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Ryan Williams: The Arizona Running Back You Want to Own

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Have you owned Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells before? Let me breakdown how the season usually goes. Draft night, you like your starting two running backs but keep getting sniped for your third. During a lull before your next turn, you’re reviewing the list and see Wells. You say to yourself, “How is a starting running back still available this late?” Then you draft him and feel proud. You don’t worry about him much over the first few weeks because you have your Top 2 running backs starting. You notice he has some good games, some okay ones, and a couple of lemons, along with some ‘Questionable’ tags during the week too. You don’t think much of it because you’re not starting him anyway.

Then an injury or the bye weeks hit. Immediately you look at your bench for Plan B. By that time, there may be other running backs on your roster and injuries may have made other options available on waivers. You might not have to start Wells, but he is an option. After waivers and practice reports pile up, you have your decision narrowed for the week. Running back X, running back Y and Wells. Wells is the most talented option, but he’s always carrying that ‘Questionable’ tag with him. What usually pushes owners to selecting him is some combination of the matchup and if he practices Friday. Sometimes they don’t have that option as the alternatives just aren’t worth it, but the talented Wells just reels you in.

Then the week plays out, and nine times out of 10 you’re left saying to yourself, “Why did I start him?!” Just look at the game logs. Most owners did not start him Week 4 last season against the New York Giants because he was shaky and returning from an injury. He blew up that game. He had one huge game after that (against the St. Louis Rams - easily predictable) and three decent ones, one of which most didn’t start him as he was hobbled and playing at Baltimore. The years before that were even worse, as he had a three-game stretch his rookie year when he was looking strong against Chicago, Seattle and St. Louis, but then he piled up 69 total yards and no scores the next two weeks combined. This is life as a Beanie Wells owner. Frustration defined.

Anyway, onto Ryan Williams, the real reason you clicked on this article. Why him, besides the fact that he’s not Wells? The Cardinals drafted him at the top of Round 2 in 2011 after two frustrating seasons of dealing with Wells. He is blazing fast and powerful enough to shoulder a featured load. The problem is he had a nasty knee injury 12 months ago, which is the only reason (albeit a good one) I can think of that he is dropping as low as he is right now. Well, let me tell you, he’s over the injury. He might not be 100 percent yet, but he’s close to it. The glowing reports out of Arizona have matched the product on the field. Meanwhile, Wells had a late start to camp due to another operation (unconfirmed reports say it was microfracture surgery), and has looked bad since starting up.

It’s not often you can draft a feature running back out of the gate outside Round 8, but, in the case of Williams, you can. Heck, dynasty owners aren’t even caught up to Williams yet. I am the only one in our staff rankings (shameless self plug) to have him inside the Top 30, and I have him 18th. Looking elsewhere on the web, it’s more of the same. His average draft position has been trending upward throughout August, but the change has been minimal. Formerly he was drafted outside the Top 100 and he has only inched just barely into it. In other words, you can still draft him after you have set the rest of your lineup.

The reward more than outweighs the risk with this pick. Williams has feature back potential this year and has the ability to take off with the job. The only things standing in his way are his knee (again, all reports indicate he is past it) and Beanie Wells (who is always hurt, and is trying to play hurt now). There is not a player with more upside available that late in the draft. Get him.