Notre Dame RB Kyren Williams has 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 which landing spots would be ideal for his dynasty value in 2022 and beyond?
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 to 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.
Top landing spots for Williams’ dynasty value
With 2022 dynasty drafts on the horizon, where could Williams land, and how would he benefit in fantasy?
New England Patriots
Williams is the human embodiment of everything Bill Belichick loves in a football player. He’s a versatile prospect similar to those Belichick has turned into fantasy assets for years, such as James White, Dion Lewis, and Rex Burkhead.
Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson are more than capable two-down backs, but New England needs more versatility in its backfield. They also need a security blanket just in case White cannot get back to his pre-injury level. There’s no more versatile RB in the 2022 class than Williams. While the Patriots have been a pain in the neck to fantasy managers over the years, Williams landing here in 2022 might help to alleviate some of those issues.
Las Vegas Raiders
Speaking of Belichick, his former OC Josh McDaniels knows a thing or two about how to get RBs schemed into the passing game. I expect the Raiders’ offense to be a mix of what has worked with McDaniels plus plays that will get the most out of Derek Carr. It’s an easy sell when you know he is targeting the likes of Davante Adams, Darren Waller, and Hunter Renfrow.
In the backfield, Josh Jacobs is one of the best two-down backs in the game. What he is not is a storied receiving back, despite the yearly narrative suggesting he’s about to see those long-elusive targets. Kenyan Drake was brought in for this role, but injuries and inefficiency were the story of his 2021 season.
Williams, in my eyes, could be a flawless fit in Las Vegas. His pass pro is as good as it gets, and he can work out of the backfield as a checkdown option. With Jacobs the interior back and Williams the passing-down target, Williams would have a legitimate shot at becoming a flex option in PPR formats.
The Titans have arguably the NFL’s best running back in Derrick Henry. However, they also missed him significantly when he injured his foot. Sure, D’Onta Foreman held his own, but he left in free agency, leaving Dontrell Hilliard, Jordan Wilkins, and Trenton Cannon on the depth chart.
No one is taking Henry off the field, but if Tennessee wants to create the ultimate 1-2 punch at RB, Williams would be the ticket. He can take some of the carries for Henry when he needs a break but, more importantly, can also be used in the receiving game.
Given Williams’ formational versatility, Mike Vrabel could deploy him in the backfield and the slot. Tennessee could still use another receiver, so Williams helps in this area as well. Barring injury to either RB, this could be one of the better backfield duos in the NFL, with both Henry and Williams becoming fixtures in fantasy lineups.