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Jonathan Williams could be forgotten fantasy prospect

Leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft, each day NFL Fantasy will profile a prospect (or two) who could make a splash in fantasy next season. Today's subject is former Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams.

Out of sight, out of mind. Good for an annoying roommate. Not good for a running back prospect. That could be the case with Jonathan Williams. The Arkansas rusher was part of a dynamic duo with fellow draft prospect Alex Collins in 2014, but didn't play a single down in 2015 because of injury. I went back to his final full season to determine if Williams was deserving of a little more fantasy football attention.


» Quick feet are constantly in motion and able to make quick cuts
» North-south runner that isn't tackled easily
» Not afraid to take on defenders in the hole
» Good hands, though wasn't asked to do much as a receiver

Williams is a study in constant motion. His short, choppy steps help him make quick cuts around the line of scrimmage. It wasn't uncommon for Williams to sidestep defenders and leave them bewildered. While Williams might have tap danced around potential tacklers, he certainly wasn't prone to dancing in the hole. Rather he was quick to turn upfield and explode through the hole.

Before you begin thinking Williams is merely a scatback relying on shiftiness and speed, don't discount his toughness. It wasn't often that he was taken down by the first defender, frequently breaking tackles to pick up extra yardage. Williams also showed no hesitation to lower his shoulder and take on defenders in short yardage situations. He wasn't exactly a weapon in the passing game, but he also wasn't asked to do a whole lot (26 receptions in 36 career games). Nonetheless, Williams did show reliable hands when called upon to catch the football.


» Missed all of 2015 with injuries
» Might need to get stronger, add bulk
» Doesn't offer much in pass protection

The biggest red flag with Williams is the fact that foot surgery kept him out of the entire 2015 season. This isn't exactly a news flash, but teams tend to look closely at running backs who have had foot issues. With such a long layoff comes the inevitable rust. That came to bear at Arkansas' pro day when Williams estimates his 40-yard dash was "somewhere in the high 4.5 range." The upside is that he previously showed good speed on tape. Scouts will have to hope that version of Williams returns.

At 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds, Williams already has good size but there are times while watching him that you can't help but wonder how much more troublesome he'd be with a little extra bulk. But this seems like a quibble since it's nothing that a good strength and conditioning program couldn't help solve. That could also potentially help Williams stand in the pocket and improve on his lackluster pass protection skills. Polishing that ability could help him stay on the field in passing situations.

Ideal fantasy fits

Judging by the Bears' actions this offseason, there's little belief in Halas Hall that Jeremy Langford can be the team's workhorse. But with few other reliable options behind him, Williams could be a nice addition to the backfield. Similarly, the Colts will need to find some other relief options for the soon-to-be 33-year old Frank Gore. Who better for Williams to learn from than a veteran rusher who shares many of his characteristics?

It's always fun to project a draft pick or free agent to the Patriots. But in this case, it makes plenty of sense. New England is seeking a complement to Dion Lewis in the wake of LeGarrette Blount's departure and Williams could be a nice option to carry the rock on first and second down. If you wonder why Williams could fit in New York, I'll just direct you to their 2015 rushing stats. Meanwhile with Alfred Morrismoving on to Dallas, Washington could be looking for some backfield support for Matt Jones.

Early fantasy draft projection

It's not likely that Williams will hear his name called until at least Day 2 of the NFL Draft, but he has the skills to be an immediate contributor in an NFL backfield. As such, he could have some sneaky fantasy appeal in the right situation. Still it wouldn't be wise to select him until the final few rounds of a redraft, though he should have some value in the mid to later rounds of dynasty rookie drafts.

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Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for Follow him on Twitter @MarcasG.

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