The Buffalo Bills finished the 2016 NFL Season with an 8-8 record, marking the 16th consecutive season in which they’ve missed the playoffs. However, their young core players provide hope for the future. Here at Building the Herd, we’ll be reviewing the play of the rookies taken in the 2015 NFL Draft. Now, we’ll take a look at running back Karlos Williams.
Previous Rookie Reviews
Karlos Williams began his career at Florida State University on defense, where the former five-star recruit played safety and was impact player on special teams, both on coverage units and as a return man, where he returned 29 kicks for 655 yards.
The 6’1” 230-pounder with 4.4 speed—the fastest running back in the 2015 NFL Draft class—was converted to running back during his junior season and shined, scoring 22 touchdowns on 241 carries while gaining 1,419 yards. He added another 378 yards and a score on 37 catches out of the backfield.
This versatility and production went over the heads of NFL Draft analysts and scouts, as Karlos Williams found himself selected on day three of the draft, going No. 155 overall in the fifth round to the Buffalo Bills, a team that had just traded for LeSean McCoy and had Fred Jackson, Bryce Brown and Boobie Dixon on the depth chart.
Nonetheless, Williams battled and proved himself to the point that the Bills’ felt comfortable releasing both Jackson and Brown prior to the season. Williams solidified himself as the backup, despite dealing with a mysterious injury that sidelined him for the final preseason games.
He was ready when it mattered and the rookie took the league by storm, scoring a 26-yard touchdown on his first career carry and proceeding to find the endzone in each of the following five games as well.
Karlos is a powerful runner with a violent style of play that makes it clear that his mentality from playing on the other side of the ball is still with him. He’ll fight for extra yardage, lower his shoulders and run through defenders—rather than run away from them like most backs—and he has unique speed for his size.
Now, Williams is definitely a physical back but he doesn’t just run through defenders to gain yardage. He displays great vision and has a quick jump-cut and fantastic burst that allow him to gain yards even when the original play breaks down.
Here against the Miami Dolphins, Karlos Williams, with the help of some great second-level blocking by the offensive line, is able to navigate his way through multiple defenders en route to a 41-yard touchdown.
Karlos Williams also proved to be a problem in the passing game as well, scoring a touchdown against the New York Giants on a wheel route, shown below.
Here, Williams finds the endzone on an angle, or “Texas” route on Thursday Night Football against the New York Jets.
Karlos Williams dealt with nagging injuries throughout the season, but finished with 517 yards on 93 carries with seven touchdowns, a 5.6 yards-per-carry average, adding another 96 yards and two touchdowns on 11 catches. He averaged 2.9 yards-after-contact, the fourth best average among qualifying running backs.
19 of his touches went for at least 10 yards, nine went for at least 15, and seven for at least 20. He forced 19 missed tackles and ranked No. 9 in ProFootballFocus’ “Elusive Rating” metric. Of his nine total touchdowns, five came on plays that went for 20 or more yards. This kind of playmaking ability from a 230+ pound running back is unreal.
In Karlos Williams, the Buffalo Bills have a fantastic complementary piece to LeSean McCoy. Coming out of college, many analysts saw Williams’ high pad level and a lack of ability to change direction as negatives that would hold him back in the pros. However, Williams put those issues to rest, showing that he was more than just the short-yardage back that he was labeled as out of FSU.
Due to his style of play, Williams will likely be banged up more often than not, but as a rookie he proved that he not only belonged in the National Football League, but that he was deserving of significant playing time. Considering that his rookie year in the NFL was just his third in his life playing the running back position, the future is bright for the 22-year old heading into the 2016 season, where he’ll have a full offseason and another training camp to learn under Anthony Lynn.