Running the ball can be a lot like winning a boxing match. It's not about the knockout punch, rather it is about tiring your opponent out round, after round, after round, after round and eventually, 12 rounds in, knocking them on their ass. With running, it is not about how you run in the first quarter, it is about how the ball is moving with four minutes left to go in the game (ask the Atlanta Falcons about this). Since running the ball in a game of attrition a majority of the time, it is important to find running backs who deal out punishment for four quarters and force a defense to submit to them.
BYU's Jamaal Williams is the back who can deal out that punishment over a game. At 6-2, 220 pounds, Williams looks more like a linebacker than a running back and he lowers his pads like one, too.
Williams had a tumultuous start to his career at BYU. After a few promising seasons, Williams suffered a serious leg injury during the 2014 season that kept him out for almost two years. Despite losing so much time to recovery, however, Williams returned at full force, powering the BYU offense. He scored 12 touchdowns despite being the only big threat on the Cougar offense and facing defenses keying on him.
What stands out about Williams is his power and his motor. He will bring the same energy to the 30th carry in a game as he does to the first. His non stop, leg churning, playing style is exhausting for a defense because it becomes such a chore to try to tackle him.
His natural power and balance are so good that wimpy tackles barely phase him and running with a head full of steam makes him difficult to square up with. What is so rewarding about this running style is, after four quarters, the defense is exhausted and beaten down by the physicality of the run game. At that point, they just cave...
William's game against Michigan State is a microcosm of who he is as a player. He will give you 27 carries for four, hard earned yards, and when the defense cannot take it any more he'll break off a big run. His game is more than just natural power, however. He does a good job changing direction for a taller, bigger back and his vision is very impressive.
Williams does a very good job working through the first level by finding the hole and working through traffic. Sometimes backs with his type of ability will just depend on their natural strength and speed to clear the first level of a defense (See: Fournette, Leonard), but Williams' ability to keep himself clean for as long as possible helps him gain yardage at the end of the run. Instead of trying to run through a first level, Williams looking for daylight at the line is the difference between a five yard gain, maybe, and a 40 yard gain. These are just little things with Williams that make him so impressive.
But, if he needs to break tackles at the first level, he will.
It is hard not to love Williams due to his combination of size, strength, violent running style and non stop motor. His consistency makes him even more lovable. Williams does a lot of very impressive things, but what keeps him from being a top tier running back prospect is that he lacks a top gear. As a lot of the examples show, he finds himself in a lot of positions in the open field where many backs in this class would score. Meanwhile he is often caught from behind. Also, Williams does not have extensive experience catching the ball and his most productive season as a receiver was in 2012. Neither of these things will keep Jamaal Williams from a very productive back, but it is the difference between him being a good back and a great one.
NFL Comparison: Jamaal Williams is similar to one of my favorite backs in the league for a while, Chris Ivory. While neither are great breakaway athletes, their strength and violent running style make them very valuable in the right offenses. Neither are going to contribute a ton in the passing game, but can pass protect and, most importantly, make a big impact the other two downs.
Williams ability to move comfortably behind the line in junction with his vision make him scheme diverse. I would argue that getting him going downhill in a more power or gap oriented scheme would benefit him more, but he is the type of back who could produce in any time of situation. The Eagles may love his running style, but his lack of experience catching the ball could drop him in value for the team. In general, it is hard to see Williams falling into the late rounds. Even without top tier athletic ability and him having injury history, Williams is too consistent of a back that a team will not want to snatch him up before day two ends. Even in a stacked running back class, Williams does enough to establish himself among the ten best backs this draft.