Kyren Williams - RB - Notre Dame
Welcome to the rookie profile for Kyren Williams. A running back that may be considered the best all-purpose back in this year’s class when it’s all said and done with. Kyren Williams had back-to-back 1350+ all-purpose yards and 14+ all-purpose touchdown seasons for the Fighting Irish, showing he can be effective in both facets of the game. He is a darkhorse candidate for the top running back in the 2022 NFL Draft, in no small part due to his versatility.
Height: 5′ 9″
Weight: 194 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.65s
3-cone drill: DNP
20-yard shuttle: DNP
Vertical Jump: 32″
Broad Jump: 116″
Bench Press: DNP
Kyren Williams committed to Notre Dame as a low 4-star recruit according to 247’s rating. As a true freshman in 2019, he contributed in a limited capacity in only 4 games and 2 appearances before deciding to sit out the rest of the season in order to preserve an additional year of eligibility. Going into 2020, Williams was the clear-cut lead back for the Fighting Irish backfield and immediately put scouts on notice. In his first game, he went off for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground, and 2 receptions for 93 yards through the air. As the lead back he accumulated throughout the season 1000+ yards rushing and 300+ yards receiving on 35 receptions and 14 total touchdowns. His performance awarded him ACC Rookie of the Year, ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year, and Second-team All-ACC honors.
In 2021, Williams was on draft boards everywhere and all eyes were on him as a top running back prospect in the upcoming class. Still the lead back, he took a slight step back in efficiency, just missing 1000 yards rushing. But, he did grab a few more passes on the year, continuing to display his versatility. He decided to forgo his final two years of eligibility and skip Notre Dame’s bowl game for the 2022 NFL Draft.
Firstly, Kyren Williams possesses a nice balance of elusiveness and power. He has good vision at the line of scrimmage and uses his athleticism to burst through holes when the opportunity is provided. Additionally, he demonstrates great elusiveness in space or in tight quarters. The old saying “make someone miss in a phone booth” absolutely applies to Kyren Williams. For his size, 5’9” 195 lbs, he has good contact balance and loves to play a physical form of football, consistently trying to fight for extra yards. Williams also has really good long speed with a knack for making explosive plays in space or between the tackles. Outside of the fastest players on the field, it’s difficult to catch up to Williams once he gets going.
Where Williams excels is in the passing game. He is not only one of the more dynamic running backs out of the backfield, he is exceptional in pass protection. In the passing game, he runs solid routes for a running back and demonstrated the ability to line up out wide when asked. His athleticism translates when running routes with quick and crisp movements with the ability to gain separation on linebackers. Additionally, he showed good hands and the ability to make some tough catches that would be tough for just about any other running back.
There’s a reason that Kyren Williams is a darkhorse candidate for the RB1 position and not ahold of that position outright. He has some holes in his game. For the best 3-down back in the class, there were a few too many body catches on tape. While he runs hard and loves contact, he doesn’t consistently break tackles or run through defenders when he does get that contact. He has to get a full head of steam to show off any power. In college that was fine because he had more space to work with, whereas at the next level he may not have the space necessary to get a head of steam and show off the contact balance/power he has thus far.
Pre Draft Analysis
Expected Draft Capital- Round 4
Kyren Williams does it all, whether it’s on the ground or through the air. A jack of all trades type of player that can fill a variety of roles right of the gate. He could walk in and be the 1a in a backfield, or fill a complementary role extraordinarily well. While he could be a true workhorse, it’s more likely that he is the leader of a timeshare. Ideal fits for Kyren Williams include the Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins, or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Post Draft Analysis
Los Angeles Rams- Round 5, Pick 21
The Rams didn’t have much top-end draft capital in this year’s draft thanks to their all-in approach that paid off last season. They’re looking to continue their Super Bowl run this year by making key replacements across the team including replacing Robert Woods with Allen Robinson and replacing Von Miller with Bobby Wagner this offseason. At running back, the team has a group of guys that have contributed over the past couple of years including Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson. Akers looked to be the future of the team at the running back position but suffered an Achilles tear last offseason. Although he was able to return to the team for their playoff run and looked promising, it was obvious he wasn’t quite the back he was pre-injury. He’s going to need some more time to get back up to 100% and the Kyren pick towards the back of the fifth-round seems like an insurance pick against injury. There’s also Darrell Henderson who has gotten forced into a heavy workload sporadically throughout his career thanks to injuries across the rest of the backfield. But with the moves the organization has made, it’s obvious they don’t want Henderson carrying a large workload on a consistent basis, plus his contract is up at the end of the 2022 season.
While Kyren Williams seems like an insurance pick the rest of the backfield hasn’t exactly been the perfect picture of health. Akers is obviously coming off the Achilles injury and will need time if he is to ever get back to his old self. Henderson has sporadically missed time throughout his career, and of course, has his contract expiring at the end of the season. Williams brings a versatile skill set in both the rushing and receiving game and importantly is an excellent pass protector. With his third-down skillset and if he shows the willingness to play special teams, he could solidify himself a roster spot and that would allow him to slowly start to carve out a role. In an ideal world, looking ahead, Henderson is out next year and Akers and Williams provide a 1-2 punch in a dynamic backfield. But Williams is still a fifth-round rookie, and expectations need to stay in check. He is a decent dart throw in the fourth round or off the waivers at the end of a rookie draft in dynasty leagues. In redraft leagues, it’s probably best to avoid Williams and pick him up off waivers if necessary during the season or just see how the backfield plays out for next year.