Let me start by saying, I've been very vocal about how much I disagreed with the selection of Ryan Williams in the second round. I didn't think running back was an area of need, especially considering the state-or lack thereof- of our offensive line. With that being said though, I'm not going to hold that against Williams as a player and I also think that gives me an interesting view on him at this point. Since I didn't see RB as an area of need, I didn't look at any early round backs so I had no idea what scouts thought of Williams or really any of his strengths or weaknesses. After a day or so of watching nearly every youtube video I could find on this kid, I've come away thinking that there are certainly some promising aspects to his game and he may very well end up being this team's starting back sooner rather than later. Here are my pros and cons:
Pros: It didn't take very long to tell this guy have very good vision. I can't tell you how many times he took runs away from design and turned small cut backs into big gains. To go with that excellent vision, he has a burst that really helps him get through the hole once he squares his shoulders. He also has pretty good balance which will allow him to break more tackles than you'd expect from a guy with his speed. He will be able to bounce of guys who try to tackle him with their shoulder only (Antrel Rolle-type tackles if you will). He is capable of lowering his shoulder and delivering a blow although he seems to prefer to try and outrun defenders more often then not. He's pretty elusive in the open field for a 200 pound back and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield will allow him to stay on the field, regardless of down or distance.
Cons: I only came up with two big negatives on Williams' game. First I am almost positive we'll read a story during training camp or preseason about Whisenhunt wanting Williams to get through the hole instead of 'dancing' in the backfield (ala Tim Hightower). At Va Tech Williams was almost always able to find a hole and blow through it but I saw multiple runs where he'd make multiple cuts or completely reverse his field in an attempt to make something out of nothing. Most young backs go through that but I could see Williams struggling with that early on, especially considering he seems to have relied primarily on his speed in colllege. My second negative is that I think he'll have to get better at finishing his runs. There were several, several times where it looked like he could have stiff armed a much smaller defenders at the end of runs but instead he just tried to run by them. I'll also add that he'll have to work more on keeping the ball closer to his body and putting both arms on the ball as he gets into traffic.
Overall, Williams seems to have all the tools to become a well above average starting back in this league. He's capable of breaking off long runs, catching the ball out of the backfield and seems to also have a nose for the goal line. He'll of course have to grow as a professional and improve all aspects of his game but I honestly think his biggest challenge early on will be finding any creases to run through considering how poor the offensive line will be in 2011. Williams might make a bigger impact out of the backfield as a safety valve for whatever QB is trying to quickly dump the ball. In time I could see Williams becoming a perfect "one cut and go" type of back (a Mike Shannohan-type guy) or even developing into a slightly smaller version of Steven Jackson.