The 2018 NFL Draft Prospect series breaks down draft-eligible players, highlighting their college production as well as their NFL potential. Daily fantasy players should know about NFL rookies before they’ve played a down of professional football because they are among the most misvalued assets in all of DFS. People who know NFL rookies have a significant DFS edge. The draft will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, from April 26-28.
This piece is on Louisiana State running back Darrel Williams.
For more on all the other backs in the class, see our 2018 NFL draft running back rankings.
Updated as of Mar. 4.
Senior | 6’0″ and 225 Pounds | Born April 15, 1995 (Age: 22) | Projection: Round 6-FA
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.72 sec | bench reps: 22 | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: 4.21 sec | vertical: 32.0 in | broad: 109 in
For the past decade NFL franchises have shown a great deal of interest in former LSU running backs — even the relatively unproductive and unathletic ones — as if they were destined to turn into consistent contributors. Why shouldn’t this year be any different? Here are all the LSU backs of the past 10 years to have at least 50 carries in a collegiate season.
- Charles Scott: Drafted by the Eagles in the sixth round of the 2010 draft
- Keiland Williams: Started three games for the Redskins as an undrafted free agent in 2010
- Steven Ridley: Drafted by the Patriots in the third round of the 2011 draft, had one good season with the Pats, still in the league as a depth back
- Spencer Ware: Drafted by the Seahawks in the sixth round of the 2013 draft, had one good season with the Chiefs, still in the league
- Michael Ford: Spent a year with the Bears on special teams
- Jeremy Hill: Drafted by the Bengals in the second round of the 2014 draft, had four productive yet inefficient seasons
- Alfred Blue: Drafted by the Texans in the sixth round of the 2014 draft, still in the league as a depth back
- Kenny Hilliard: Drafted by the Texans in the seventh round of the 2015 draft, has never played a snap
- Terrence Magee: Has been a depth player for three years as an undrafted free agent
- Leonard Fournette: Drafted by the Jaguars with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 draft, had a productive but up-and-down rookie campaign
All of these players have had at least mild flirtations with the NFL after college — and most of them were not starters at LSU. Lead back Derrius Guice is likely to be selected in the first two rounds, and Williams — a longtime backup to the stars — is likely to get some attention from the NFL as well even though he was sluggish in most of his combine drills.
A former four-star recruit who played his high-school ball at John Ehret in Louisiana, where he rushed for 2,201 yards and 32 touchdowns as a senior, Williams chose to stay in state for the Tigers, and although he played behind Fournette, Magee, and Hilliard he still saw some action in LSU’s ground-based offense as a freshman, getting 64 carries for 302 yards and three touchdowns. As a sophomore he actually played ahead of Guice as the primary backup to Fournette, but because Fournette was such a volume-fueled runner Williams managed just 60 carries for 296 yards and four scores. As a junior it was more of the same, except he was leapfrogged by Guice, so when Fournette missed time with his ankle injury it was Guice who emerged as the starter while Williams got just 52 carries for 233 yards and three touchdowns.
As a senior, however, Williams finally got his chance. Although he still played behind Guice, who had at least 15 carries in all but two games, Williams last season had 145 carries for 820 yards and nine touchdowns. On top of that, despite doing almost nothing as a receiver in his first three seasons (15 receptions for 131 yards), in 2017 he morphed into a legitimate pass-catching option, finishing second on the team with 331 yards and third with 23 receptions. In total, Williams finished with 1,151 yards and nine touchdowns on the season, becoming just the second LSU back since at least 2000 to have at least 800 yards rushing and 200 yards receiving in a season. (Fournette accomplished that feat in 2015.)
If NFL executives want to like Williams, it will be easy for them to do so. He reportedly impressed in Senior Bowl practices, and at the combine he at least had a top-eight positional mark in the 20-yard shuttle. Even though Williams played behind Guice, he was named the team’s MVP last year. Because of his size he can function as a hybrid tailback/fullback, and his 2017 breakout as a receiver suggests that he has the versatility NFL coaches crave.
Matthew Freedman is the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs. He has a dog and sometimes a British accent. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he’s known only as The Labyrinthian.
Photo Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports