Andre Williams has been the focal point of the Boston College this season. If he is not getting the football as a runner, they are faking it to him to set up their play action passing. Williams is a power running back that lowers his shoulders, runs with high knees and just drives the opponent down the field. He is the type of runner who might hit with a bunch of jabs before landing the big shot in the form of a big run, but he has been BC’s bell cow.
Going to the NFL, Williams is an attractive prospect because he is not afraid to be decisive and pick up tough yards. He has the size and strength combined with sheer will to take a lot of carries and continue being effective. Williams has the ability to be a good blocker, but he has not shown he can be an effective pass catcher yet. As a result, he can be a good complement to a unit of running backs and when he gets the hot hand, a team can ride him. Williams projects as a day three prospects that could end up outplaying his draft slotting because the nature of the position has changed, but Williams is the type of guy that teams love to have around because they know they can feed him and get yardage and it would not be a surprise if coaches pound the table for him because of that ability to take carries and get tough yardage.
Vitals & Build
Williams is listed at 6’ 227lbs and has a strong build with broad shoulders and strong thighs. He has a nice first step and burst, but his overall speed is relatively average. His overall strength is good but his functional strength can be extremely impressive at times. Williams is a big back with size but looks good and might be able to continue adding strength going forward without changing what he is fundamentally as a back.
Williams is an old school, downhill runner that is extremely effective because he knows where he is at his best and embraces it. When Williams has his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage, he is extremely difficult to tackle. He brings a ton of power and knows when he needs to lower his shoulder and push for extra yardage with terrific leg drive that can require several players to stop him. Williams runs with naturally high knees that allows him to run through tackles from the side and behind.
Boston College certainly has plays where Williams will attack to the outside or stretch plays where he will be parallel to the line of scrimmage, but he makes sure to plant his foot in the ground to make sure his shoulders are square to take on contact and really to deliver punishment. This is especially true when he can get to the second and third levels of the defense. He knows he is bigger and stronger than the opponent, so he is someone who is not looking to go out of bounds, but sees an opportunity to deliver a blow on an opponent and make them pay for tackling him.
His speed is largely average but he does have a decent burst to get him out in front of opponents, so while he is not a big threat to take runs for 50 yards, he is someone who can get 15-20 yard carries. And the tackles behind the line of scrimmage are not common. Provided he can get those legs going, he is someone who is going to pick up something with his carries.
Williams can make a quick move with agility to make an opponent miss, usually a stutter step, but much of what he does in terms of making defenders miss him is in his decisiveness with his cuts. For the most part, Williams has a good sense of when he needs to put his foot in the ground and turn a play up the field. In those decisions, he can end up taking an opponent out of the play and make them miss whether it is making a choice that allows him to cut a play in the middle or make an outside move. Williams has a really strong first step and gets a nice burst out of his cuts as a result.
Williams does a good job of reading his blocks. Boston College is not afraid to pull multiple linemen and have a fullback and tight end in front of him, so there are situations when he has to set up and read blocks well while there are also situations where he is a single back and needs to find a hole or make a hole for himself.
Largely considered a dying breed, Williams is a workhorse and one of the few backs that gets stronger as the game goes on and can wear down a defense where smaller gains early in the game can turn into big gains into the fourth quarter before he ultimately is able to break their will in the end.
Williams is effective when it comes to short yardage or goal line carries. He does not mess around, plants his foot in the ground, gets behind his pads and just drives for the yardage or the end zone. Williams has been able to drive and drag more than a few opponents backward either into the end zone or to pick up first downs.
Williams has only caught 10 passes in his career and has yet to catch a pass as a senior, so this is an area where he will have to prove he can contribute in the offseason process. The one concern that Williams has to clean up is fumbling. So far, he has only had one as a senior but he had four fumbles in nine games last year. His running style and fighting for extra yards can open up opportunities for defenders to chop and rip at the ball, but it is still something that needs to be continually worked to address.
Much of the Eagles passing game is based around play action, so Williams often has blocks defined for him by virtue of where he naturally goes as an extension of the run fake. It can also put him in tough spots if the opponent is coming from a weird angle and he has to try to recover to make a block. When he is able to get in front of them, he hits with a decent punch and is often inclined to try to knock a guy out with his initial hit.
He has the lateral agility and feet to get out and slide in protection. There just are not a ton of plays where he is asked to diagnose a situation and make the appropriate block. It does not mean he cannot, but just has not been asked to do it much. The times when he has the time to get set and slide, he can be extremely impressive with his blocking technique. In some respects, blocking out of a traditional drop back pass might be easier for him because he has the time to set up and make a good block.
Williams’ best fit is in a system that allows him to come in and be a hammer; a power team that wants to beat opponents up as they go down the field. He can certainly play in other schemes, but he might not be as effective. His best fit within a multiple back system is for goal line and short yardage carries, but he could also be a second half and fourth quarter closer. When a team can get a lead and wants to shorten the game, Williams is a great option for situations when they are daring the opponent to stop them from running the ball. That was the situation for Williams much of his time in college anyway, so he is used to it.
Williams’ game could be similar to that of Rashad Jennings of the Oakland Raiders. Jennings was an impressive power runner coming out of Liberty who found a spot on Jacksonville’s roster as a rotational back with that same kind of downhill style. Jennings has been a better than Williams has been, but if Williams can add that aspect to his game, he could be the same type of power complement in the NFL to teams that Jennings has been.
Andre Williams has a great build to absorb punishment while dealing some of his own and a skill set that allows him to fight for extra yardage as runner. When he gets behind his pads, he can be dangerous and combined with a high knee style of running, he can break a number of tackles. The questions with Williams come down to his top end speed and his ability to catch the football as he has had few opportunities to do it. If Williams can prove that in the draft process, it could bump him up a little bit, but Williams projects as a third day pick with the potential to be a ‘lightning in a bottle’ type runner in the NFL if he ends up on the right team, because he can take so many carries
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com