While reporting from the scouting combine in Indianapolis last month, I wrote a story for the paper about a deep, talented running back class that excited the Vikings and the rest of the NFL. In that story, I identified five of the most interesting ball-carriers in the draft, whether it was their skill sets that warranted attention or unique backstories.
Jamaal Williams did not make the cut. But he probably should have.
The former BYU running back has certainly caught the Vikings’ eye.
Williams scored a dozen rushing touchdowns as a freshman and piled up 1,233 yards the following season before a knee injury in 2014 and a violation of the school’s strict honor code put his career in jeopardy.
As chronicled in this excellent feature from Ty Dunne of Bleacher Report, Williams was forced to miss the entire 2015 season after violating the BYU honor code by drinking and having sex with a fellow student.
“You’re mad. But at the same time, you signed the honor code,” Williams told Dunne. “So there’s nothing you can really be mad about.”
Williams considered transferring but decided to finish what he started at BYU. He returned to the Cougars in 2016 and rushed for 1,375 yards and 12 more scores while averaging a career-high 5.9 yards per carry.
Former NFL general manager Bill Polian, now an analyst for ESPN, recently remarked that he thinks Williams has “really good size” with toughness, balance and acceleration, according to the Daily Herald in Provo.
“He’s got acceleration in the hole. He hits the hole, puts his foot in the ground, and then he’s at his top speed in one to two steps,” Polian reportedly said on TV. “You think of Le’Veon Bell. Holes in the NFL don’t stay open long so you have to blow through at 100 mile per hour.”
After a solid showing at the Senior Bowl and an uneven performance in the combine’s athletic tests, the 6-foot, 212-pound back is projected by many analysts to go somewhere in the middle rounds of the draft.
The Vikings, who are still expected to draft a back even after signing Latavius Murray, have officially met with Williams. Will they find him interesting enough as a potential pro to draft him?