It's bittersweet watching Jonathan Williams get drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the 5th round of the NFL Draft. Of course, Hog fans everywhere are thrilled for him. He's been a fan favorite ever since he committed to Arkansas way back in 2012, but we'll always hate that we didn't get to see him play in 2015.
If he had, he'd almost definitely have been drafted higher, so a lot of people consider this pick a steal for the Bills. He'll be joining a backfield led by LeSean McCoy. Former Hog Chris Gragg has been a tight end with the Bills for a few years now.
Here are some excerpts of our draft profile of Williams from earlier this week:
Bret Bielema declared all three of Arkansas' backs even before the 2014 season, but Williams made it clear he was really the number one option for most of the year. Highlights from the season included a season- and career-long run of 90 yards against Nicholls State, a four TD performance against Texas Tech, and completed his first 1,000-yard rushing season in the 11th game of the season. Williams was named to the All-SEC 2nd team at the end of the season.
For my money, his most impressive play of the 2014 season starts at the 4:47 minute of this video with a little 19 yard catch against Texas A&M.
His backfield mate for two years, Alex Collins, got tons of hype coming into his freshman season, Williams quietly prepared for a sophomore campaign in 2013 that put him on the map as one of the best running backs in the SEC, and in 2014, Williams along with Alex Collins became one of the most productive running back duos in Arkansas history.
The Next Chapter
Williams could've declared for the NFL in 2015, but elected to return to Arkansas for his senior season. After suffering a his foot injury he could have used a redshirt season to come back in 2016. I think Williams is making the smart choice by declaring for the NFL. He's already seen how much football time an injury can cost him, and he doesn't really have a lot more to prove in college. His 2013 and 2014 seasons showcase his skills well enough.
Williams gets to the second level very quickly, and doesn't shy away from contact. He's a very physical running back that chooses running lanes well. As his highlights show, he can lower his shoulder to bowl over a defender, bounce off would-be tacklers, stiff arm smaller corner backs, and hurdle diving tacklers (I know this sounds like I'm describing the controls in Madden, but Williams does all of these things in the highlights above).
Arkansas has not had many home run threats as they moved the ball up the field in an ever growing cloud of dust, but Williams has been able to break off some long runs. It's easy to draw comparisons to his backfield mate for two years, and while you can say that you always know what to expect from Collins, Williams is the more likely back to improvise and show some creativity. Williams won't surprise you with athleticism or strength, but will turn a five-yard gain into a 25-yard gain, and you're still not sure how he broke those four tackles even when you watch the replay. Williams also doesn't get any knock on pass protection, and was often the back chosen when Bielema needed the extra blocker on passing downs.
A lot of Hog fans will always wonder if the season may have been a little smoother with Williams in the backfield in 2015, but at this point, we're all just glad to see him get his shot at the next level. He always represented the U of A well and was a fan favorite. Williams' name won't be held in the same rarefied air as Darren McFadden, but he's really not that far behind. In my book he reminds me a lot of Deangelo Williams, and I hope he has an equally long NFL career.