Anytime you're a highly rated recruit you're going to carry some pressure in your game. That was the case with Texas A&M running back Travyeon Williams when he arrived on campus at College Station three years ago.
But the pressure wan't too much for the 5-foot-9, 200-pound Williams. In fact, if you just look at how he produced, it is something that fueled him to be great. In his true freshman season, Williams ran for 1,057 yards on 156 carries with eight rushing touchdowns. He became the first true freshman in school history to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark, and was also the only true freshman in school history to have a 200-yard rushing game. It was safe to say Williams was feeling right at home in College Station.
His sophomore season was his worst to date, though he still rushed for 789 yards with another eight touchdowns. But in 2018, his junior season, Williams bounced back in the best way. Williams saw a career high in carries with 271, in rushing yards with 1,760, in rushing touchdowns in 18, in receptions with 27 and in receiving yards with 278.
Williams truly saved his best season for last in terms of production, and he showed A&M -- and the NFL -- that efficiency and output remained high despite a huge influx of usage and emphasis in the offense.
With a lot of production under his belt, let's take a look at what Williams can bring to an NFL team at the next level, and just how high he can go in this running back class.
Play No. 1: Big Play Tray
In a straight line, Williams can move really well. Though he doesn't have elite top speed, Williams has good initial burst, and that allows him to create separation from pursuing defenders. At times, it can also lead to some long house calls, as shown above.
Williams has a very upright running style, which is an interesting paring for him since he is only 5-foot-9. Most guys who are under the 5-foot-10 mark usually use natural leverage as their style, but Williams stays pretty straight up and down.
As you can see in the slip above, though the speed didn't blow you away, Williams is so smooth in his cuts and his burst at the line of scrimmage that when he makes it through, it really does seem like he's being shot out of a cannon.
Though I wouldn't label him the home run king in this class, he can make things happen down the field.
Play No. 2: Hands Out
One of the first things I noticed about Williams' game is that he is a natural receiver. He almost never lets passes get into his chest, and has no problem even fully extending his arms to go up and make catches. Williams can take throws of all forms and reel them in, as long as they are in reach.
Williams' natural pass catching ability was put on display in the clip above where he had to go up with one hand just to bring a pass in, but did so with relative ease. Being able to catch out of the backfield the way Williams does lends a helping hand towards him getting playing time early on in his career. If you can't catch or block, you can't play on third downs. Williams gives himself the freedom to be chosen as a potential third down back because of his receiving ability.
To put the cherry on top of Williams' receiving ability, Texas A&M also used him out wide, at times. This not only solidifies how natural Williams can be as a pass catcher, but also shows that he can be versatile in his use in the slot. I don't think he'll be playing much outside receiver like he was in the clip above, but perhaps he can be used in the middle of formations to confuse the defense and stay in as an offensive threat, even without the ball in the backfield.
Play No. 3: David and Goliath
On top of his ability to catch the ball, Williams is not only a willing blocker but a damn good one for a player his size. Williams fills out his body frame nicely, and that balance of weight and strength allows for him to take on bigger defenders much better than you would originally assume.
In the clip above, I know Williams was getting help, but he put his shoulder straight into the chest of a guy who had about seven inches of height and 60 pounds of mass on him. Williams not only stood him up, but then continued to mirror him in pass protection as the two went around the edge.
Williams not only has a willingness to block but also the correct understanding of technique to be very reliable as a blocker. In fact, the Aggies even used Williams as a lead blocker out of the backfield on some designed quarterback runs and wide receiver reverses.
So with pass catching and pass blocking well within his wheelhouse, Williams shows signs of being a reliable third down back in the NFL.
Play No. 4: Line of Scrimmage Vision
These last two points are really where we start getting into the full evaluation of Williams' NFL outlook.
I seem to be a little bit higher on Williams in this area than some of my other colleagues, but I really like Williams' vision at the line of scrimmage. A&M does a lot with their offensive line, and there are often many moving parts with pulling guards or zone blocks to the outside. Through the five games I watched, Williams, on average, did a good job of staying patient for his blocks and even adjusting to running lanes and hitting them with good timing.
Williams showed that, though he does sometimes get ahead of himself and can out-run his blockers, for the most part, he has a good understanding of where running lanes are going to form and can read the signs quickly of whether they will be open or not.
Though agility is not his strong suit (we'll get to that next), Williams has quick, precise feet when moving along the line of scrimmage, and because of that we saw plays like the one above where he was able to stay patient, read where the chaos was flowing and could hit the hole between it.
When it comes to vision around the line of scrimmage and around his blockers, I thought Williams saw the field well in 2018.
Play No. 5: Open Space Vision
Where Williams' vision can get suspect is when he gets into open space.
There were far too many plays like the one above where Williams just ran straight into a defender for no reason. Williams does not seem to have the mentality or the ability to create in space and make defenders miss, and that, unfortunately, really limits how high a team is likely going to select him.
As you can see in the clip above, Williams is just a stiff runner. If you get him going in a straight line, his athletic ability will usually be enough to out-run defenders and eat up yards. But when you ask him to truly make defenders miss in the open field and create on his own, Williams really struggles in that area, both from a mental and physical standpoint.
Overall, I like Williams -- I wish I could like him even more. I think he can remain in the NFL for a while with a well-balanced skillset. But without the ability to create on his own and in open space, I have a hard time thinking he can be a feature back at the next level. I think he'll be a solid RB2 or a preferred RB3 for a team, and his versatility with blocking and pass catching will certainly allow him to stick around a 53-man roster each year. But when it comes to a feature workload, he would have to show a lot of improvement in flexibility and lateral agility (things you really can't teach or improve much on beyond a natural level) to make it big at the next level.