2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Utah RB Joe 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.

#28 Joe Williams / RB / 5’11 205 lbs

The Good:

– Tremendous amount of natural athleticism to work with
– Powers through weak arm tackles
– Extremely shifty, can bounce in and out of running lanes
– Runs with good balance
– Has home run speed at the second level
– Great vision, can see running lanes develop
– Blocking is passable

The Bad:

– Momentum is halted when running upright, a tendency that Williams has
– Hesitates behind the line which leads to poor decisions at times
– Needs to improve ball security
– Limited as a receiver due to bad hands

Bio:

– 2016: 210 carries, 1407 yards, 10 TD, 6.7 yards per carry
– 1884 rushing yards in 2 seasons at Utah
– 20 receptions for 191 yards in 2 seasons at Utah
– Honorable mention All Pac 12 in 2016
– 322 rushing yards vs UCLA last season is a Utah record
– “Retired” mid season in 2016 but returned to finish the year
– Backed up Devontae Booker in 2015

Tape Breakdown:

After completing profiles on Kentucky’s Boom Williams and BYU’s Jamaal Williams, I felt it was only fair that I took on the last of the Williams’ trio and look at Utah’s Joe Williams. Like his two classmates, there is a lot to like about the Utah’s running back body of work.

Williams’ incredible contact balance is an item to keep your eye on and will be a recurring theme in his game-tapes. Despite not being the tallest or heaviest back in the class, Williams’ very rarely is brought down by arm tackles.

Second level defenders are no match for Williams, who keeps his legs churning throughout the pursuit enabling him to shake off multiple defenders. (And an honorable mention to Ralph Green III of Indiana who treks about 32 yards from the line of scrimmage to make the tackle.)

Williams’ also has great vision and quickness to navigate through running lanes, helping him average almost seven yards per carry last season.

Though Williams tends to hesitate when a hole does not present itself, he does not waste a second when a running lane does appear. With great quickness and a smooth change of direction, Williams’ style reminds me of a young Felix Jones. The play above against Oregon is just one of the many examples of Williams’ quickness and ability to cut through multiple running lanes.

Here’s a slow-motion demonstration to truly appreciation Williams’ craft when it comes to cut and change direction.

Williams’ lateral cut slips him right in-between two Washington defenders. One of those defenders, Vita Vea (#50), mimicked the act of attempting to catch a butterfly in the process of trying to tackle Williams.

There may be an abundance of qualities to like about Williams’ play but there are a few downsides that are bumping the Utah running back’s stock down towards a day three projection.

Just by reviewing the previous plays, it is noticeable that Williams’ is an upright runner who struggles to keep his shoulders down and tends to look like a sprinter more than a running back. Running upright leads Williams to see his momentum halted as he is met by contact, such as the play below.

Another issue with Williams’ game is his inability to be a third down running back. Williams’ is a fair blocker but struggles mightily with catching the football.

Plagued with poor hands and concentration issues as a receiver, Williams will be extremely limited in an offense at the next level unless he improves the receiving aspect of his game.

But the piece of Williams’ pre-draft portfolio that stands out the most may not even be a aspect of his on field play. Williams’ “retired” after Utah’s second game last season, though he ended up returning down the stretch to aid Utah’s injury riddled backfield. Uncertainty over the decision roamed in the air for a few months before Williams took to an interview with USA Today, in which he states that it was the mental grief of a sister’s death a decade earlier that caused him to step away. And though Williams has put that information out there and I commend him for it, I still expect many NFL teams were curious to hear it for themselves in their meetings with Williams during the NFL Combine. How Williams’ fared during these interviews could be the deciding factor in where Williams sees himself selected.  Based strictly on Williams’ production and toolset, I would project the Utah running back as a mid day three selection.

Projection: Mid Day Three (Round 5-6)

Games Watched: vs Washington, vs Oregon, vs Indiana, vs UCLA

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 RossJamaal WilliamsGeorge KittleEjuan PriceChris Wormley
Jeremy McNicholsJoe MathisDerek BarnettAmba Etta-TawoGareon Conley
Taco Charlton Elijah McGuireRyan SwitzerTanoh KpassagnonTre’Davious White
Brian HillMatthew DayesDonnel PumphreyJosh ReynoldsNazair Jones
De’Veon SmithDavis WebbObi MelifonwuTJ WattJohn Ross
Jerod EvansVince BiegelJosh CarrawayJosh MaloneKevin King
Fadol BrownChris GodwinNate GerryJordan WillisStacy Coley
Zay JonesJimmie GilbertGlen AntoineTarell BashamDuke Riley
Rayshawn JenkinsChad KellyTrey HendricksonJeremy Sprinkle

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

  • Sdale

    Bummer about the hands. Looks like a nice back otherwise.

  • SoCal Steeler

    This is the guy I wanted as a backup. I thought he was impressive at the Combine . I’m sure they can work on the hands somwhat. I was thinking he’d go in the 4th but 5th would be even better. I’d take Connor there too but prefer Williams as a runner. I was thinking that he better have a good reason for retiring and I guess that was a good enough. Although it was 10 years previous? I’d want to be sure about his heart & commitment. So, maybe those questions do drop him to the 5th or 6th Rds That would be great for a 3rd Rd. talent with commitment issues.

  • Steve

    Williams is a Great running back and would be THE guy to complement Bell in our backfield. He has tremendous vision and can cut back with the best back in the game. IMHO don’t think there is any way Joe Williams last until round 5 and if he does it will be the Steal of the century. If the Steelers can get DHB to have better concentration in a catch then Coach Mann can do wonder with Joe. Mark my words, Joe Williams is going to be a Pro Bowl back in the NFL.

  • SoCal Steeler

    Totally agree that he would be a great complement to Bell and if we get him I hope you’re right about him making the pro bowl. I think the only reasons he could fall would be his hands and questions about his commitment.