Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams did not have the best performance at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last month. Williams, not known for freakish athletic ability, put up a pedestrian 4.65 time in the 40-yard dash that raised some eyebrows with NFL talent evaluators. On Friday, Williams redeemed himself with a much better time of 4.54 which should help ease some of those concerns that popped up last month.
Kyren Williams is not the kind of running back that jumps off the page with his raw athletic ability. He was never going to put up fast times like say Josh Adams or Dexter Williams. That’s not who Williams is. He’s excellent because of his vision, balance, patience, and tackle-breaking ability. Traits that are critical to be a good running back that are impossible to “test” in any non-contact drill at any combine. Still, a time in the 4.6 range again on Friday might have been disastrous for his draft positioning.
For better or worse, NFL scouts still put a lot of stock into things like the 40-yard dash even though it’s rare for any player to be in a situation where they are running, unopposed, in a straight line for 40 yards. And that doesn’t even take into account that the 40 is always run without pads.
All any NFL GM or scout has to do to know what kind of back Kyren Williams is, is put on his tape. Watch the 91-yarder against North Carolina where he was dead to rights multiple times and then outran the entire North Carolina defense. I don’t know what his GPS numbers from that run measured, but he looked pretty fast on that run to me.
Running backs aren’t generally treated as a premium position in the Draft anymore, so Williams was never likely going to be a super high pick regardless of what he ran at the Combine or at Notre Dame’s Pro Day. With a 4.54 time on the books yesterday though, Williams likely doesn’t tumble any further than his pre-Combine projection of a mid-round selection. Had he run another 4.65 yesterday, maybe he would have fallen further into the back half of the draft.
Most Draft sites still have Williams slatted in the 3rd/4th round range which will give some team incredible value. Williams has an extremely high floor in the NFL and at worst projections as a third-down back with the potential for a long career ala Theo Riddick. Williams has done everything he can to shake the “third-down back” stigma, but if that’s the worst case for him, that’s still not too shabby. Riddick hauled in $14.2M during his career and only took the hits from 294 career carries.
Williams’s goal is to be much more than a third-down back though. And there is no rule that says you have to have blazing speed to be an every-down back in the NFL. Sure it helps, but there’s a long line of really fast running backs who would have loved to have the career longevity of someone like Riddick.