In the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills may have found another steal at the running back position in Arkansas Razorbacks senior Jonathan Williams. Williams had high expectations heading into the 2015 season after rushing for 1,190 yards and 12 touchdowns on 211 carries in 2014, but suffered a torn ligament in his foot that caused him to miss his senior campaign.
The addition of another running back was questionable to some Bills’ fans, but in Greg Roman’s run-first offense, Jonathan Williams is a much needed asset to a team that used seven running backs due to injury last year. Standing 5’11” and weighing 224-pounds, Williams has a rare combination of power, quickness, patience and burst that makes him an exciting player to watch and a perfect fit for the gap-blocking scheme the Bills run.
In his three years with the Razorbacks, Jonathan Williams gained 2,321 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground, averaging 5.7 yards-per-carry while adding 345 yards and six touchdowns on 26 receptions. Let’s break down the various traits to his game while showing why he’s a solid fit for the Buffalo Bills’ offense.
Jonathan Williams Footwork, Balance
The first thing that stands out about Jonathan Williams is that he’s got ridiculously quick feet for a bigger back. His feet are always moving and he’s got a low center of gravity with a thick lower body that make him a problem to bring down in space. Williams’ lower body strength and consistent leg drive allow him to routinely break tackles and pick up big chunks of yardage on plays that would typically result in a stop.
Here against Missouri, it’s 2nd-and-18. Williams gets the handoff and runs into a wall at the line of scrimmage. Aided by a block, he breaks free from the tackle attempt and manages to pick up 15 yards.
The following play against Texas A&M is just a ridiculous display of vision, footwork, burst and power by Jonathan Williams. He receives the handoff and quickly jump-cuts to his left to avoid traffic. As he accelerates downfield, he meets an Aggie defender in the hole. Williams’ feet don’t stop and he spins out of the tackle, picking up another 15 yards before finally being brought down.
Jonathan Williams makes a similar play against Alabama. Backed up against his own endzone on a third-and-nine situation, Williams shows the same jump cut, spin move and burst to not only convert the first down, but pick up additional yardage.
Jonathan William has great functional strength and plays with low pad level, making himself a difficult target to bring down.
Jonathan Williams Patience, Vision, Burst
The Buffalo Bills’ complex blocking scheme relies on running backs that can be patient when setting up their blocks before locating a hole and exploding through it. Jonathan Williams shows this ability on a routine basis, an impressive trait for a young running back to possess, as most will tend to run full speed through a gap and pick up whatever they can.
Williams doesn’t hesitate in the backfield—he’ll let the play develop, locate an opening and burst through it.
He shows this against Texas Tech, making the first defender miss with his signature jump cut before bursting through a small gap and gaining about 20 yards.
In the same game, Jonathan Williams runs into traffic as he receives the handoff, but instead of bouncing to the outside like many young running backs would, he stays calm, locating an opening to his right and accelerating through it for a score.
Here against Alabama, the Razorbacks dial up a run between the tackles. There’s nothing there, but Williams once again shows off his great vision and quick feet, cutting through a small hole and picking up 16 yards to move the chains.
This patience and burst is invaluable, particularly in short-yardage situations, as you can see in the following play against Texas A&M. Williams gets the handoff, but instead of just running full-speed to crash through the line of scrimmage, he lets the blocks develop while keeping his feet moving before squeezing through the gap and converting the first down.
Jonathan Williams Power, Leg Drive
Jonathan Williams is incredibly strong and doesn’t go down easily. It’s fairly common to see him dragging a defender or three several yards to move the chains on one play, while bouncing off various opponents like a pinball en route to a first down.
He’s a violent runner that doesn’t stop driving forwards until the whistle blows.
Jonathan Williams Fit With Buffalo Bills
Jonathan Williams certainly joins a crowded and talented backfield, but with the Buffalo Bills likely to carry four running backs on the 53-man roster, he certainly has a legitimate chance to not only make the team, but to make an impact as well. His physical style of play certainly lends itself to special teams coverage—an absolute must to earn a spot on the bottom of the roster.
But, it’s also his advanced knowledge of the smaller nuances of the running back position that Williams shows that makes him an exciting depth player. While he only caught 26 passes in his three years with Arkansas, that was more a function of the offense than an indictment of his ability as you can see here.
He’ll obviously start behind LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams, but he’ll be in a three-way competition with Mike Gillislee and James Wilder Jr. for (likely) two spots on the roster.