Just because you rush for nearly 1,200 yards as a junior and announce you’re skipping your senior season to enter the NFL doesn’t guarantee you will enter the NFL. There has to be interest on both sides.
Stanley “Boom” Williams wasn’t chosen in the NFL Draft back on April 27-29. He signed as a free agent with the Cincinnati Bengals. After just two exhibition games where the ex-Kentucky running back carried the ball four times for 11 yards, Williams was placed on the waivers by the Bengals.
Cincinnati is set at the position thanks to veterans Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard and rookie Joe Mixon, a second-round pick out of Oklahoma. Cedric Peerman, another veteran who has been a contributor on special teams, was just activated from the injury list. And Tra Carson, a second-round back out of Texas A&M, is the team’s leading rusher in the preseason, gaining 56 yards on 16 carries.
As for Williams, the Georgia native led UK with 1,170 yards on 171 carries, averaging 6.84 yards per carry last season. He teamed with fellow 1,000-yard rusher Benny Snell, a freshman, to give Kentucky a rushing attack that ranked 20th in the nation.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper ranked Williams at No. 151 on his list of draft-eligible players for 2017.
A couple of factors hurt Williams in his effort to make it in the pro ranks, however. One was his size. At 5-foot-8, 196 pounds he was the smallest player on the Cincinnati roster. With the Bengals backfield set, Williams probably needed to make an impact on special teams, where his lack of size did not work in his favor, especially on coverage teams.
Williams was certainly capable of returning punts and kickoffs but didn’t get the chance in Cincinnati’s first two exhibitions. Regular returner Alex Erickson, a second-year pro out of Wisconsin, rookie Jarveon Williams, rookie Kermit Whitfield and Carson handled kickoff return duties against Tampa Bay and Kansas City. Erickson returned three punts, while Adam Jones and Tyler Boyd returned one each.
As well, it didn’t help Williams’ cause that he suffered leg problems during both OTAs and the early part of training camp. He played just three snaps in the Bengals’ 30-12 loss to the Chiefs last Saturday. All of that was just too much for an unproven, undrafted rookie to overcome.
Where does Williams go from here? On the one hand, he was cut with two exhibition games remaining, meaning there is plenty of time for him to be picked up by another team with a less-crowded backfield. Given that he was not able to show much in the Bengals’ camp, however, that seems unlikely, especially considering teams don’t have to trim their rosters to 53 players until 4 p.m. on Sept. 2.
The guess here is that unless something unexpected happens, Williams won’t be on an NFL roster or a practice squad when the regular season starts Sept. 7 in New England.
So did Boom make a mistake?
Right now, the answer is yes. While it’s true that running backs have short careers in the NFL, a reason many want to start the clock early, the evidence suggests Williams would have better served to return to college for his senior season in an effort to show NFL scouts more of what he could do. They did not see enough in three years, plus a training camp, to believe he can play in the league.
Boom might yet make it in the NFL, but right now the odds are against him.
Cincinnati Bengals’ 2017 schedule