What if I told you that a running back with one of the best speed scores in recent years is practically free in dynasty right now? As a bonus, he also takes up residence in a highly coveted backfield for fantasy purposes, a backfield that had the fourth-most expected points from RBs in 2017.
His name is one that you’ve probably already moved on from, but I’m here to tell you why it would be premature renounce this former-RotoViz favorite.
Waiting on Joe Williams
Last year around this time, 49ers rookie RB Joe Williams was a ascendant commodity in both rookie drafts and best ball leagues. After coach the coach “pounded the table” for Williams in the NFL Draft, he rose to a 13th-round ADP in MFL10s, with many tabbing him as Shanahan’s new Tevin Coleman.
He was also climbing rookie draft boards, but after missing his entire rookie season with an ankle injury, he’s now a forgotten man in dynasty leagues.
With an overall dynasty ADP of 284, Williams has only been drafted in 58 of 186 dynasty startups this offseason.
Has his situation really changed that much since this time last year? Sure, Jerick McKinnon is blocking him, but Williams was in a similar position with Carlos Hyde last year, and people were still buying then.
And he’s still the same speed freak in the mold of Coleman that Shanahan so coveted.
Big, Fast, & Productive
At the 2017 Combine, Williams posted one of the top speed scores of the past 17 years.
His 4.41 40-yard dash was tied for the 17th-best fastest overall time, but when accounting for size, few were better. Here are the RBs that ran faster than Williams’ while weighing the same, or heavier.
Speed score has a higher correlation with NFL carries and yards than does raw 40-yard dash times. Williams is in solid company here, and it would be hasty to write him off based on that alone.
It’s striking to see teammate McKinnon on that list. Shanahan has now hand-picked two RBs, both with similar profiles.
|Height||Wt||40 Yd||Vert||Bench||Broad||3 Cone||Shuttle|
Williams is just as fast as McKinnon in a straight line, but he lacks the same explosiveness and agility. However, it’s not like Williams is poor in that area — he was more explosive than Hyde, who was to be his competition in 2017.
Williams is not just fast — he was also a highly productive workhorse in his final year at Utah.
Williams’ 6.7 YPC in his final year was on pace with McKinnon’s impressive 6.8 YPC clip in his best college year.
This combination of speed, size and production led to some encouraging comps coming out of college for Williams, including the aforementioned Coleman.
While he’s no real threat to take McKinnon’s job in 2018 — and isn’t even a lock to make the team — it’s worth pointing out that McKinnon hasn’t done much in the NFL. He’s never cleared 600 yards rushing, and he’s also been among the most inefficient RBs in the league of late. His negative 25.6 rushing points over expectation mark is the 12th-worst among all RBs over the past two seasons, ranking among names like Eddie Lacy and Rashad Jennings over that time.
Williams’ commitment to football has been called into question in the past, and that could help to explain the the total lack of love.
Maybe those concerns are fair, but at his current “price,” who cares?
According to NBC Sports, coaches liked what they saw with their first look at Williams in 2018.
“I think he has a different mindset — understands a little bit more the standard of the NFL and difference. I think his body looks a lot better than it did last year. He put on a lot of muscle mass and he took advantage of the year of not playing.” – Kyle Shanahan
Any kind of stumble or injury from McKinnon, and Williams could be the back best poised to take advantage.