams averaged 205 rush attempts per season in the three years he didn’t get injured and over 1,000 scrimmage yards in each. A track record of success like that can go a long way.
In short, Williams’ Player Profiler snapshot is that of a below-average athlete. He ranks no higher than 45th percentile in any of the five Workout Metrics listed on the site and his SPARQx Score places him in the eighth percentile. Leading up to the NFL Combine, Williams was looked at by some as one of the running backs with the most to prove athletically. His film shows a physical player with toughness and durability but questions about his speed and overall agility remain. There is a good chance he loses stock during the NFL Draft due to his poor testing.
The BYU product’s Mock Draftable web reveals a running back with above-average size and below-average agility. His 4.59 40-yard dash landed him in the 40th percentile and he completely bombed the vertical (sixth percentile), 3-cone drill (14th percentile) and 20-yard shuttle (sixth percentile). On a positive note, Williams did thrive in the broad jump with a 123-inch leap, good enough for the 82nd percentile. The site also lists FSU prospect Dalvin Cook as one of Williams’ most comparable players in terms of their measurables, and Cook is projected as a first round pick.
In the Poinsettia Bowl against Wyoming last December, Williams’ full skill set was on display. He toted the rock 26 times for 210 rush yards and a touchdown in his college finale. He did lose a fumble early on but more than made up for it, plus it was pouring rain. On one specific first-down carry early in the second quarter, he squirted through congestion at the line of scrimmage, narrowly escaped a shoelace tackle, accelerated into the second level with both arms around the ball and continued to push forward through contact taking a defender for a ride across the first down marker. Go ahead and knock him for his below-average measurables as many already have, but his tape tells a different story.
Since Williams’ DLF 20/20 profile was published back in February, we know he didn’t show well at the NFL Combine which was somewhat expected. His age, 22 as a redshirt senior, is also mentioned in that profile as a positive for his dynasty outlook.
Williams is a polished, NFL-ready running back. At age 22, he already has four seasons under his belt as a workhorse and is the RB11 in rookie drafts according to DLF’s rookie rankings. I believe that he can be a primary back at the next level and his film shows that. Questions about his athleticism won’t go away and may damage how NFL teams look at his value on draft day, but that makes the BYU bell-cow a great sleeper candidate in this loaded 2017 class. If you’re not sold just yet on what he can bring to the NFL, check out Matt Waldman’s RSP Film Room session with Williams as a guest, breaking down some of his own tape. Plus, this incredible profile by Tyler Dunn of Bleacher Report sheds light on just how insignificant Williams’ “off field issues” were at BYU and spotlights his determination, passion for the game and work ethic. Not an athlete you say? Try scaling this hill in 39 seconds.
- Rookie Profile: Jamaal Williams, RB Brigham Young - April 20, 2017
- Rookie Profile: D’Onta Foreman, RB Texas - April 18, 2017
Jamaal Williams is a winner in every way! He is a natural athlete with great vision and instincts on the field. He will be an asset to any ream that selects him in the draft. He loves to play this game.