What to Make of Joe Williams?
In the 2017 NFL Draft, Kyle Shanahan desired a shifty running back prospect in the University of Utah’s Joe Williams. However, John Lynch did not. Lynch was unsure of Williams because of his dismissal of the Connecticut program, leading to his transfer to Utah.
When Shanahan and Lynch saw that Williams had dropped to the fourth round, they compromised on selecting the diamond-in-the-rough prospect with the 121st overall selection.
Although there were some signs of hope, Joe Williams failed to meet expectations due to his fumbles and lack of commitment during his first training camp and preseason. To top it off, Williams suffered an ankle injury that forced the 49ers to place him on the injury reserve before announcing their 53-man roster for the upcoming NFL season.
Shanahan recently told reporters that he expected Williams to “turn up his urgency” this upcoming year since general manager John Lynch has already expressed concerns about Williams’ commitment.
As he enters his second NFL season, Williams has a lot of catching up to do. He is already behind last year’s undrafted free-agent Matt Breida, who has worked for a backup spot behind the newly-acquired free-agent Jerick McKinnon.
For Shanahan’s 49ers, it is clear that veteran McKinnon will be their starting running back and there will be little, if no chance at all, for Williams to overtake that role and become the starter for the upcoming NFL season.
To prove himself, Williams will first have to work among newly-acquired backs in training camp with sophomore Jeremy McNichols, previously with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and undrafted free-agent Jeffery Wilson from the University of North Texas. Then, he will have to beat out Raheem Mostert for the third-string spot (both as a runner and on special teams) and prove he is a better option than Breida, which given his previous year, will prove a strong feat.
After a tumultuous start to his NFL pro career, Joe Williams’ last shot with the Niners, and potentially with the league, will rely on his commitment in the offseason and how well he performs come training camp and preseason in August.
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