Kansas Jayhawks running back Gale Sayers was the No. 4 overall selection in the 1965 NFL Draft and went on to have a Hall of Fame career. Now, the man who etched his name alongside Sayers in Jayhawks’ history books is also heading to the NFL. After a short but sparkling college football career, what are Pooka Williams’ prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft?
Pooka Williams NFL Draft Player Profile
- Position: Running Back
- School: Kansas
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 5’9″
- Weight: 172 pounds
Tony Pauline’s Pooka Williams Scouting Report
Positives: Three-year starter coming off a disappointing campaign. Runs low to the ground and behind his pads, gets lost behind blockers, and keeps his feet moving. Quick-footed, has a burst, and runs with an aggressive style despite his diminutive stature. Makes defenders miss, squeezes through the small creases, and runs hard on the inside. Patient, displays terrific vision, and runs with balance. Quickly gets out of the backfield into pass routes. Productive kick returner in the past.
Negatives: Small, doesn’t pick up much yardage off initial contact, and is easily brought down by a single opponent. Often stopped dead in his tracks. Did not elevate his game last season.
Analysis: Williams was very productive prior to 2020 and possesses the ability necessary to be a situational ball carrier/third-down back and return specialist at the next level.
Pooka Williams Player Profile
Williams has been an offensive spark plug since dominating high school football. The New Orleans’ native put up incredible numbers for Hahnville High School. During his senior season, he rushed for 3,118 yards and 37 touchdowns! Over 1,000 of those came in a playoff run that took Hahnville to the Class 5A State Championship Game. Despite the defeat, Williams put up 210 yards and scored a touchdown in his final high school game.
As a result of his phenomenal performances, the running back earned the New Orleans Metro Player of the Year award. Furthermore, he was voted as Louisiana’s Mr. Football in 2017. A four-star recruit who was ranked as the sixth-best player in Louisiana, it was presumed that LSU would be his college landing spot.
However, Williams had committed to Kansas prior to his standout senior season and refused to waiver from his commitment. At the time, the running back said he’d chosen Kansas due to the program’s family atmosphere.
Williams’ college football career at Kansas
Williams continued his sensational production as a freshman running back at Kansas. Making his debut against Central Michigan, Williams rushed for 125 yards and 2 touchdowns at 8.9 yards per carry. It was the start of something special as he set about imposing himself on Kansas running back records.
Against Oklahoma, Williams rushed for 252 yards which was a Kansas record for a freshman running back. Additionally, his 16.8 yards per carry in that game was a Big 12 and program record. By the end of the season, he had racked up 1,660 all-purpose yards — the third-most in program history.
Showing versatility, he was one of only two players in the Big 12 to secure rushing, receiving, and kick return touchdowns. His performances in 2018 earned him first-team All-Big 12 honors, only the second running back in Kansas history to achieve that honor.
Off-field issues meant that Williams would miss the start of his sophomore season due to suspension
Despite off-field issues that led to sanctions from the team, including a one-game suspension, Williams still rushed for over 1,000 yards in his sophomore season. He became only the second Kansas running back to have consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Furthermore, Williams became the first player to surpass 2,000 rushing yards in their first two seasons for the program since Sayers in 1962-1963.
He finished his sophomore season by being named to the first-team All-Big 12 and started his junior season with preseason accolades. However, the Kansas running back lacked the explosive plays that had come to be expected to start the season.
In four starts, he amassed just 196 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. Despite the lack of rushing production, Williams continued to demonstrate special teams’ ability, returning a kick for a 92-yard touchdown against West Virginia. Concurrently, it would be his last touchdown for the Jayhawks.
In the week following the game, Williams announced he was opting out for the rest of the season. With his mother battling health issues, the Kansas running back returned to Louisiana to be closer to family. In early December, he declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Pooka Williams’ best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
A versatile running back who has shown pass-catching ability as a receiver, Williams’ skill as a kick returner also adds value to his 2021 NFL Draft stock.
On the other hand, his diminutive stature could prove a stumbling block to him receiving consideration as anything more than a late Day 3 selection. His size means he struggles inside the tackles. Therefore, a team running an outside zone scheme figures to be his best landing spot.
With this in mind, teams like the Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks, and the San Francisco 49ers figure to be his best fits.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.
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