When the Arizona Cardinals drafted Ryan Williams in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, it was assumed that he would eventually take over as their feature back. Beanie Wells was on the decline, which meant that Williams could soon step in and be the Cardinals go-to guy on the ground.
Well it hasn’t exactly played out that way. Now, the writing is on the wall that Williams could be headed for free agency after only two seasons with the Cardinals.
First, the Cardinals went out and signed Rashard Mendenhall this offseason to help bolster their running game. The five-year NFL veteran had a down year in 2012 while battling his way back from an ACL injury, but is a proven starter and should get the starting nod in Arizona.
When the 2013 NFL Draft rolled around, the Cardinals continued to stack their running back depth chart with talent and potential. They went out and drafted Stepfan Taylor in the fifth round and Andre Ellington in the sixth round. Both running backs were stars for their respective schools and should offer some sort of production this season behind Mendenhall.
Let’s not forget William Powell and Alfonso Smith, who are also still on the Cardinals’ 90-man roster. Powell played well in a reserve role last season, amassing 217 rushing yards and 132 receiving yards. While he won’t be pushing Mendenhall anytime soon, he proved more consistent than Williams in 2012. Smith hasn’t done much outside of special teams for the Cardinals, and also stands a good chance of getting cut.
Even if Powell and Smith get the ax, Williams would still have to outlast Taylor and Ellington, who both were steals considering when they were drafted. My gut tells me that chances are slim that happens.
Williams missed his entire rookie season due to a ruptured patellar tendon and sat out the final 12 games of the 2012 season while battling a shoulder injury. Even when he was on the field, he didn’t give the Cardinals much hope for the future, averaging a pathetic 2.8 yards per carry and fumbling twice on only 58 attempts. Unless Williams shows up to training camp and blows coaches away, it’s hard to imagine the Cardinals wasting a roster spot on him.
Sometimes high draft picks don’t pan out. That appears to be the case for Williams, who is suddenly the odd man out in Arizona.