James Williams, RB, Washington State
40-yard dash: 4.58 seconds (39th percentile)
Vertical: 36.5 inches (76th)
Broad: 118 inches (50th)
3-cone drill: 7.01 seconds (58th)
20-yard shuttle: 4.25 seconds (47th)
Williams lost his senior year of high school to a knee injury and then redshirted as a Wazzu freshman to finish healing. He took over the role of top back the next season, though, and led a pass-heavy Cougars offense in carries each of his 3 years.
Williams split the top backfield receiving role with James Morrow in 2016 before leading Washington State in receptions each of the next 2 years. He reached 100 yards in his 3rd game as a redshirt freshman but never again reached that number in a contest.
Williams did, however, catch 10+ passes 6 times over his final 2 seasons and scored 60% of the Cougars’ RB rushing TDs in 2018. Overall, he scored once every 12.8 touches while earning honorable-mention all-conference honors.
(Courtesy of @WhatsOnDraftNFL)
Games watched: California, Iowa State, Oregon, Washington
Williams makes for a tough film evaluation.
For starters, these were the only 4 games I could find online. And frankly, watching them doesn’t reveal anything obviously exciting about Williams.
Sure, he caught tons of passes over the past 3 seasons -- especially the past 2 -- but they came almost exclusively via short stuff such as screens, dump-offs, swing passes and checkdowns.
Across the 4 games I watched, I counted only 1 time that Williams lined up outside of the backfield. And he didn’t run much of a pattern from his slot position on that play.
That, of course, doesn’t mean Williams CAN’T run WR routes from non-backfield positions. It just means we haven’t seen much of it yet.
Williams also didn’t show a lot as a runner in the games I watched, but he’s at least capable of this …
Beyond the 4 games, I watched Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio Boiler Room breakdown -- and I’d recommend checking it out if you want more of the James Williams picture.
In short: Waldman lauded Williams for “great but unconventional footwork” and pointed out some useful examples, starting with the long run against Oregon I just shared.
If you’re ranking RB prospects on their chances of becoming 3-down backs in the NFL, then Williams won’t come out high. He’s not big and he’s not especially fast. The 4.58-second 40 combined with the sub-200 weight delivered a speed score of just 89.5, fourth worst among all the RBs who ran at the Combine.
But Williams is an accomplished pass-catcher and -- as Waldman deemed him -- a “slippery” runner. Williams is bound to draw comparisons to receiving backs such as James White and Theo Riddick (especially White). He out-tested both of those guys, beating White easily in the vertical, broad and 3-cone.
In a stronger RB class, Williams could be easy to lose. Amid this year’s flawed class, however, he looks capable of emerging in the right backfield as a volume receiver who gets enough carries to make him a regular RB3.