A player going down often breeds perfect opportunities for backup players, and fantasy owners who seize the day and snatch up the backup guy often reap big rewards. One player who finds himself more valued than before preseason started is New York Giants rookie running back Andre Williams.
Previously considered a developing back in a crowded backfield, Williams saw his potential fantasy value kick up a notch after fellow running back David Wilson announced his retirement two weeks ago following a serious a neck injury.
While Wilson’s announcement was unfortunate considering the former first-round pick had great potential of his own, the news only further extrapolated the momentum Williams started to build shortly before in the Giants first preseason game against the Buffalo Bills.
Williams flashed potential and outperformed starting running back Rashad Jennings in that contest, rushing for 48 yards on seven carries. He capped the night off with a 3-yard touchdown.
While a majority of his carries came against the Bills’ second-team defense, and while downplaying preseason performances is warranted, Williams just looked like a guy who could be a factor in the future. He busted through the hole with more authority and made quicker decisions than Jennings.
It was more of the same in the Giants second preseason game against Pittsburgh, as Williams rushed for 35 yards on 7 carries. So through two contests, Williams has respectable 5.93 yards per carry. But while he’s shown potential, he’s far from the clear-cut No. 1 guy as of right now.
Jennings equaled Williams in preseason game No. 2 against Pittsburgh, rushing for 85 yards and a score. Jennings got most of his yards on one play, however, as his touchdown came on a home run play of 73 yards, which is exactly the kind of play Jennings hasn’t been known for rattling off throughout his career. He only had one carry of 40 yards or more last season in eight starts with Oakland, and that went for 80 yards and a touchdown against the lowly defense of Philadelphia.
Starting just 17 games in four seasons, Jennings has never been a feature back for any significant length of time in an offense either. He remains valuable mainly for his ball security and respectable numbers. He only has one lost fumble to his name for his entire career, and his 4.3 yards per carry average is also respectable yet not earth shattering. He’s never carried the ball more than 163 times in a season.
The doubt surrounding Jennings’ potential as a true feature back further instills the possibility of Williams getting touches, especially as the season goes along.
So who exactly is this Williams guy?
In 2013 as a senior with Boston College, Williams led the nation in rushing with 2,177 yards and scored 18 touchdowns. His explosion of offensive production was a massive improvement from his freshman, sophomore and junior years, all of which he fell short of 1,000 yards rushing.
His rushing success during his senior campaign could be credited to his massive 355-carry workload, which also led the nation.
Evidenced by his production in college, there’s some reason to get at least a little excited over Williams’ fantasy potential.
How he plays
At 5’11, 220 lbs, Williams is compact makes his living running downhill and seeking out defenders like a missile not unlike former Giants running back Brandon Jacobs.
Since he lacks the agility required to elude defenders, Williams only runs well when the offensive line blocks well for him. If you watch him in these clips, you’ll notice how he tends to run in a straight line and initiate contact rather than try and go around defenders, though he has shown some slip moves. Also keep in mind, he’s played in just two games, so there could be a few more layers to his game that have yet to unravel.
Does he fit with New York?
The Giants completely revamped their offensive line over the offseason, and it’s going to take some time for the new guys up front to build chemistry. This hurts Williams’ fantasy value a little bit because he relied on good offensive lines in college and if the Giants offensive linemen don’t perform well, then his production will likely suffer.
Consider Williams a top handcuff back in 2014. His current ADP is No. 129 overall, No. 46 overall running back and a $3 auction value. He’s not the most talented back in the rookie class, but his situation with backing up a potentially lesser quality RB in Jennings gives him some good upside. He’s likely to see significant time on the field this season, more so than Christine Michael (assuming Marshawn Lynch stays out of trouble), Jeremy Hill, Carlos Hyde, and Tre Mason. Just don’t expect him to light your world on fire due to his less then flashy running style and the Giants’ young offensive line still developing.
Value: Bench/potential flex in standard leagues