NAME: James Williams
SCHOOL: Washington State
POSITION: Running Back
CLASS: RS Junior
JERSEY: No. 32
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
WT: 195 lbs
Vision/Patience – Used to defined holes and space as a runner between the tackles due to Washington’s spread offense. When the creases were tight, Williams showed some hesitancy and the desire to bounce runs rather than bang inside for what he could get. Has shown the ability to sense side doors opening up and bounce out of tight spots quickly. Probably doesn’t have the vision of an every-down back, but surprisingly showed good decisiveness and vision by the goal line to get vertical in a hurry.
Burst – Shows above-average burst to slip by defenders at the last moment. Not exceptionally explosive to destroy pursuit angles, but does a great job of varying his pace and hitting a move quickly after lulling an opponent to sleep.
Contact Balance – For a smaller back, absorbs some pretty good shots and still keeps his feet. Not a tackle-breaker and won’t throw off or drive through droves of defenders, but shows amazing balance to keep his feet, absorb contact and keep moving forward. Terrific job dropping his pads as a goal line runner to power through contact. Built low to the ground and maintains that center of gravity while being light enough on his feet to turn many big hits into glancing blows. Consistently falls forward. Still, not stylistically a bell-cow in this sense that he’ll run over defenses for 20-30 carries a game.
Receiving – Outstanding hands and ball skills. Able to adjust outside his frame like a wide receiver, has snagged several off-target balls at close range with very little time to react. Consistently high-points overthrows and has great hops for a running back. Maximizes his small catch radius often. Did not see a single drop in five games I watched. Constantly picks up more than he should post-catch by understanding and working to space frequently. Route tree is underdeveloped (ran mostly swings and screens and middle releases for checkdowns) and rarely operated from the slot, although he has the tools to be more versatile in the NFL.
C.O.D./Agility – Elusive without being overly explosive on his feet. Much more James White in his ability to evade tacklers and pick up extra yards than he is Darren Sproles or Tarik Cohen. Light feet, but doesn’t possess the stop on a dime and make a cut at full speed ability that elite space players have. Still, shows outstanding body control to twist, contort and evade defenders while consistently picking up chunks of yardage he has no business getting.
Speed – Long speed appears solid, I’d be shocked if he runs slower than 4.5s, but as a smaller running back you definitely want speed to be a major asset. I don’t think he has that, but he’s still fast enough to pick up chunks of yardage in space even if he doesn’t have game-breaking type of speed.
Competitive Toughness – Brings it as a smaller back, rushing for 12 touchdowns this season, many of which came in big boy situations around the goal line. Doesn’t shy away from contact and will drop a shoulder into bigger defenders. Takes on his challenges square in pass protection and won’t shy away. Coaches and teammates rave about his character and work ethic.
Ball Security – Has only fumbled three times in 525 career touches. No big concerns here.
Pass Protection – Such a mixed bag. Technique and fearlessness are mostly impressive, but catches a little too much and can get swim moved as a result. Linebackers with a full head of steam powered through him at times, other times he latched on and rode them out. Good processing to find blitzers and get in position to pick them up. Might benefit from cutting more guys in the NFL.
Athleticism/Size – Well-built frame for a smaller back, muscular and certainly not frail. Likely maxed out however, and will never possess ideal every-down back size. Good athlete, but is he elite? Combine will be interesting.
BEST TRAIT – Receiving
WORST TRAIT – Vision
RED FLAGS – None
One of the easiest players to root for in college football, James Williams is an electric playmaker with impressive contact balance and exceptional competitive toughness. He’s been amazingly productive per touch at Washington State, although the vast majority of his work has come as a receiver rather than as a pure running back. How many college backs have 202 career catches, including two 70-catch seasons, before they even hit the NFL?
Williams ball skills and receiving ability is eye-popping on tape, as he makes plays on the ball like a wide receiver at times. Given his limited usage as a running back and the fact he has only one career 100-yard game, Williams’ profiles as a third-down rotational back at the next level, but his skill set is so important to modern NFL offenses. Although he didn’t do it much at Washington State, I believe Williams could be a flex option, run real routes and contribute in a variety of ways for a team in the NFL. He’ll likely be a mid-round pick, but I think he could become one of the steals of the draft.