2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: BYU RB Jamaal Williams

From now until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

#21 Jamaal Williams / RB / BYU 6’2 215 lbs

The Good:

– Keeps legs moving after contact
– Great combination of power and elusiveness
– Capable of breaking multiple tackles
– Falls forward when being tackled
– Smart – Has tendency to switch ball to sideline arm
– Can squeeze in holes up the middle
– Spin move and stiff arm
– Has pass catching experiences

The Bad:

– Does not possess home run speed
– Needs to polish pass protection technique
– Has tendency to lung at rushers and whiff on blocks
– Needs to run north-south more consistently
– Durability / injury concerns


– 2016: 234 carries, 1375 yards, 5.9 YPC, 12 TDs
– BYU’s All Time Leading Rusher with 3901 yards
– Set BYU’s single game rushing record with 286 yards vs Toledo last season
– Tied for third in BYU history with 35 rushing touchdowns
– Skipped the 2015 season for “personal reasons”
– Ankle injury resulted in 3 missed games last season
– Knee injury derailed 2014 season
– Has 60 receptions in four years at BYU

Tape Breakdown:

At first glance, you can not help but notice Jamaal William’s size. Standing at 6’2 and around 215-pounds, Williams has the picture-perfect frame to be a running back in the NFL. Williams’ frame is not the sole reason why I believe he can be a successful all-purpose running back but it is how the BYU running back uses his size to his advantage that caught my eye.

Williams is a stout running back who uses his size to overpower defenders who dare to bring him down. Having great patience and vision, Williams routinely makes it past the line of scrimmage and it is here where the BYU running back is most dangerous. Weighing around 215 pounds, Williams is tough work for linebackers and defensive backs at the second level.

Here is a play from BYU’s game against Michigan State that stood out as a great example of Williams’ power.

On this play Williams breaks three tackles before being carried out of bounds by two more Michigan State defenders. That totals five defenders or almost half the defense to just bring Williams out of bounds. Williams’ ability to fight through contact and keep his legs moving reminds me of the now retired Marshawn Lynch.

Like Lynch, who was also 215 pounds, Williams is also highly elusive for his size. Single handily responsible for BYU’s offense at times, Williams’ has the potential to beat you with his power or his elusiveness. Watch below as Williams uses all of his skillset to provide a huge gain against Arizona.

Williams beats three defenders once again, two with his power and one with a great juke move to get into a foot race up the sideline. This play could be the defining run of Williams’ college game tape for more reasons than just his impressive ability to turn nothing into something.

As soon as Williams knows he will running up the left sideline, he immediately switches the ball over to his left arm. Perhaps not a feature that will propel Williams to first round discussion but a smart decision that is often forgotten in today’s game.

Smart is a word that I find myself using often while watching William’s game tapes. The record setting 286-yard performance against Toledo speaks volumes about Williams’ decision making. Excellent vision, power and quickness make Williams the great one-cut running back that is seen on tape.

Though a backside defender stands in Williams’ path to the open field, the BYU back is too quick to be stopped. Cutting away from the strong side of the line, Williams sees a hole and accelerates through it. The result is a touchdown – one of five that Williams scored that day.

Speaking of touchdowns, here is another of Williams’ cut back runs on his way to the end zone. This one occurs near the goal line against West Virginia.

BYU is in 21 personnel here with a full back and tight end assigned to block the right side of the line. When Williams receives the handoff, there is already two defenders surrounding him in the backfield. Williams then proceeds to cut back to the weak side, scoring a touchdown and completely freezing the backside defender in the process.

Williams was asked to pass protect more than receive last season and the results were a mixed bag. Williams has a good foundation for anchoring, he bends and extends his arms under the blitzer’s chest.

Williams does a good job of picking up Michigan State’s Chris Frey on the blitz, getting under his pad level and then shoving him outside the pocket. Where Williams scores a negative on his pass blocking is in his tendency to lunge at incoming blitzers, resulting in multiple missed blocks.

The only forces riding against Williams’ draft stock is the running back’s injury concerns after ankle and knee injuries in his last two seasons in which he played. If Williams can stay on the field, the BYU product could become a workhorse back at the next level. With a electrifying combination of strength, elusiveness and vision, Williams could be a great value pick towards the end of day two.

Projection: Late Day Two (Third Round)

Games Watched: vs Toledo, vs Michigan State, vs Arizona, vs West Virginia, vs Mississippi State

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun WatsonHaason ReddickMarshon LattimoreCorey ClementTim Williams
Jourdan LewisTakkarist McKinleyBrad KaayaNathan PetermanO.J. Howard
Charles HarrisAlvin KamaraTyus BowserDavid NjokuDeMarcus Walker
Chidobe AwuzieDeShone KizerMarlon MackCameron SuttonZach Cunningham
Corey DavisCarl LawsonPatrick MahomesKareem HuntEvan Engram
Derek RiversRyan AndersonJoshua DobbsJordan LeggettSamaje Perine
Corn ElderBucky HodgesJames ConnerCooper KuppStanley Williams
Fred Ross

About the Author

Daniel Valente

Steelers fan from birth, spending majority of my free time looking up statistics. Had the honor of meeting Mike Vanderjagt shortly after his infamous missed field goal in the 2005 Divisional Round. Currently pursuing a Journalism degree. Follow me on Twitter @StatsGuyDaniel

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Daniel –

    Excellent article. As usual. Very well done with the video and evaluations. I enjoy your work.

    I have friends who know Williams personally and by all accounts he is a GREAT person as well.

    I am a believer in the “duplicate” model when it comes to drafting depth. If your system is built around a RB like LeVeon Bell you draft back up RB’s that resemble LeVeon Bell. And Jamaal Williams fits that profile in many regards. (Let me be clear. I’m not saying they’re clones. I’m saying there are certain similarities.)

    Williams needs to work on his pass protection technique but he has the size/strength to do so. He also needs to work on his receiving skills, but he wasn’t asked to do that a lot at BYU.

    My prediction (due to the depth at RB this year) is that Williams will slip into 5th or 6th round range, which would be excellent value for the Steelers.

  • PaeperCup

    Watching Bell play, I’ve come to accept that the lack of breakaway speed is not as necessary if the player shows smartness and vision.

    Hows William’s pass catching?

  • falconsaftey43

    I really like his game. If he can make it to the 4th, I’d be all over that.

  • Bill Sechrengost

    i think the Steelers would be looking to draft a RB right around where this guy is projected to be taken. I would think he would be in the mix along with Clement and Hill from Wyoming.

  • Daniel Valente

    He was asked to pass protect more this season but Williams did have 45 receptions in his first two seasons at BYU. I believe ability is there to be a competent pass catching threat.

  • Spencer Krick

    Oh man I like this guy, he’d be great backup to Bell. I think I like Kareem Hunt just a little better, but I’d be very happy with Williams in the third.

  • Daniel Valente

    Thank you, I appreciate your input !
    I agree with just about everything you’ve mentioned. If Williams is there in the 5th or 6th, I may run up to the podium myself and announce the pick on the behalf of Colbert haha

  • Applebite

    3rd-4th rd.
    And if he’s not there, there’s also Elijah McGuire…

  • Jeff Papiernik

    God are any of these RBs in this draft class good at blocking? I don’t want Big Ben killed out there. Basically, if they’re not solid in pass protection, I’m taking them off my list as a guy I’d want.

  • Has similarities to Bell, a different stride though, he actually looks a tick faster than Bell. I like this guy

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    It looks like he has the same gait as L Bell…uncanny!

  • Jeff Papiernik

    Elijah McGuire….seems like a very intriguing prospect that can be had in the late rounds. He draws a Kenneth Dixon comparison.

  • PaeperCup

    haha….I ask the same thing about the TE class.

  • Matt Manzo

    That’s what I’m hoping! 3rd round seems too high, for us, with the injury concerns.

  • Matt Manzo

    How concerning are the injuries? He sounds perfect other than that!

  • VaDave

    Not taking anything away, but that’s some serious blocking he’s running behind. Too bad we’re loaded at OL.

  • Brian Miller

    Thanks daniel, well done. I have been high on him for a while. I think he or Hill are the perfect RBs to grab this year. They can do it all.

  • Daniel Valente

    Had an ankle injury last year that forced him to sit out 3 games and a “significant knee injury” ended his 2014 season. But the knee injury is now two and a half years removed, so do not think he is at anymore risk than any other player.

  • RyanW

    As a BYU fan I watched his entire college career. Dude is a great person and a great player. Without him BYU may not have even been bowl eligible. Kid plays hard every down. I would love to have him and Bell as a duo.

  • Michael Dages

    PaeperCup – BYU fan her and I have watched all of his games. Jamal is a great pass catcher and has the ability to make the first several guys miss or just run them over. The problem is the offense that was run at BYU before the coaching change was the spread and they did not throw to the back that often.

    Personally any NFL team that gets this kid will be getting a diamond in the ruff. Also I would not worry so much about the injury’s because it was the coaches that were holding him out not him. They were more concerned about his long term goals then risking his future in the NFL.

  • PaeperCup

    Michael, thanks for the comments! I too am a BYU fan, but out where I live I don’t get to watch many games. But I do follow them somewhat, and know Williams was the BYU offense. Their defense was pretty solid, but Taysom Hill was just a fraction of himself this year, and Williams carried the load literally and figuratively. …really not too unlike Bell’s role.