Dexter Williams, RB, Notre Dame
40-yard dash: 4.57 seconds (47th percentile)
Vertical: 36 inches (71st)
Broad: 130 inches (96th)
3-cone drill: 7.00 seconds (59th)
20-yard shuttle: 4.16 seconds (71st)
A Top 100 recruit out of Florida, Williams spent 3 years waiting for his turn at Notre Dame. He watched C.J. Prosise and then Josh Adams lead top-heavy backfields while drawing only limited usage even on special teams. He finished his junior campaign without having reached 10 carries in a game.
Williams did find some trouble along the way. He was arrested with some teammates in 2016 and drew a year of probation for a misdemeanor marijuana-possession charge. (An additional gun-possession charge was dropped after a teammate confessed to having.)
That didn’t cost Williams any games, but he did miss the 1st 4 contests of his senior season for an unspecified violation of team rules. Once he returned, however, Williams slid seamlessly into the lead-back role.
His 1st touch of the year went for a 45-yard TD run against Stanford. He carried 21 times in that game and rushed at least 13 times in every ensuing contest. His 17.6 carries per game for the season ranked 11th among the 28 RBs invited to the Scouting Combine. Only 4 of those guys averaged more rushing TDs per game. Just 8 scored on a higher percentage of their rushing attempts than Williams’ 7.6%. (And 1 of those was Rodney Anderson, who carried just 11 times before suffering an ACL tear.)
Games watched: Florida State, Stanford, Clemson, Northwestern
Here’s that aforementioned 1st touch of the season for Williams against Stanford.
It gives us some of what Williams does best. The Irish back didn’t wow me in the 4 games I watched with devastating cuts, but he does bring springy feet and useful agility. Most importantly, Williams combines that with healthy patience to allow his blocks to set up and the vision to find the lane.
Here’s another example from the same game that didn’t produce nearly so big a play. But it did feature Williams doing even more himself to create the running lane and avoid traffic at the line of scrimmage.
Here’s a similar move from a different angle against Florida State. Running nearly parallel to the line, Williams finds the hole, makes the best jump cut I saw in the games I watched bursts through for a gain of about 26.
I say “healthy” patience, because you don’t just see Williams approaching the line slowly every carry, waiting for his best possible path. What shows is an understanding for the blocking scheme -- and Notre Dame linemen appeared to do a lot of pulling in the games I watched.
You also see good awareness of when to go away from the intended spot and the ability to adjust his path quickly, such as this run against FSU …
And here is Williams working around his big guys on a screen against the tough and talented Clemson defense …
Williams didn’t show a lot as a receiver in the games and highlights I was able to find. He also seemed to fare just decently in the receiving drills at the Combine and Notre Dame pro day. At the least, he has plenty to prove on this front.
Williams also needs to improve significantly as a pass blocker. Pro Football Focus rated him 60th among FBS RBs in pass-blocking efficiency in 2018.
Even just my 4-game sample revealed some samples of lacking awareness and missed blocks. This last clip shows an especially egregious “attempt” at stunting a rusher.
I don’t like to harp on blitz pickup, because it’s a rare RB that arrives in the NFL ready to rock on that front. But Williams only caught 22 passes in his college career. Combine that with the weak pass-blocking, and he has some work to do if he wants to stay on the field in passing situations. That obviously threatens his fantasy upside.
But Williams comes with the rushing traits to contribute significantly in a committee soon and looks capable of developing into a committee leader. And I don't want to say he shows poorly as a receiver. There's just not much to see yet. We'd have to grade him incomplete on that front.
If Williams displays at least adequate receiving skills and lands in the right backfield, he has the upside to become 1 of this class' top fantasy RBs.