Pre-Season Scouting Report - Karlos Williams, RB Florida State

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Karlos Williams began his career at Florida State as a strong safety and played there for two seasons.  He made the move to running back this past year before the second game of the year against Nevada.  His transition came with some exciting early returns but also showed how difficult it is to pick up the position on the fly.

In a talented stable of backs including Davonta Freeman, now an Atlanta Falcon, Williams was able to show enough talent and athleticism to keep getting touches and started to get more comfortable and feel the position better as the year wore on, leading to Williams being the team’s second leading rusher.  Williams went from looking like a different player from the one that started the season.

Williams has a good amount of athleticism and potential, but the 2013 college season showed that Williams could learn the position as he went and developed into more than simply an athlete playing running back.  He was a running back that also became a terrific athlete.

Jan 6, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Karlos Williams (9) runs with the ball during the game against the Auburn Tigers for the 2014 BCS National Championship game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 6, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Karlos Williams (9) runs with the ball during the game against the Auburn Tigers for the 2014 BCS National Championship game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Williams can still get more natural in his feel for the position, getting better at setting up his blocks and avoiding the negative plays caused by indecisiveness and some hesitation.  These are issues that really diminished as the season went on, so with a full offseason of training, they may not prop up much at all, which would be good.  One other area that would help him is if he can work to get better at switching the ball to his outside arm and use his off arm as a weapon, breaking tackles.

Williams also needs to continue improving his instincts as a runner down the field and in the open field as well as continuing to simply improve as a receiving and blocking option.  The difference for Williams if he continues to develop and get better could mean the difference between an early day three pick and a solid day two pick with the arrow continuing to point north from there.

Vitals & Build

  • Born May 4 1993 (Will be 21 at the time of the 2015 NFL Draft, 22 as a rookie)
  • 6’1″ 219lbs (Listed)

Williams looks fantastic as an athlete.  He has excellent strength and power.  Williams has a nice burst and can generate momentum and power quickly.  His speed is good but not elite.  Williams demonstrates good feet, fluidity and great hips that allow him to make quick moves and contort his body effectively.

Williams’ potential as an athlete still seems high as he does have room on his frame and does look able to continuing adding bulk without hurting his athleticism, but with his running style, it could be a delicate balance soon as to how much weight is the ideal amount for what he offers as a player.

Running Style

Williams is a slashing back that likes to make darting cuts and accelerate to daylight.  Early in the year, he was far and away his most comfortable getting the ball and running outside, which is a lot of what he was asked to do.  When he would run between the tackles, he kept running up the backs of his linemen and it just looked clunky and there were yards left on the field.  Williams could still have some occasional brilliance but it was definitely a work in progress.

  • Williams shows some of his athleticism here by punishing Rayshawn Jenkins for doing a poor job of sealing the backside with a great jump cut here that opens up a big run.

As the season wore on, he got more comfortable attacking inside, finishing runs more effectively and embracing his power.  His pad level tends to be a little high and much of that is a focus of his height, but if he can work to get a little lower, it would only help him.  On the plus side, he runs with a good lean and does a great job of driving his legs through contact, so he is able to run through tackles, push the pile and maximize his runs.

Williams has shown he can set up blocks to help himself, but he needs to improve and get more consistent with his instincts when is running the ball down the field and working around blocks in space.  He tends to default go going outside and ending up going out of bounds rather than using his agility and speed to cut back and potentially punishing opponents with his size and strength.

Williams can use quickness and he can use power.  He tends to have a mindset when he is carrying the ball, going with one or the other and rarely using both, which could take him to another level as he keeps opponents guessing to how he can beat them.  If he catches them bracing for impact, he can drop a shoulder into them and if they are bracing for power, Williams can simply dart around them and keep going.

When he is decisive, he is a nasty opponent in the red zone because he can put his foot in the ground, accelerate quickly and drive opponents into the end zone.  Not only has he pushed the pile, but has some impressive highlights of just running opponents over as he scores the football.

Williams has shown he can have great vision, seeing some running lanes and being able to attack them.  Nevertheless, there are times when he makes bad cuts, sees something that is not there and tries to extend plays that are doomed to fail, only making them worse.  More experience should only help him to continue to eliminate these negative plays.

  • Williams is able to gain a head of steam quickly and while his pad level is not ideal, he has a good lean, generates momentum quickly and keeps driving his feet, pushing the pile into the end zone.

  • This a run that Williams would not have been able to make earlier in the year and shows his evolution over the course of the season as a running back.  He is patient and sets up his fullback’s block before making his first cut outside.  When it came to negotiating blocks down the field earlier in the year, Williams would exclusively cut outside toward the sideline and end up running out of room.  Here, he makes subtle cut inside and finishes the run in the end zone.

Williams does not have game breaking speed, but he has more than enough to scare teams and exploit creases in the defense.  Opposing defensive backs can get an angle on him, but his power and strength give him an added threat as they are not a guarantee to be able to bring him down if they do catch him, so his speed might not be enough to go all the way in the NFL, but he is someone who could end up getting there anyway.

The development and comfort level are obvious over the course of the season and he gets better and smarter as the year moves along.  The hope for 2014 is that he is able to hit the ground running from where he left off this past season and go beyond it, where he can really show the total package as a ball carrier.

Route Running & Technique

Williams’ experience as a safety probably helps him in this area as he has had to be pretty fluid to play there.  As a result, he has a pretty good acumen for how routes should be run.  A lot of running backs tend to round routes off and try to win with speed, but Williams has an appreciation for getting open and creating separation from defenders.

The Seminoles were also willing to let him run pro style routes that would translate to the NFL well.  Certainly, he has experience with screens and some swing passes, but he has some angle routes and wheels in addition to release routes as well.  That is invaluable as he goes to the NFL and could set him up for early success there.

  • Williams does a nice job of sinking his hips and making a good cut, giving his quarterback a good target.  The route was good but the result of the play was a drop on a slightly late throw.


As a runner, Williams is confident carrying the football and has not had issues holding onto it.  That said, he is not yet comfortable or confident enough to change which hand is carrying the ball in once he gets going, which is not the end of the world, but something that should be a focus.

Not only does carrying the ball with his inside hand make it opponents have access to potentially rip it out from Williams, but it also means he cannot use that arm as a weapon, whether he wants to club opponents or give them a stiff arm to break tackles.  Given his strength, that could be a nice addition to his arsenal of tools and one more advantage he has when carrying the ball.

As a pass catcher, Williams is not afraid to reach out and try to catch the ball with his hands.  The results tend to be somewhat mixed, but he just needs to continue to get reps and get more comfortable in that respect to eliminate the occasional drops he has, which seem to be a matter of concentration.

  • This is a common pass play used by the Seminoles, getting the ball to Williams on the swing pass as basically an extended pitch. He catches the ball with his hands away from his body and then looks to survey his options.


Williams is a pretty natural blocker.  He has a good sense of space and does a nice job of working from the inside out and becoming an extension of the blocking scheme when asked.  Williams slides pretty well and has the size, balance and strength to do a nice job.

The issue that can hurt him is when he overextends and tries to over punch, loses his balance and merely knocks an opponent off of their path slightly rather than securing the block.  He needs to secure the block and lock on to the opponent rather than worry about necessarily knocking them down in pass protection and just keep his quarterback clean.

As a lead blocker, Williams has no feel for when and whom to block.  The Seminoles used quite a bit quarterback runs with Williams leading the way and he would almost always run like he had the ball in his hands and never pick a man to block and take out of the play, so opponents would simply slip behind him to make the play.  There is an understandable desire to try to get out and take away what they hope is the last man to break the big one, but he just needs to take out the first opposing jersey he finds.

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Tags: 2015 NFL Draft Florida State Seminoles Football Karlos Williams Running Backs

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