Over the last two seasons, the Buffalo Bills have remade their running back room by drafting younger players to replace departed LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore. As workloads become an increasing focus as it relates to NFL running backs, with the traditional, 25-carry-per-game “bell-cow back” a relic of a bygone era, it’s interesting to note that the Bills haven’t allowed a player’s collegiate workload to scare them away in the draft.
Buffalo’s projected top two running backs totaled 714 and 712 carries, respectively, throughout their collegiate careers. That’s a fairly sizable workload for each player. When dividing that total carry number (1,426) by the number of collegiate seasons the players played (7), you come up with an average of 204 carries per collegiate season. Last season, only 19 NFL players met that threshold.
While the Bills may not be afraid to add running backs with some wear on the tires, that isn’t stopping them from adding players with much more tread, either. In today’s installment of “90 players in 90 days,” we profile one of Buffalo’s running backs whose college career was essentially the opposite of the players described above.
Name: Antonio Williams
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 215 lbs.
Age: 22 (23 on 10/22/2020)
Experience/Draft: R; signed with Buffalo as UDFA following 2020 NFL Draft
College: North Carolina
Acquired: Signed as UDFA on 4/25/2020
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Williams signed a three-year deal, standard for undrafted players, following the draft. His contract is worth a total of $2,288,000, with $3,000 guaranteed in the form of a signing bonus. If Williams makes the final roster, he will carry a cap hit of $611,000, and if Buffalo releases him, then all that will remain on the team’s salary cap is that $3,000 dead-cap charge.
2019 Recap: Williams set a career high in terms of games played, suiting up for all 12 of UNC’s games as a senior. He did not, however, set any highs in terms of statistical production, as his second season at Chapel Hill after transferring from Ohio State in 2018 saw his numbers dip in terms of carries (48), rushing yards (322), rushing touchdowns (3), receptions (2), and receiving yards (4). For his entire college career, Williams appeared in 29 games, carrying 202 times for 1,144 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns, adding 23 receptions for 160 yards as a receiver. Williams also played special teams for North Carolina last year, returning some kicks (2 for 32 yards) and appearing on the kick coverage team. Two of his three touchdowns last year came in UNC’s Military Bowl victory over Temple.
Positional outlook: Williams joins a running back group with a pretty clear pecking order at the top, as Devin Singletary appears poised to be the lead back and Zack Moss is the primary backup. Williams will battle veterans T.J. Yeldon and Taiwan Jones, as well as second-year man Christian Wade, for one or two roster spots.
2020 Offseason: Nothing new to report.
2020 Season outlook: Williams is an intriguing prospect in the sense that he offers more football experience than Wade (yes, the latter has been with an NFL team for a year, but that year literally represents his only one playing organized football) and youth that neither Yeldon nor Jones has. Unless he comes out and has an incredible training camp, it’s hard to fathom that the Bills would keep Williams as their third or fourth back, as they’d probably opt to keep the special teams stalwart in Jones with Yeldon serving as the emergency third runner before keeping Williams. Wade is a wild card, as the former rugby player showed all the burst in the world in limited chances last season. A limited-to-non-existent preseason is going to hurt players like Wade and Williams, as it will limit their chances to show what they’ve learned in a game setting. Williams is a practice squad candidate at this juncture.