Former Boston College running back Andre Williams had one of the most productive seasons in college football history in 2013. He ran for over 2,100 yards and eclipsed the 250-yard mark four times.
Even with the record-breaking production, the Heisman finalist is seen as being valued as anywhere between a third and fifth round pick.
“I think the biggest issue is that it has become a pass first league,” NFL Draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “If you look back at the draft 40 years ago, running backs were the most valuable commodity there was. And today, with all the spread offenses and teams throwing the football 60, 70, 80 percent of the time, there's been a completely different emphasis in how you draft offensively.”
Williams is a tough, straight-line runner with good speed for his size – 5-11 3/4 and 230 pounds. He keeps a low pad level while looking to bowl defenders over and is rarely taken down by just one tackler.
“I would say I’m a downhill runner,” Williams said. “I’m best when my shoulders are square to the line. I make a quick cut, I get up field. I use my shoulders and hands as weapons. I like to punish the defense, punish the DBs. I like to finish in the fourth quarter.”
Williams seemed to have helped his draft stock at the NFL Combine in February. The 4.56 40-yard dash he ran was better than some scouts were expecting, and he also had excellent results in the broad jump, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle.
One concern that many scouts have about Williams is that he hasn’t shown much of an ability to make defenders miss, often electing to run through them rather than around them. The Doak Walker Award winner is also below average in pass protection and had zero receptions in 2013.
But Williams understands that he will have to change his game to adapt to the NFL.
“I think I’m going to be called upon to catch the ball more, pass protect more, know what’s going on on defense more. Make reads on fronts and coverages faster than before. That’s part of becoming a professional from the amateur level, upping your level of preparation,” Williams said.
While this year’s class of running backs does not have one standout star, it has as many as 12 quality runners that have the potential to be major contributors from their first day on the field.
“I do think the good news in this draft is that you can get in the second, third, fourth round, and find different flavors of running backs,” Mayock said. “You'll see some teams that will draft two or three running backs in one or two drafts, just so you can have a big back and a third down change of pace guy and I think that's where the league has gone and I think that's where it's going to continue to go.”
Williams played in a system at Boston College that utilized multiple tight ends, fullbacks, and pulling linemen in man-blocking schemes. He was rarely seen running without a lead blocker, nor in many plays that featured zone-blocking schemes. But Williams believes he can be an every-down back in the NFL for whatever team drafts him.
“As long as I’m getting to run the ball, no matter what scheme it is, I can have success with it,” Williams said.
Until the last regular season game of his career at BC against Syracuse, Williams never had injury concerns. The grind of the schedule - combined with getting over 30 carries in each of his four previous games - took its toll on him, although he insists that the injury he suffered against Syracuse was nothing major. He was back at it in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl one month later and had 26 carries for 75 yards and a touchdown.
Williams is seen as a high-character guy who has never had off-the-field issues. He is even working on a novel in his spare time.
“It’s called A King, A Queen and a Conscience,” Williams said. “If I had to classify it, I’d call it a philosophical memoir. I’m just pointing out the significant points in my life that shaped the way I think about the world.”