Dynasty Prospect Scouting Report: Kyren Williams
Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame
40-yard dash: 4.65 seconds
Vertical: 32 inches
Broad: 116 inches
Williams hit the college scene as a 4-star recruit, fielding 19 offers. He eschewed schools such as Wisconsin, Stanford, Michigan and home-state Missouri to enroll at Notre Dame.
Williams redshirted in a 2019 backfield led by Tony Jones Jr. (Yeah, the guy who offered you nothing in New Orleans last year after Latavius Murray left.) He then won the starting gig out of summer workouts in 2020 and quickly became the offensive centerpiece. Williams handled 42.5% of the rushing attempts for a run-leaning team, accounting for 60.3% of the RB carries, 58.1% of RB rushing yards and 59% of RB rushing TDs.
Williams also ranked 3rd on the team in receptions, just 7 behind the co-leaders, tallying a 15.2% share of team receptions and 11% of receiving yards. No other Irish RB caught more than 8 balls.
He was named ACC Rookie of the Year for that redshirt freshman campaign and earned a 2nd-team all-conference spot in a league that included UNC’s Michael Carter and Javonte Williams, Virginia Tech’s Khalil Herbert, Clemson’s Travis Etienne and Louisville’s Javian Hawkins. Kyren Williams led the conference in carries, handling 15+ attempts in 10 of 12 contests. He rushed for 110+ yards 6 times.
Last season found Williams starting slowly in an offense replacing QB Ian Book. The RB averaged just 61.7 rushing yards per game and 3.9 per carry over the 1st 6 contests before logging his only two 100-yard outings of the year: a 25-138-2 line vs. USC and then a 22-199-1 vs. UNC.
For the year, Williams claimed 46.2% of the rushing attempts for another run-leaning team, accounting for 63.4% of the RB carries, 65.8% of the RB rushing yards and 77.8% of the RB ground scores. Williams’ backfield receiving shares fell from 77.8% of receptions and 75.6% of yards in 2020 to 58.3% and 53.3%, respectively, though he did sit out the bowl game.
You can tell even in a limited sample that Williams is a smart player. It shows up in seemingly little but important ways.
Check out this run from the 2020 bowl loss vs. Alabama …
He gets the ball in an immediately bad situation, but shows the patience and footwork to navigate a crowded backfield and even the mindfulness to switch hands mid-run to protect the ball from defenders. Williams turned what should have been a negative play into a near-conversion.
The young back displays that enviable footwork in other places as well. In my small sample, at least, he seems to run as though he knows he’s not going to blow past defenders. So he instead has to be efficient with his moves and decisions.
Here’s a 2-play sample that shows Williams working the middle of the line rather than bouncing outside in situations that likely would have sent many other college runners wide.
On the 1st play, it’s fair to wonder whether a speedier back could have challenge the edge and produced a more positive play. But Williams’ method wins on the 2nd attempt, when he works his way through traffic to the end zone.
Williams displays the patience to allow his blocking to set up and then find the appropriate lane …
That play went for a nice gain after he found the path outside. That said, it’s fair to wonder whether a back with more burst could have just attacked up the middle sooner on that run for just as big a play (or bigger).
Where Williams definitely wins is in the passing game. I only saw a few WR-type looks in my 4-game sample, but the clip below speaks to the receiving ability of a RB who transitions smoothly from catch to run.
Despite his size, Williams also looks like a willing, aware and solid pass protector. Aptitude in that area can only help him get onto the field and stay there. Though it also might be overrated, because his NFL team will prefer to have him catching passes.
It’s also worth noting that only 11 RBs in the league totaled 60+ pass-blocking reps last year – including the playoffs – according to Pro Football Focus.
It’s important to look at Williams a couple of different ways here, but let’s start with the long view. And his slow 40 time matters.
Sure, you can find a few examples of RBs who succeeded despite discouraging 40 times. Arian Foster and his 4.74-second 40 is the poster boy. It’s important to note, however, that Foster was about 30 pounds larger than Williams. (Also, he’s a gigantic outlier.)
Here is every RB who has weighed less than 200 pounds and run the 40 in 4.6 seconds or more at the NFL Scouting Combine since 2000 (WARNING: It’s ugly) …
Williams’ best-case scenarios from that list are Andre Ellington or Justin Forsett – each of whom ran faster than Williams … and each of whom had just 1 NFL season with 200+ touches.
So we shouldn’t expect big things overall. But that doesn’t mean Williams will be worthless as a dynasty prospect.
When he gets drafted will tell us something about how much his NFL team thinks of him. Williams’ athletic profile is that of a 7th-rounder or undrafted free agent. So if he gets picked in, say, Round 4, then he could be in for early opportunity.
Williams isn’t going to blow anyone away on NFL fields. But he looks smart and well-rounded enough to contribute on a smaller scale when opportunity arrives.
Forsett looks like a good comparison: near-identical size, similar speed and finished college as a workhorse back. Forsett went to Seattle in Round 7 and spent most of his career as a complementary back, with 4 seasons of 30+ receptions.
That would be a good outcome for Williams, a prospect that could fit near the end of dynasty rookie drafts.