Notre Dame RB Kyren Williams established himself as a name to remember for 2022 dynasty fantasy football managers. Following a successful collegiate career, what are Williams’ strengths, are there any concerns, and how does his landing spot with the Los Angeles Rams impact his dynasty value in 2022 and beyond?
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Kyren Williams’ dynasty fantasy profile
Of all the players I’ve evaluated this offseason in preparation for the 2022 NFL Draft and dynasty offseason, Notre Dame’s Williams has unquestionably been my favorite. I’m not saying that means he’s the best, but he just so happens to be outstanding too.
This is not a new thing, nor will I say I’m original, but you can’t sit there and watch Williams and not have an image of Austin Ekeler running around in your head. At 5’9″ and 194 pounds, Williams is a near mirror image of Ekeler, who came in at 5’8 5/8″ and 198. What sets them apart — and is something we will touch on — is their tenacity on the field. That’s where Williams draws you in, as he simply punches far above his weight class.
Williams was a productive two-year starter
A three-year player at Notre Dame, Williams is more versatile than Brian Kelly’s wide range of accents. As a first-year starter in 2020, Williams rushed 211 times for 1,125 yards with 13 touchdowns while hauling in 35 receptions for 313 yards and another score.
Then, in 2021, he proved it wasn’t a fluke. Williams touched the ball 246 times with 1,002 yards on the ground, 359 yards in the air, and found paydirt 17 times.
I get that he’s not some imposing figure on the field or the guy you want to step off the bus first on road games. But Williams is what you look for in a modern NFL and fantasy running back. He has versatility not only in his rushing style but also in passing utilization and protection.
Williams’ path to fantasy stardom will be difficult
I want nothing more than for Williams to light the NFL on fire. Just go out there, ball out, and shut people up. However, my enthusiasm has dwindled despite my seemingly glowing profile on him. At 5’9″, Williams being small doesn’t bother me. Being that size and sub-200 pounds is concerning, however.
Now, it’s one thing to be small — but be fast. You can’t be slow and small. Unfortunately for Williams, his 4.65 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine was a death sentence for his chance of early-round draft capital. He did improve his time at the Notre Dame Pro Day with a 4.54, but we need to remember those times are published from either the school or people who could stand to benefit from players performing well. Just food for thought.
Williams has gone from being a top-four RB to someone who might not go inside the top 10 at the position in some dynasty rookie drafts. If Williams falls to me, I’m absolutely going to bet on his tape but only at the right value (ideally in the late second to third round).
As we will get to in Williams’ film breakdown, there’s so much to love in his game for rookie drafts.
I’ll start off by saying this: Wiliams is not deficient at anything as a running back. Of the traits I use to evaluate RB prospects, Williams did not score below “NFL average” in a single one of them.
That’s vision, contact balance, burst, inside and open-field agility, physicality, tackle-breaking, long speed, patience, hands, receiving versatility, and pass pro. I place all those traits on a weighted scale based on their importance to me and assign a value. Williams eclipsed the threshold on every single one.
For one, Williams has strong vision, finding the crease and reading leverage in the second level. His feet follow his eyes, allowing him to square up and hit the hole. His vision between the tackles is superb.
There’s not a ton of wasted movement with Williams. He’s an efficient but dynamic rusher with the skills to string multiple moves together. It also helps that Williams’ contact balance is great. While not a power back, he runs powerfully.
Williams is the most versatile RB of the 2022 fantasy rookie class
Williams shines in the passing game. As the stats point out, he’s a dynamic receiving weapon. Leave him in the backfield or move him out wide. It’s all the same. Williams excelled in both situations and has a route tree that complements this usage. Want him to stay behind and help in pass pro? Perfect, as this might be his best trait yet. I’d go so far as to say he might have reset the scale.
Sure, it’s my lowest weighted metric, but a player’s willingness and desire show so much. And in pass protection, it tells you Williams is a football player who wants to be a tone-setter and lead by example. It’s one of the reasons he was a captain at Notre Dame and why he’ll endear himself to whatever locker room he steps into come summer.
As much as I want to leave this a glowing review, there are some areas in which Williams can improve.
Ball security is a crucial area for Williams. As a rookie, you need to be secure with the ball. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how much some random dude sitting at his office chair loved you — you’re going to the sidelines.
Williams was credited with 3 fumbles (1 lost) in 2021 and an additional 5 (3 lost) throughout his 2020 campaign. As a smaller-framed back who will work between the tackles, Williams must ensure he’s more secure with the ball.
Williams does have solid speed (on film). However, he might not have as much success with breakaway carries in the NFL, as more talented defenders are likely to catch him from behind. I would also add Williams is not a power back. This shouldn’t come as a surprise given his size, but I don’t want that misconstrued. He has no qualms about giving or making contact. But the NFL is a game of physics. He’s powerful, but so are starting linebackers.
Williams’ injury history
Like most programs, Notre Dame opted for a committee approach. Chris Tyree saw a sizeable chunk of the carries the last two seasons, which eased some of the battering Williams could have received.
For a three-year player (two as a starter), Williams comes out of college with under 500 carries but two solid years of production without any injury concerns.
Kyren Williams selected by the Los Angeles Rams
The thing the NFL Draft loves to highlight is players’ stories. Williams is the next example. From St. Louis, Williams grew up a Rams fan, even dressing as Steven Jackson for Halloween. Now it has come full circle, just in a new city, as the Rams selected the Notre Dame prospect with the No. 164 pick.
What is interesting is while he is a Day 3 pick, the Rams traded up to select Williams. Cam Akers is the No. 1, but Williams could quickly work his way into a role. He was the best catching back on the board and could complement Akers in this way. Not to mention this is the final year of Darrell Henderson’s contract.
Furthermore, Williams is the best pass blocker of the draft and quickly could be entrusted to be on passing downs to either run a route or stay in for more protection for Matthew Stafford. This is an A+ pick by the Rams, and while many wrote Williams off for dynasty, do not be so quick to dismiss him in PPR leagues in the third round.