Williams was a four-star recruit coming out of his Missouri high school, where he logged 179 carries for 2,035 yards and 26 touchdowns as a senior. He added 55 receptions for 725 yards for an astronomical 2,760 total yards. He was widely recruited and opted for Notre Dame where he was shelved in his first year to retain full four-year eligibility.
He became the starter in his second season though technically he was still a freshman. Williams was named as the ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2020. After two seasons with over 1,300 total yards in each and a total of 78 receptions, he declared for this draft.
Williams is one of the more interesting players in the draft since there’s a huge division between what he did on the field, and how he measured up at the NFL Combine. There’s no disputing that he was a playmaker for Notre Dame, showing great agility on the field and considered a back that can score on any play. He was a revelation as a pass-catcher, something that is likely to be his calling card in the NFL.
Weight: 194 pounds
40 time: 4.64 seconds
He’s considered one of the most complete backs in the draft. Williams was a team captain and a leader in the locker room and on the field. He served as a true three-down back. But his physical measurables were a disappointment at the NFL draft, and that will drop him on most, if not all, draft boards.
Table: Kyren Williams NCAA stats (2019-2021)
|Year||Team||Games||Runs||Yards||Avg.||TD||Catch||Yards.||TD||Total Yards||Total TDs|
- Never came off the field in college. Complete back that led the offense.
- Shifty runner that was hard to bring down in open field.
- Always stepped up when given a bigger workload.
- Proven receiving skills and can work from slot.
- Can bounce to the outside if needed, but is elusive in traffic.
- Durable each year.
- Rusher, receiver from backfield or slot, and a punt returner.
- Plays bigger than his size.
- Excelled in short yardage.
- Team leader with a great attitude and unquestioned effort.
- 28 5/8″ arms were the shortest of all combine running backs.
- 4.64 40-time at the combine was 0.01 seconds from being the slowest among running backs.
- 194 pounds was the second lightest.
- Needs to improve pass blocking at the pro level.
- More likely to struggle at inside running in the NFL.
Kyren Williams was a Top-3 back on many draft boards and may still be. But his slow 40-time coupled with a smaller size frame than expected is a cause for concern for NFL scouts looking for a back that can contribute at the pro level. Short arms could mean fewer catches though he’s been an outstanding receiver in college, including running intermediate routes from the slot. He’s not just a swing pass out of the backfield when the pass rush draws near.
He ran in 27 touchdowns over the last two years while totaling 415 carries over 24 games. But 5-9 and 195 pounds, his only comparably-sized starting running back is Austin Ekeler (combine: 5-10, 195 pounds), but he ran a 4.43 40-time and he went undrafted. Ekeler is also up to 200 pounds currently.
The only other back that small in the last few drafts was Kenneth Gainwell (5-11, 195) but he ran a 4.44 40-time and was a fifth-round pick.
This is not considered a good draft for running backs with potentially none taken in the first round. Williams is expected to likely be a Round 3 selection, so he could end up on any NFL team. His size and proven receiving ability suggest a role as a third-down back and a complementary role in a committee.
Williams presents a dilemma for evaluators. He was a centerpiece of a Fighting Irish team that went 11-2 and 10-2 in his seasons as the starter. He is as complete a back as any in this draft. Disregard those measurables and he does rate as a Top-3 pick for running backs. But history has rarely been kind to players that were revelations in college but fall short in height, weight, arm length, and speed.
All Williams has done is produce, be a leader, and raise the level of play of those around him. He’ll make an interesting fantasy pick as a rookie and it will rely heavily on the opportunity he is allowed on whichever team he ends up with. He has to answer the question – which is more important? Bringing all the measurables of a prototypical successful back, or having tremendous success in college despite size and speed limitations?