Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU
Weight: 212 pounds
(percentile rank among all RBs at the Combine since 1999, courtesy of mockdraftable.com):
40-yard dash: 4.59 seconds (40th)
Vertical: 30 inches (6th)
Broad: 123 inches (82nd)
3-cone: 7.25 seconds (14th)
20-yard shuttle: 4.53 seconds (6th)
Williams spent all 4 years as a starter at BYU—despite the 2015 interruption.
The Cougars’ all-time rushing leader sat out his entire would-be senior season after withdrawing from school for personal reasons. But he had intended all along to return for 2016 and delivered his best rushing campaign when he did.
Williams finished 5th in the country with 137.5 rushing yards per game, despite losing 3 weeks to an ankle injury. He also lost time in 2014 to an ankle injury and a suspension for multiple violations of team rules.
But Williams’ football career stayed on the path that began with 8 starts in his true freshman year and saw him lead BYU in rushing every season he took the field.
Interestingly, his receiving production slid even as BYU shifted from a run-heavy approach over his 1st 3 years to finally logging more pass attempts per game than rushes in Williams’ final campaign (and the 2015 season he missed).
HC Bronco Mendenhall left for the Virginia job after the 2015 season, so Williams’ final year saw a new head man and Ty Detmer’s 1st ever stint as an OC.
(Courtesy of DraftBreakdown.com)
Games watched: Toledo, Wyoming, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Mississippi State
Unfortunately, all of the DB videos for Williams come from 2016. So I can’t tell you much about his receiving ability. I saw only 2 receptions across the 5 games I watched (both checkdowns against West Virginia) and noticed only 1 other target.
That seemed especially curious because Williams remained on the field for plenty of passing situations. But he nearly always stayed in to block. He fared solidly in that phase, at least. And it’s not as though the Cougars favored another back in the passing game. Williams led the backfield in receptions.
Let’s just say Williams has displayed passing-down competence and move on to the rushing, which is where he gained notice.
Matt Waldman of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio lauds Williams’ “feel” for running the ball and the “presence” he brings to the field.
“Athletes are performers, and there are performers on stage or screen that have presence,” Waldman wrote in February. “Regardless of their strengths and weaknesses as performers, they look so at home in their performance setting that they appear natural.”
I get what he’s saying.
Williams has solid burst when he puts it into gear, including the restart midway through that run after he juked a defender. The hips look decent as well. He displays a noteworthy stiff arm that plays into his ability to pick up extra yards downfield—arguably Williams’ best trait.
Another part of that package is the consistently churning legs that help him to fall forward often and spin off tackle attempts at times. He can be tough to bring down.
Williams’ best trait early in his run might be the vision to find his lane as he starts downhill.
We’re not talking about “wow, how did he see that opening” ability, but rather consistently finding the best nearby option.
Nearby is the key there, because Williams won’t create beyond what’s in front of him.
Dalvin Cook surprised at the Combine because his testing results didn’t seem to match with his play. Williams, on the other hand, plays like his low agility scores. You’re not likely to see a jump cut, and he’s not going to get the edge much on pro defenses.
Here, for example, Williams runs right into a pile at the line and loses a fumble on 3rd-and-2.
Plenty of other backs could have bounced that play wide left when the middle got clogged and likely converted the 1st down.
I picked the games I did because the 1st 3 marked his 3 largest yardage totals from last season. The other 2 stood among the 3 contests in which he fell short of 4.0 yards per carry. Play to play, they didn’t look nearly as different as you’d expect.
In his monster 30-286-5 rushing day against Toledo, Williams got wonderful blocking against a D-line that the announcers called overmatched at multiple points. Same deal elsewhere. The run blocking often looked terrific, and Williams spurted forward when he got the space to get going. If there was no surge and lane, he didn’t go anywhere.
I think the NFL comparisons say a lot here. Mockdraftable lists Kevin Smith, Alfred Blue and Mike Gillislee as the top matches (though none of them topped 78.6% in similarity scores—a low mark for the top of any list). PlayerProfiler has Robert Turbin. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein goes with Stepfan Taylor.
He also passes along this assessment from an AFC West regional scout: “He’s not very dynamic as a runner, so he needs to carve out a niche for himself as a physical backup who can go cover on kickoffs. He hasn’t been a special teams guy, but he better start.”
Williams looks like a 5th- or 6th-round back who could produce in spots in the right situation, such as the old zone-blocking, stretch-favoring offense that helped Arian Foster break out. But don’t count on a team drafting him to play a big role. And don’t expect to look his way before at least Round 3 of your dynasty rookie draft.