Position: Running Back
School: Texas A&M
Earliest NFL Class: 2019
Birthday: October 18, 1997 (19.9 years old)
Listed height: 5’9”
Listed weight: 200 lbs
I’m a shameless college football junkie, and as a result have found myself watching countless compilations of the sport on YouTube every off-season. This particular round of viewing was particularly enjoyable because I didn’t get to watch as much of the last season as I’ve usually gotten to in seasons past. I witnessed loads of great plays from the 2016 season for the first time, but more importantly, I got to notice a plethora of great players that I hadn’t yet taken note of. No newcomer grabbed a hold of me quite like Trayveon Williams did.
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If Williams could do one thing last year, it was explode for big gains. Naturally, he showed up all over highlight videos as a result, and my draw to him as a college player began. However, I had to take a more complete look at his game to realize how real of an NFL prospect he also is. Not only is he thrilling on every carry, he possesses an excess of NFL traits for a player with two entire seasons to further develop his game before making the leap. After chance encounters with my scouting brain turned off, Trayveon Williams is one of my top prospects to watch for heading into 2017.
As a Recruit
Williams entered Texas A&M slightly under the radar, as the eighth-ranked all-purpose back by 247sports but rated a good-not-great .8949 composite score-or, more simply, four stars. He was touted particularly for strong burst and footwork. At C.E. King High School in Houston, he racked up nearly 6,000 yards by ground and air combined in his career.
In Williams’s first game out of high school, he amassed 94 rushing yards against a stout UCLA defense. Still, it took him some time to jump over Keith Ford as lead back in the Aggie offense and even then, he only finished the season with 30 more carries. Nevertheless, the Houston native hit top gear by the midpoint of the Aggie season in an incredible 28 rush, 217 yard performance against Tennessee. His performance cooled over the second half of the season as he failed to tally over 80 rushing yards in any matchup. After all was said and done, his production outside of his outbursts was steady enough to post a 1,057 rushing yard season and secure a spot on ESPN’s True Freshman All-America team.
On the Field – Strengths and Weaknesses
It doesn’t take long to take note of Williams’s exceptional athleticism. At 19 years old, he has already shown a complete ability to get around behind the line and make it through all kinds of challenging gaps. His burst shines once he’s reached a hole as he goes from his first gear to a spring almost instantaneously.
If there are still defenders to navigate, his agility comes in quite handy as well. He moves side-to-side with proficiency, minimizing hang time in his cuts while maximizing distance. The Aggie understands his advantage and can be seen throughout his freshman season making second-level defenders look foolish as he smoothly sidesteps and blows by. Despite having no prior college experience, Williams already exhibited a strong understanding for getting tacklers off-balance as a teenager. His elusiveness is already lethal, and with some refinement in other areas of his game, he could resemble LeSean McCoy when shaking defenders.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign from his game is that he knows how to hide his deficiencies while running. Williams isn’t strong at this point, but it’s hard for defenders to take advantage of this weakness. He uses stiff arms to keep tacklers off of him on the perimeter. His pad level is consistently low when approaching contact, allowing him to drive his feet at the point of impact and fall forward despite a lack of momentum. Most importantly, he isn’t afraid of contact, which makes running between the tackles viable for him.
Of course, there are still plenty aspects of his game to be developed further. As I just mentioned, he’s not strong. If a defensive lineman can get his hands on Williams, he will probably be going down. At this point, he’ll probably require any tackler to be off-balance before making solid contact in order to break their tackle. With proper technique, even corners can take him down without much trouble. The good news for him in this department is that there’s plenty of room left on his frame to build muscle. I don’t see additional strength slowing him down much.
He also must clean up his approach as a runner. He’s almost always in a hurry with the ball in his hands, perhaps because he’s used to the strategy of “running as fast as he can everywhere” working on the high school level. It hasn’t been foolproof for him as an Aggie, however, and it will only become less effective as he progresses in his career. He’ll need to learn to slow down both before and after reaching holes. He rarely displays patience with his blocking. Despite the agility that he manipulates with his elusiveness, he struggles to get around the second level when there aren’t one or two clean cuts to make on the path to daylight. On the bright side, he’ll have time to get accustomed.
Trayveon Williams is an intriguing prospect who brings a plethora of attractive traits to the table. Despite a relatively raw skill set highlighted in the video above, his athleticism and elusiveness were good enough to push him over 1,000 rushing yards in his first collegiate season. Though not a good comparison in terms of attributes, an explosive-yet-raw producing back is bound to remind me of Marlon Mack, who I noted will need development to fully realize his potential but still offers down-to-down explosiveness already. The juxtaposition is advantageous to Williams, however, because he has at least two years to work on his game–in departments that can be improved. It’s much easier to progress in terms of technique and style than in athleticism, and Williams will get his sophomore and junior season (if he forgoes his senior year) to do so.
All in all, it’s not a bad choice to bet on Williams’s progression and quite hard not to like his talent. After nabbing two shares in devy leagues this off-season, I’d say it’s high time to put this Aggie back on your radar.
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