Answers First, Questions Later
This is an article about the Chiefs backfield, but you cannot broach the backfield without examining the Chiefs offense. Otherwise, you're not providing an appropriate setting for the analysis, which is in the middle of a fantasy goldmine.
This article will show you just how rich this goldmine could be for the Chiefs ground game but also why the gold rush to find the fantasy beneficiary has become far more complicated in recent weeks. Until August, most presumed that Damien Williams would a least get a shot to be the main man in the backfield.
A minor injury to Williams and two solid camp performances from a pair of reserves led Andy Reid to change course, telling the media last week that Kansas City will take a committee approach to its backfield. How do we parse this for fantasy drafts? Do we take Reid for his word? If not, which back has the most value? If we do, how do we proceed?
Here are the answers if you simply want to trust the analysis or wish to examine it later:
- Andy Reid will use a committee when his backfield lacks experience and or skill due to injuries and suspension.
- Reid will elevate a committee back to a high-volume starter if he proves his value or the depth is lacking.
- Damien Williams is a competent NFL contributor with size, speed, and receiving skills.
- Williams competence does not make him especially creative against tighter creases and he hasn't proven to possess strong processing speed and agility in moderately difficult, but executable scenarios for an NFL starter.
- Carlos Hyde and Darwin Thompson display compelling creativity, power, and processing speed in more difficult situations. They may not only reduce Williams' potential volume but also push him out of the committee by taking away various roles:
- Red zone and short-yardage (Likely Hyde but Thompson has underrated power).
- Passing downs (Thompson if he displays good pass protection).
- Two-minute offense (Thompson--see above).
- Early-downs (Both)
- The Chiefs play in a division that's generous to running backs as runners and/or receivers so as long as Williams earns volume, he should deliver starter production in leagues using 2-3 runners in a lineup.
- Williams value has been largely touchdown-dependent.
- Hyde and Thompson have shown enough that Reid doesn't feel tied to Williams. This happened when Spencer Ware overtook a committee of Charcandrick West and Cyrus Gray and also when Kareem Hunt performed well to cut into Ware's hold as a starter before Ware suffered a season-ending injury.
- Williams remains draftable, but the best potential draft value might rookie Darwin Thompson.
What does this mean? Williams drop from a first-round pick to a third-round pick is not only warranted but there are compelling reasons that his ADP still makes him the worst fantasy value of the Chiefs running backs.
If Williams performs as a solid fantasy RB2, he's reached his likely ceiling in a committee and you're drafting a back with no upside built into his current value. Even if he hits this current upside, his totals may not reflect his week-to-week consistency if he remains touchdown-dependent.
The positive about his touchdown-dependency is that the Chiefs have enough red-zone weapons that defenses will likely key on 2-3 other players ahead of Williams—especially in the passing game. This means Williams has a reasonable chance to deliver fantasy starter production because of the strength of the Chiefs' offense.
However, based on the evidence below, Williams is, at best, a high-risk, high-reward option if drafted as a fantasy RB2. There's a real danger that he busts if Hyde or Thompson outperform him and take away his touchdown-scoring roles. Considering that Reid has decided to use a committee, there's compelling evidence (and history) that he's convinced that his depth chart has potential to overtake Williams.
Williams still has value as an RB2 but continue monitoring training camp reports. If Hyde and Thompson perform well during games and begin eating into Williams' reps and old roles, he should be valued as no better than a flex-play or even a fantasy RB4. If the surge from Hyde and Thompson dwindles dramatically, Williams could wind up a bargain.
It's that fluid.
Bottom-line for now: Williams is a TD-dependent low-end fantasy RB2. Hyde could take over that fantasy value from Williams but his lack of YAC skill as a receiver caps his value. Thompson has the highest ceiling and lowest floor while presenting the greatest fantasy value at the lowest cost if you want to place a bet on this goldmine.
THERE'S A GOLD RUSH IN KANSAS CITY
First, we have to understand the historical significance of this potential fantasy goldmine in Kansas City.
Patrick Mahomes earned 2019 NFL Offensive Player of the Year and NFL MVP as a first-year starter. His two primary receivers—Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce—are elite athletes at their respective positions with the advanced skills to beat defenders as route runners, rebounders, deep threats, and open-field ball carriers. And head coach Andy Reid has a creative offense that features these two threats at a variety of spots on the field, including selective turns at running back in pivotal situations that keep defenses off-balance.
At worst, rookie receiver Mecole Hardman is a more technically advanced version of offensive gadget-return specialist D'Anthony Thomas, which means he's actually closer on the spectrum of HIll as a weapon. Can you imagine an offense with two players with Hill-like athletic ability—one an All-Pro and the other with potential to at least become a starter-grade threat?
We haven't even broached Sammy Watkins until now. When healthy, Watkins has provided extended glimpses of the versatile, game-breaking, route-running master that he could become if he can earn a continuity of games and not be in perpetual "rust-shaking" mode. Fingers crossed because Watkins and the Chief's trainers claim they have figured out how to repurpose Watkins body and workouts so he can stay on the field.
And most of our industry is talking about a statistical regression for Mahomes.
Regression? We talking about regression?
Alright, it's not that silly. After all, the Chiefs lost a pair of veteran offensive linemen and as great as Mahomes was off-script and under pressure, declining offensive line play could be just enough to influence Mahomes's decision-making past the line of bold and athletic field general to a tilting gambler. Even so, the soundest regression arguments postulate that Mahomes will remain a solid, mid-tier fantasy QB1.
However, it's not silly to consider that Mahomes could build on his 2018 production. Remember Peyton Manning?
Of course, you do, but you may not remember the potential parallels between his 2012 and 2013 campaigns in Denver and Mahomes' current situation. After recovering from neck surgery, Manning arrived in Denver in 2012 and delivered a 4,659-yard, 37-touchdown campaign with an excellent receiving corps mostly in the primes of their careers:
- WR Demaryius Thomas (age 26)
- WR Eric Decker (age 26)
- WR Wes Welker (age 32)
- TE Julius Thomas (age 25)
Manning and company delivered the second-best yardage and third-highest touchdown totals of the veteran quarterback's career. Manning was only getting started.
Quarterbacking is one of the most difficult skills in sport because, in additional the myriad of individual demands of the position, the quarterback must be conceptually synchronized with his receivers in ways that make football seem more and more like chess with violence and greater spectrums of mobility for each piece:
- Alignment spacing from the line of scrimmage
- Route depths
- Break angles
- Option routes
- The pre-snap/post-snap tells of the defense and how they dictate these in-the-moment adjustments.
Manning and his receivers needed at least a season to gain continuity with these advanced aspects of quarterback-receiver play in order to maximize continuity. While most in 2013 thought it ridiculous that the Broncos offense could build on an incredible first year with Manning under center, they easily topped 2012.
Manning threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns, increasing the previous year's totals by 218 yards and 16 touchdowns on 75 more attempts while maintaining nearly the same completion percentage and reducing his interceptions from 11 to 10. Quarterbacks don't dramatically increase key performance metrics and efficiencies and at the same time reduce errors without a supporting cast that isn't getting better at the advanced aspects of their games.
Add 2014 to the mix, and Denver's offense was the setting for three years of fantasy production that no quarterback or unit has experienced other than Drew Brees and the Saints and Dan Marino and the Dolphins.
After witnessing the first-year starter Mahomes and the Chiefs offense reach the statistical stratosphere, it's worth noting the youth of the 23-year-old Mahomes and his key receiving talents:
- Tyreek Hill (24)
- Sammy Watkins (25)
- Travis Kelce (29)
- Demarcus Robinson (24)
Combine these talents and the skills of Andy Reid and it's equally possible that fantasy analysts are telling the public that all of the gold is at the entrance of the mine when they haven't even explored the rest of the shaft.
This writer drafted Manning and multiple Broncos receivers for each of his squads in 2013, so you can safely gather that he believes Mahomes has a realistic shot of building on his 2018 production. Which leads to the important question about the Chiefs backfield: Did any of these offense's passing frenzies hurt the running game?
After all, this is an article about running backs, right? Yes, we'll tie the room together—promise.
In 2013, Knoshown Moreno led Broncos runners with 1,586 total yards (1,038 rushing) and 13 touchdowns (10 on the ground). The year prior, Moreno, Willis McGahee, and Ronnie Hillman combined for 1,936 total yards (1,586 on the ground) and 9 touchdowns—all rushing.
The Saints ran a committee system of backs during its passing frenzy of 2008-16. Those runners delivered a combined 1,400-1,900 rushing yards each of those years with the exception of a 1,382-yard total in 2013. They had three consecutive years of 14 rushing touchdowns from 2014-16; 7 rushing touchdowns in 2013, and no worse than 9 touchdowns between 2008-2012—including two seasons with 19 and one with 15.
The same strong rushing production is true of Dan Marino's Dolphins from 1984-86. Miami's backs ran for 1,818 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns in '84; 1,738 yards and 19 rushing touchdowns in '85, and 1,527 yards and 9 rushing touchdowns in '86.
If you believe Patrick Mahomes and his supporting cast have what it takes to go on a run reminiscent of Manning, Marino, or even Brees, then it's also a good idea to consider investing in the Chiefs backfield. After all, the Chiefs 2018 backfield earned production that bested many of the seasons from the Saints' backs:
- 1,372 rushing yards
- 13 rushing touchdowns
- 922 receiving yards
- 12 receiving touchdowns
It's improbable that one back delivers this crazy-good production but if two split the majority of the pie, it could be a fantasy boon. The problem is who, how many, and when? Let's begin with the first debatable question that will set up the rest...
Will Reid actually employ a committee—Part i: Does the Data matter without context?
Dating back to 2013, Andy Reid’s starting RB has seen 16.5 carries, 4.1 targets, played on 75% snaps, and handled 76% of #Chiefs carries in their starts.— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) August 8, 2019
Damien Williams (Week 15 through playoffs last year): 14 attempts and 4.7 targets per game, 70% snaps, and 73% of carries.
As is often the case, the data appears compelling on the surface. It's also convenient because it takes about five seconds to read and absorb a simple point: Andy Reid gives his starter a majority of snaps, a lot of touches, and it held true for Williams during multiple games down the stretch of 2019.
What's not to like?
The underlying issue with this information is a lack of context about the talent and situation of the backfields during those seasons. Barfield's summary of the data doesn't tell you that LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles were Reid's backs until 2016 and the Kareem Hunt became the main man in 2017.
You cannot name a team or coach that would employ a committee split with McCoy, Charles, or Hunt during their primes. Barfield's Tweet simply states the data. However, it becomes clearer in his response to Sigmund Bloom that Barfield believes the data gives us reason to believe that Williams will follow suit in 2019—despite Reid's committee statement.
This comment from Reid contradicts his past usage of preferring a bellcow RB and a statement that he made a month ago (https://t.co/E6juRQM1bM). The only thing that changed is that Damien Williams missed training camp time because of a hamstring strain. https://t.co/qBoox8A8Ul— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) August 9, 2019
It's worth a vigorous argument that two important things have changed since Williams' hamstring strain:
- Carlos Hyde has proven during training camp that his 2018 decline was greatly exaggerated and a product of a dysfunctional coach's spat in Cleveland and then getting sent to Jacksonville where the line was tattered and Blake Bortles' game had fully disintegrated.
- Darwin Thompson continued making plays to the point that it's translating to game action—and coaches greatly value this translation from practice to play.
Discounting these developments discounts the fuller picture of Reid's coaching history. When Reid has had a stud runner, he used them. When he hasn't, he goes with a committee until one proves his worth as the bell cow or he looks outside the organization to find a potential bell cow.
Fortunate to coach the likes of Brian Westbrook, McCoy, Charles, and Hunt, opting for a committee hasn't been a common path for Reid so it won't show up as cleanly on a Tweet as snap percentages and volume averages. Fantasy players must accurately predict whether Reid believes Williams is talented enough to be the bell cow.
Footballguy Dan Hindery provides an argument for Williams, noting that the snap percentages and volume averages still hold water.
"You really only have to compare Williams to guys like Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West, and Knile Davis," says Hindery, who shares the snap counts from the Chiefs during these years between Charles' injury in 2015 and Hunt's takeover of the job until his 2018 suspension.
What ensues below is an internal debate between Hindery and me about this topic.
Hindery: 1. That snap percentage of 60 percent is a big key. If Reid's 2019 RBBC still features one running back playing 60 percent-plus of the snaps each week, that running back is going to be a real fantasy asset.
2. I don't think the top-5 running back fantasy production with Hunt/Williams playing 60-70 percent of the snaps the last two years was fluky given how great this offense is. As a group, these running backs are going to face a lot of light boxes and also should score a lot of TDs.
3. The 60 percent-plus weekly allocation for one back definitely isn't a given but I also don't think it's a sure thing we see something messy with three guys playing 35-40 percent of the snaps each or whatever.
Waldman: First, if Reid had the caliber of talent (or his depth chart required a desperation bell-cow), he has used them. Kareem Hunt, Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, and Brian Westbrook were Pro Bowl backs.
During Spencer Ware's short tenure, he was among the best yards-after-contact rushers in the league as well as one of the best yards-after-the-catch receivers from the backfield. If Reid's system were the reason for this production then Darrel Williams, Knile Davis, Charcandrick West, and others would have been good enough to force a split.
They weren't. The data appears convincing but the context behind the data is not. Hunt and Ware earned featured opportunities due to injury to another back with strong skills and sub-par feature back talent on the depth chart. Williams skills on the field are closer to the Charcandrick West/Knile Davis spectrum than Hunt or even a healthy Ware.
In my opinion, Williams is just below the Mendoza line as an every-down guy unless it's by necessity. This year, Hyde and Thompson are skilled enough that Reid has decided that his backfield isn't in a desperate situation to use one experienced player who performed well down the stretch.
Hindery shared the snap-count and volume history during 2015-18 and I share context for each—in bolded italics.
Pre-suspension and through the first 11 weeks, Kareem Hunt was on the field for 70.6% of the offensive snaps. (He was the RB4 over this stretch)
Kareem Hunt established himself as a feature-back talent and Spencer Ware was still recovering from a nasty injury. Darrel Williams was a rookie, and Damien Williams was considered a contributor-level talent.
Damien Williams took over the starting job in Week 14. He played 62% of the snaps in those final 4 regular-season games. (He was the RB3 over this stretch)
Ware earned 35 touches in Weeks 13-14 as the more established talent until he hurt his hamstring and shoulder, which opened the door for Williams because...there was no one else with reliable blitz pickup and receiving skill left on the depth chart.
I'll get to Ware's volume and why it is a false positive for your point as we travel further back.
I can’t find snap counts for the 2nd playoff game but Williams played 75% of the snaps in the first playoff game. (Williams averaged 17.5 carries and 7.0 targets per game in playoffs.)
Again, they lacked a healthy player beyond Damien Williams who was proven in all facets of the offense. Charcandrick West was never that player.
Kareem Hunt played 65% of the snaps (led the NFL in rushing yards).
Spencer Ware, the previous leader, missed the entire season. West already proved he was no more than a satellite back and Spiller has proven that he lacks the skills of an interior runner.
Spencer Ware had 9 games of 62%+ of the snaps. In the two games Ware missed, Charcandrick West played 62%+ of the snaps in both.
Ware proved that he was a talented back. He was among the NFL leaders in yards after contact and a top yards after the catch option either in 2016 or 2017, if not both.
The other backs had already proven incapable of splitting significant time unless absolutely necessary. West had proven he was a satellite back in 2015. Davis had long proven that he lacked the skills of an every-down back. Charles played three games and earned 12 touches while recovering from his injury.
Once again, they didn't have anyone else and it was fortunate that Ware was good enough to handle the load. Kansas City drafted Hunt the following year.
Jamaal Charles had a heavy workload early, then got hurt. Charcandrick West played 64% or more of the snaps in 9 straight games
Ware began the year on the practice squad after trying to latch on with the Giants. He worked his way from practice squad to active roster in Week 6. He didn't begin earning significant touches until Week 12 when West got hurt.
From Week 's 13-17, the splits were pretty even:
Week 13: Ware 9/West 11
Week 14: Ware8/West 10
Week 15: Ware was doubtful with a rib injury. He was active but didn't play.
Week 16: Ware still dealing with a rib injury at 5 carries to West's 14
Week 17; Ware 16/West 13
If you take out the injury weeks, Ware had 33 touches to West's 34
The following year, Ware took over the majority on the basis of proven talent/skill.
Jamaal Charles dominated the snaps. In the two games he didn’t, Knile Davis played 75%+ of the snaps
Once again, this was a case of the Chiefs going with the only option it had. Cyrus Gray lacked the every-down skill and Joe McKnight (RIP) had 7 touches all year before missing the rest of the season.
It's possible that Williams proves that he's a skilled enough runner to beat out Hyde and Thompson, but let's first examine aspects of Williams' performance down the stretch.
WILL REID ACTUALLY EMPLOY A COMMITTEE—PART II: What did the stats Show us?
Williams earned 68 touches, 403 total yards, and 6 touchdowns during the final five weeks of the season. Here is the quality of the run defenses Williams faced in terms of fantasy points allowed to backs in 2018:
- Oakland (twice): Eighth-worst versus backs, allowing 21.5 fantasy points per game.
- Second-worst rushing yardage totals allowed (1,902).
- Tenth-worth rushing touchdowns allowed (13).
- The least receptions allowed (60).
- The eight-best receiving yards allowed (573).
- The eleventh-best receiving touchdowns allowed (3).
- Williams earned 35 percent of his rushing totals, against the Raiders defense despite earning 19 and 28 snaps in each game—far less than his snap counts against the Ravens (43), Chargers (44), and Seattle (39). Combined they barely beat the Ravens and Chargers.
- Baltimore: Second-best defense versus backs, allowing 13.4 fantasy points per game.
- Third-best defense in rushing yards allowed (1,041).
- Fifth-best defense in rushing touchdowns allowed (8).
- Tenth-best defense in rushing receptions allowed (78).
- Third-best defense in receiving yards allowed (447).
- Seventh-best defense in receiving touchdowns allowed (3).
- Williams thrived as a red-zone option, scoring a rushing touchdown and receiving touchdown. He only earned 30 combined yards on 12 touches in this game. This game has positive and negative implications for Williams.
- Los Angeles Chargers: The eleventh-worst defense versus backs, allowing 20.3 fantasy points per game.
- Eleventh-best defense in rushing yards allowed (1,375).
- Sixteenth in rushing touchdowns allowed (11).
- Fourth-worst in receptions allowed (106).
- League-worst in receptions yards allowed (968).
- Twelfth-worst in reception touchdowns allowed (4).
- Williams earned two rushing scores on 10 carries for a total of 49 yards. He earned six receptions for 74 yards-—double his next-highest total during the regular season. He also scored on a reception. This game also has positive and negative implications for Williams.
- Seattle: The 15th-worst defense versus backs, allowing 19.4 fantasy points per game.
- Ninth-best in rushing yards allowed (1,364).
- Seventh-best in rushing touchdowns allowed (8).
- Sixth-worst in receptions allowed (99).
- Third-worst in receiving yards allowed (906).
- Tied for worst in receiving touchdowns allowed (6).
- Williams earned his only 100-yard game during the season and caught all seven targets for 37 yards and a receiving touchdown. Seattle also lost All-Pro Earl Thomas for the season and his replacement Tedric Thomas did not play against the Chiefs due to injury. This game was also veteran linebacker K.J. Wright's first game in four weeks after being out or doubtful for 11 of the first 14 weeks of the season. This game also has positive and negative implications for Williams.
Most of these performances were indicative of the quality of opponent Williams faced. Considering that three of these games were against divisional opponents with a poor history of performance against running backs, it's a positive for fantasy players if Williams earns the lead role this year.
At the same time, Baltimore reduced him to a touchdown-dependent runner. Williams earned strong totals against the Seahawks but the stalwarts of the Seattle defense that normally shut down running backs (Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and K.J. Wright) were either injured or retired when facing Williams.
Still, the Colts and Patriots were the 11th- and 12th-best defenses in fantasy points allowed last year and Williams had two of his better performances against them during the playoffs. The rushing totals against the Colts defense—fifth-best in this category—was the most impressive. His 66 yards and 2 touchdowns as a receiver against New England was strong but the Patriots were the ninth-worst defense in receiving yards allowed to backs and in the middle of the pack for receiving touchdowns allowed to backs (4).
Examining these totals and the defenses faced, you can develop a decent idea that Williams is a competent running back whose greatest strength might be as a check-down option in the flats. Let's look at the tape.
WILL REID ACTUALLY EMPLOY A COMMITTEE—PART III: WHAT Does THE film reveal?
Christopher Harris examined excerpts of Williams' 2018 performance and delivered his analysis of the runner. I agree with many of Harris' points—especially some of the in-play analysis. However, I have some differences of opinion with the overall conclusions drawn from his observations.
Here's Harris' video and subsequently, my analysis of each play.
Play 1 vs Chargers: While I agree with Chris that this is a nice display of quickness, it's not special. I disagree when he says it isn't a ham-and-egger cutback. There's a tremendous amount of backside space that's available.
Freeze the tape at 1:31 because you'll see that only one player of the six within five yards of Williams is in position to reach the runner and he's still in a position where Williams has a two-way-go, which means the angle is decidedly in Williams' advantage.
Freeze at 1:33 and you'll see that the cornerback is also at a disadvantage because his hips are pointed to the sideline. This is a cut any runner should win.
The play looks good but this his not a difficult NFL run when you consider the following:
- The number of defenders with an angle.
- The distance of the runner from the defenders with those angles.
- Where the defender's hips are turned and they motion (or lack of it).
This is a play most running backs with contributor ability should make. It's why Williams was valuable at point of the year where Kareem Hunt is suspended, Spencer Ware is banged-up and coming off a difficult rehab and Darrel Williams is a rookie. Carlos Hyde and Darwin Thompson will have no problem making similar plays.
Play 2 vs. Seattle: Wiliams reads the penetration well at the beginning of the play but because the penetration is coming from the gut, it's hard to miss. No NFL back should miss or react slowly to this. So I can't really say "that's good," other than, "it's expected."
The double-team to Williams' right is an excellent block and Chris Conley also hooks his man well. There's lots of space to the outside and I think it fits with how I see Williams as a competent back. Everything he did here was what he was supposed to do...no more, no less. Again, we should expect the same from Hyde and Thompson if called upon.
Play 3 vs. Seattle: Once again, Williams reads the push to the left and gets a downhill cut behind another strong double team. The cut downhill takes about two steps. This amount of space taken to make the cut in this situation is what I define as competent execution on par with an NFL committee-level back in terms of agility when working East-West to North-South.
The line's double-team is really nice here and that's Mitch Morse at Center who is now in Buffalo. The contact to Williams is glancing, at best here so I'm not even finding it notable as more than a "that's what the RB should slide past."
So far, I'm more impressed with the interior blocking and that may be a bigger question mark with two of last year's starters missing from last year.
Play 4 vs. Colts: I like this run. It's a good cutback. The second-level dip from Williams is also a good display of vision. I agree with Harris here about these things.
This cutback between the defensive backs is the closest thing I've seen on this tape to a good reading of defenders in traffic. What I haven't seen downhill work. So far, the plays on this tape are bounces to the outside. This is not Williams' fault, but we need to see more work designed to go inside and how he handles it.
Play 5: This is good recognition of a defensive push up the middle and he dips behind a huge offensive line push in his favor. Again, this is competent but not a difficult play for an NFL back expected to substitute for a starter.
Play 6: I'm not loving No.42's approach Williams on this run. Even if he comes downhill and attacks first, a back with a downhill approach should, at minimum, win a collision, push a safety backward, and stay upright long enough for his teammates to push him forward. Gio Bernard does this as a scatback.
Play 7: The push by the left side of the line is two yards downfield by the time Williams reaches the line of scrimmage. Freeze this at 5:18 to see what I mean. If Williams doesn't score here, something is wrong with him. Jatavis Brown actually misses his angle and hits his own player more than Williams. The best thing Williams does is finish with low pads behind the offensive line's push. Again, competent.
Play 8: Eric Weddle reaches the crease too early and not in a position to win any contact. He's knocked aside because he's angled to the sideline. There's no leverage there at all for Weddle to do anything. Williams does what he's supposed to do.
Play 9: There's a good push up the middle by the line and Williams does what he's supposed to do, which Harris also says. There is nothing special in terms of power on this play, but it's a solid play.
However, if Williams was a better back, he'd press this Duo scheme (two double teams by two pairs of interior linemen) inside and cut back to the left where the outside left blocker is coming off his double team to the edge defender.
Frank Gore at his ripe old age would make this happen. Alvin Kamara does this well, too. Williams takes what's there but doesn't even really use his double teams to push behind them.
Instead, Williams attacks the unblocked defender with no patience. He could have used his double-teaming blockers to avoid that defender or cut it back where he had space to his left.
Of the plays shown on this video, it was Williams' best chance to show something more than I've seen from him as an interior runner during his career at Oklahoma and Miami but he didn't do it.
Freeze this play at the six-minute mark and watch No.73 coming off the double team. If Williams takes another two steps and slides to his left, he gives that lineman time to reach that edge man and access that crease.
The 49ers linemen complimented Gore for years because could do this and make his blockers look better than they were. He gave them more time to reach defenders.
This is not the same play but watch what I mean with Gore vs Mack. Mack is a good interior runner in a gap scheme. Up to now, he's a slightly below average zone runner.
Here are the two players running similar plays and it's clear that Gore is a more sophisticated runner.
The value of pressing the line a little deeper than Mack does... pic.twitter.com/BfPiqcOERj— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) December 15, 2017
Gore pressing the wind back deep o to the line pic.twitter.com/toOW6MSnni— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) December 15, 2017
As for the passing plays, they are what they are: Williams catches like he's supposed to and earning space off play misdirection into the open field against the flow of the play.
Freeze the tape at 8:17: I see Harris' point about Williams slowing down at the crease because Williams either feels the backside defender's head emerge to the inside of the defender's shoulder or the reach of the front side defender to his right. It is possible a player who hits that crease hard gets into the secondary and has 1-2 guys to beat.
At the same time, I can also see why a back would shorten his stride and consider a possible cutback when he sees that flash of the defender to his left. It's a tough play for me to judge Williams for slowing down. If I saw 4-5 plays like this in similar situations, I'd be more inclined to agree with Harris as this being representative of his work.
What I know is that Hyde and Thompson often display this level of decisiveness and if Williams' play between the tackles is less decisive in tight-crease situations, he could cede more time to these two backs. This is especially true if Kansas City's interior blocking fails to earn strong pushes like we saw in the video and forces more creativity and harder decisions.
Who to draft if not Williams?
Hyde's ADP is rapidly rising. He gained 15 spots this week and is now nearing the 10th round in 12-team PPR formats. Expect another bump by next week if he stays healthy and Reid maintains his stance.
Hyde had an 88-target, 59-catch season in 2017 with the 49ers. However, he only gained 350 yards. He's not a top receiver and when you think of Reid's history of running backs, all of them excelled as receivers.
Even Ware, a hard-running back similar to Hyde in many respects delivered among the best in the league as a receiving back during his short stint as a starter.
Hyde is a creative and powerful back who could usurp Williams' role inside the five (the green zone) and earn the majority of short scores. Without an injury to Williams, Hyde will likely split touches with Williams and we should still see Williams earn catches in the red zone before reaching the green zone.
The best value and wildcard of this stable is Thompson. He has the speed and hands to usurp Williams' role as the receiving back and his tackle-breaking power and contact balance are freakish for a player of his size. In the 2019 Rookie Scouting Portfolio, I summed up Thompson's game as Brian Westbrook or Dion Lewis "with thump."
Thompson breaks explosive runs and tackles. His spring and summer practice drumbeats have been steady and his preseason performance likely led Reid to label his backfield a committee and include Thompson in it.
Thompson has gained 12 spots in ADP and it would be wise to estimate him leaving boards in rounds 13-16 in leagues where your competition subscribes to a fantasy information service. If not, he still may remain unknown and draftable closer to rounds 18-20.
If his stock continues to rise, he could get drafted closer to the 10th round. His talent is commensurate with this possibility, but we'll need to hear that he's earned a significant role.
As it stands this week, Williams is best considered a low-end fantasy RB2. Hyde has the potential to become an RB2 but his lack of receiving chops gives him the lowest ceiling. Thompson is the best fantasy draft value with the highest ceiling, the lowest floor, and the lowest risk.