Updated: Mar 11, 2022
Good things tend to come in small(er) packages, and Kyren Williams brings a lot of positives to the backfield. He profiles mainly as a passing game asset, but he shows the pre-requisite competitive toughness to do some of the dirty work in the trenches. Williams amassed 1345 total yards, with at least a TD in each of the last 8 games of his 2021 campaign. In fact, there was only one game in 2021 where he did not score.
At 5'9", 199 pounds, Kyren Williams ranks 83rd on PFFs 2022 NFL Draft Big Board. They also have him with a lower-end Zone grade, that is exactly why RB Vision is here for you. The data may just help us get to the bottom of why and allow us to determine if there is a real area of concern.
Kyren Williams RBV Data Powered by Data From:
The data completely checks my bias based on Williams' size. With his smaller stature, I would expect him to do less between the tackles and more on the edge. Since this is reversed, I want to know why he has less success on the edge and in space. I also need to know what he is doing to have this high level of success in Inside Zone schemes. It is unfortunate that pulling run schemes seem to be dwindling in college and the NFL game, because the success we see in Power and Counter could become missed opportunities for the team that drafts Williams.
Vision and Burst
On tape, one of his obvious qualities is his suddenness when it comes to changing gears. This speaks to good play speed (mind-body connection) especially as he maneuvers near the trenches. I say near the trenches because often, on designed Inside Zone runs, he opts to bounce outside. In most cases, this was warranted, but I worry that it may have created a habitual tendency that will cause him to miss opportunities between the tackles. However, it is his patience to press the point of attack where he wins in the scheme. Good footwork helps him maintain his lower center of gravity, essentially creating energy with any change of direction. This keeps him alive in the trenches and at the second level for plays like this...
Williams displays enough long speed to pique my interest in his 40-time, but you may be familiar with my position on that specific metric. I like it as a modifier/tie-breaker on a complete evaluation package.
The best feature of Willams' game beyond the trenches has to be his elusiveness in 1-on-1 engagements. He makes efficient moves in the open field and remains slippery with good contact balance versus glancing blows. He has pretty good open-field vision as well and uses his agility to take advantage while maintaining speed.
He can pack a punch when he has good pad level allowing him to finish forward. He also displays good play strength against linebackers to gain a few additional yards after contact when engaged with a form tackle. In these situations, his competitive toughness becomes most evident.
In addition to his slippery nature, competitive toughness, and play strength, his pass-catching ability inspires Austin Ekeler type comparisons. He has very good hands that any quarterback will be able to trust. With a consistent display of the ability to adjust all around his frame, he will be a QB-friendly asset.
After the catch, he wastes very little time getting upfield. In most cases, he is very good at making the first guy miss. I can see Williams making life difficult in space for defenders. We should see a lot of this:
Notre Dame did split him out on occasion, and he has shown some nice things out there. If he ends up matched up with average linebackers at the next level, I believe his quickness will be too much for them. Even though this next shot shows he could improve some technique at the break, his explosiveness is not in question.
Even still, look at what he did. Williams stems the linebacker outside then explodes across his face. Also, we cannot overlook the concentration as the passer fits the ball into this small window. Cover 0 with Williams as a slot receiver versus a linebacker equals a defensive disaster.
There is this particular block that is surely cemented in the mind of all that have seen it.
Now, this is an excellent example of some consistent aspects of Kyren Williams' blocking ability. He is a very willing blocker that will bring the violence, and he has the requisite play strength to level blitzing linebackers with a 40-pound advantage. This is the stuff that makes people drool, because if all his blocking is like this, then he is going to see the field.
There are two primary concerns, that could cap Williams' ceiling. First, his tendency to run counter to leverage despite the absence of obvious keys to do so. This will result in poor decisions at the NFL level and limit the positive gains that are there to be had.
The second is the blocking. Yes, the very quality that I just praised in the section above. The aspects he has to include in his game if he plans to contribute in pass-protection are more consistency in identifying assignments, use of hands, and maximizing his play strength via technique. At the NFL level, Williams is more likely to be on the receiving end of being laid out. On tape, his go-to move is a shoulder in the chest plate. While this is awesome for chipping guys on your way out of the backfield, good linebackers will just swim over on their way to the QB.
Could Kyren Williams become an Austin Ekeler type of player? Perhaps. He certainly has some of the qualities that could get him there. Williams is a solid runner who excels at pressing the line of scrimmage to create opportunities on the edges. Even though he possesses the quickness, burst, and play speed to succeed, his questionable vision on the outside appears to affect his play speed negatively. Good feet will allow him to produce more with less than ideal blocking in the middle of the trenches. Though primarily a successful Inside Zone runner, a heavy Inside Zone scheme with Power and Counter wrinkles is going to provide him the most opportunity for success. Stack on top of that his receiving prowess and you have a nice role player for your offense. Though his pass protection is a clear liability, some focused training in this area could make him an extremely dynamic asset on 3rd down.