Dynasty Prospect Profile: Jonathan Williams
Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas
Pro Day results
(Williams did only the bench press at the Scouting Combine because of the foot injury that cost him the 2015 season. So these are his numbers from Arkansas’ Pro Day, according to NFL Draft Scout):
40-yard dash: 4.63 seconds
Vertical: not available
Broad: not available
3-cone: 6.97 seconds
20-yard short shuttle: 4.29 seconds
Rated a top-20 RB nationally in 2011 by Rivals.com, Scout.com and 247Sports.com, Williams made his way from high school in Texas to a run-heavy Arkansas offense. He saw scant use as a true freshman, never carrying more than 9 times in a game despite starting twice. Williams did, however, flash his big-play ability early on.
His 1st career reception went for a 74-yard TD on the 1st offensive play of a blowout win vs. Kentucky. Williams then added a 77-yard TD catch to become the 1st player in SEC history to log 2 such plays in a single game and just the 2nd freshman in NCAA history to do so.
Williams opened his sophomore season sharing the backfield with freshman Alex Collins, who garnered more carries in 10 of the 12 games. Williams matched Collins, however, with 4 games of 100+ rushing yards and averaged 0.6 more per attempt for the season. He also matched Collins’ 4 rushing TDs (on 40 fewer carries) and added a pair of receiving scores to lead the team in total TDs.
2014 found Williams and Collins again splitting the backfield, but this time Williams led the team in carries 5 times and matched Collins once (among 13 contests). For the season, he led by 7 attempts. Williams also delivered 5 games of 100+ rushing yards, vs. Collins’ 3, and led the team in yards per game (91.5) and total TDs (14). He edged Collins in yards per rush (5.6 to 5.4) and total rushing yards (1,190 to 1,100).
Then, on the brink of a 2015 season that should have found him at least among the nation’s top senior backs, Williams suffered an August left foot injury that required surgery and cost him the year. He took part in some Senior Bowl workouts but sat out that game and barely participated at the Scouting Combine in February. Williams did, at least, get on the field for Arkansas’ March 16 pro day and reportedly performed well.
(Courtesy of DraftBreakdown.com)
Games watched: Texas A&M, Texas Tech
One NFL scout who covers the SEC told NFL.com that he preferred Williams to Collins in 2014 before Collins changed his mind in 2015. I’m sure that scout has watched much more than the 6 combined games of these players that I have. But I also have to think he’s suffering from a bad case of recency bias.
Through 4 games of Collins, I saw some decent stuff but nothing exciting. There are decent backs throughout the NFL. In the right situation, he could be just fine as a real-life back and fantasy RB. But Williams looks like a potential rookie-draft steal.
His 40 time from the Arkansas pro day ranged from 4.55 seconds in 1 report to the 4.63 listed above. Williams said after the workout that he heard he hit the high 4.5s and that he thought he would run faster.
I don’t care much about the specific number, because I saw plenty of speed in the 2 games I watched. Williams won’t blaze a trail of flames to the end zone, leaving singed LBs in his wake. But he’ll burst through an opening and get downfield quicker than many other 220-pound runners, and it just might take a DB or a fast LB to chase him down.
Beyond the speed, Williams flashes a useful spin move on that run, which showed up multiple times in just my limited viewing from his junior season. He also displays nice balance through contact.
In general, the big guy appears to have great feet that he leverages in various ways, from the weaving, spinning big play above to some impressive cuts away from tacklers on these 2 examples:
And as you could see in that 2nd clip, Williams can deliver sheer power when he needs to. Take a look at this impressive push through defenders to pick up a 1st down against Texas Tech:
This is a guy you’d give the ball to in any area of the field.
Like Collins and some other backs in this class, Williams hasn’t done much as a receiver. Despite the big plays I mentioned in the previous section of this article, he caught only 26 passes across 3 years at Arkansas. I certainly didn’t see enough examples to judge his skills in the 2 available Draft Breakdown videos, but Williams did make a solid sideline grab against Texas Tech, keeping both feet in bounds as he fell backward after working to the sideline to help bail out his scrambling QB.
Williams sat out last season with a foot injury, and we’ve heard from Sports Injury Predictor’s Jake Davidow that such issues can often lead to compensatory trouble when a player returns. We’ll see what NFL folks have to say about the foot over the next month and a half -- and, eventually, where the league values him.
But a healthy Williams looks like a potential factor back. He’s quicker to and through the hole and much lighter on his feet than a lot of big backs. And yet, he doesn’t give up any of the power you’d hope to get from a bigger RB.
If you’re in pretty good shape at RB right now but looking for a guy who could deliver sleeper value come 2017 and beyond, then keep Williams in mind as a potential Round 2 pick for your rookie draft. I’ll be very interested to see where he lands in the NFL Draft. I believe his ceiling rises higher than at least those of Collins and Jordan Howard, among the players I’ve profiled so far this draft season -- and perhaps others.