The best thing about this running back class bound for the 2019 NFL Draft is that there isn’t a consensus top player. There are some that will like Bryce Love, while others will love David Montgomery. This year, it’s pick who you like and what you want. Regardless of who you pick — and yes, you can pick multiple players — James Williams may just be who everyone should want.
Before we get into the player, his upbringing is an incredible story. He had spent most of his time living at a Boys and Girls Club in Toledo, Ohio. His family didn’t have a lot of money, but they ended up moving to Burbank, California. While at Burbank High School, Williams excelled at football. As a junior, he produced 2,307 all-purpose yards and 29 touchdowns.
This got him exposure to schools such as Utah, Arizona, and Washington State as a three-star recruit. During the process, Washington State offered him a scholarship, which he accepted. Unfortunately, during his senior season, Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury during the second game of the season. Fortunately, Mike Leach left his scholarship on the table, and all the Cougars staff wanted him to do was focus on his grades. Ever since his arrival, he’s done his best to achieve success both in the classroom and on the field.
More often than not, you’ll find Williams in the weight room before and after practice. Despite only being 5’11” and 195 pounds, he wants to make sure that nobody thinks he’s limited. His resilience is something I’ve loved to watch, and I think that’s going to make him one of the better players in the 2019 NFL Draft. Let’s take a look at some things that he provides.
A resilient runner who never quits
So many times we see a running back get tackled or run out of room and just give up on the play, but not with James Williams. He’s constantly spinning, cutting and churning his feet for more yardage.
First and foremost, look at this offensive formation. I can’t explain it other than that the ball is on the right hash and the Cougars come out in a shotgun formation. While the quarterback (Gardner Minshew) is angled toward the right hash, James Williams (RB 32) is right next to him. This is a unique way of doing anything as an offense, but it works for the Cougars because of how resilient Williams is on this carry.
Once the exchange is made, Williams is instantly met in the backfield, but he cuts laterally and starts heading toward the right sideline. Not only does he get through three would-be tacklers, he also stiff-arms the last one. Then he jump-cuts and spins out of another tackle before showing the burst and acceleration needed at the second level to take it up the sideline and to the end-zone. These are the runs that teams are going to fall in love with when watching his tape. This type of poor tackling won’t be common on Sundays, but his resilient effort to make an impact is always there.
Picking up blitzes
People are always concerned with how a running back does when picking up blitzes. It shouldn’t be your biggest concern, but it’s vital to how often a player can see the field, especially depending on the player’s overall talent.
I don’t really question the overall talent of James Williams, nor do I question how well he does picking up blitzes. You can see him aligned to the right of the quarterback on the play above. The entire time, Williams is staring at the potential blitz on the left side of the quarterback. Once the ball is snapped, he runs across the quarterback and picks up the blitz. Not only does he pick it up, but he also delivers a shot. He’s well below pad level and gives the linebacker a serious pop. Even though he’s labeled as a pass-catcher and people will make the easy assumption that he’ll be a third-down back in the NFL, this ability will also help him see the field.
Spin move off tackles
One of his favorite moves is spinning out of sure tackles. This type of elusiveness makes him really tough to bring down, especially in the open field. He can get to the open field in a variety of ways, too, whether he’s catching a pass or exploding through the A-gap and getting to the second level.
As you can see on the play above, Williams releases out of the backfield and underneath the coverage over the top. Once it’s clear that he’s open, the pass is delivered and he does the work afterward. As he gets upfield, he sees the defender closing in and spins off the tackle. Much like we saw earlier, it all comes back to his resilience, but it also goes to show how elusive and dynamic he can be in the open field.
Yards after the catch
Whether it’s a receiver, tight end or running back, it’s pivotal for that player to make a defender miss after the catch. To be able to rack up yards after the catch is just as important. In today’s NFL, we see it increasingly often. From Tyreek Hill to James White, finding ways to utilize and create dynamic weapons is one of the essential ingredients in a successful offense.
On the play above, you’ll see the Cougars run a shovel pass to James Williams. Once he gets the ball, he’s off to the open field and makes several of defenders miss. As he gets downfield, he cuts laterally and bursts. Once a player closes in, he spins off of one tackle and then runs through another. This is what Williams does, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Teams are going to love this, so get ready to see this on Sunday.
Get ready for all of the James White pro comparisons when people talk about James Williams from Washington State. Their skillsets might be similar from a pass catching perspective, but Williams is the superior player. That might shock some of you, but it’s the truth. It’s only a matter of time until he starts gaining more steam as a draft pick, and I think he will find himself picked much sooner than what’s currently expected.
James Williams leads all RBs by forced missed tackles after the catch pic.twitter.com/DI7vd7dT5O
— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 11, 2018
Throughout his career at Washington State, he proved that he can do it all when given he’s the chance. He finished his career with 316 carries for 1,543 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns. The number that everyone wants to see is what he’s done as a pass-catcher, and trust me, he hasn’t disappointed. He’s thrived with 202 career receptions for 1,437 yards and eight touchdowns.
Moving forward, everyone will pay attention to how he tests athletically, but overall, he’ll be fine. He’s a gamer with great ability to run through or spin off of tackles. His ability to jump cut laterally only makes him that much more dynamic when changing his direction. Teams like the Kansas City Chiefs could consider him with one of their second-round picks, or the Buffalo Bills with one of their multiple picks on the third day of the draft.
James Williams is going to get drafted much higher than originally expected going into the season, and ultimately he’s going to be a draft pick you want on your team.