In-depth look at Bills RB Karlos Williams

Jason Staples of Nole Digest gives Bills fans an in-depth look at Karlos Williams and what the running back could do with Buffalo in 2015.

Karlos Williams arrived at Florida State in 2011 as much-hyped five-star safety but never cracked the starting lineup as a defender, thanks to a combination of immaturity and stiffness in coverage. Williams was one of the nation’s most explosive kick returners as a freshman and sophomore, with teams choosing not to kick to him after this ridiculous display against Miami (albeit called back due to a penalty):

Awaiting Image
Karlos Williams
Florida State / 6'1 / 230 lbs
  • RB
  • [5] #19

Williams finally agreed to move to offense, where his ability with the ball in his hand could be put to good use, during the 2013 season and tantalized with runs that flashed a rare combination of speed, power, and instincts with the ball in his hand. As a result, many scouts and pundits looked at Williams as a potential first-round type breakout player going into his senior season as FSU’s primary running back in 2014.

Williams, however, gained well over ten pounds in the offseason and never looked like he could get out of third gear as a senior, eventually getting passed on the depth chart by true freshman Dalvin Cook, who made the kind of dynamic plays many had expected from Williams going into the year.

Williams was also implicated in a domestic abuse case by an ex-girlfriend and mother of his child during the season, raising significant red flags about his character, and his petulant presence on Twitter has further reinforced those concerns.


Williams never lived up to his five-star billing or the hype produced by his freakish athletic ability, putting up an excellent YPC number as a backup in 2013 but only respectable numbers in 2014.

Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Year G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
*2011 12 4 4 8 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
*2012 13 25 6 31 1.0 0.0 1 41 41.0 0 3 0 0 0 0
Career 35 12 47 1.0 0.0 1 41 41.0 0 3 0 0 0 0
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 4/30/2015.

Rushing Receiving Scrimmage
Year G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
2013 14 91 730 8.0 11 8 63 7.9 0 99 793 8.0 11
*2014 12 150 689 4.6 11 29 265 9.1 1 179 954 5.3 12
Career 241 1419 5.9 22 37 328 8.9 1 278 1747 6.3 23
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 4/30/2015.

Kick Ret
Year G Ret Yds Avg TD
*2011 12 8 186 23.3 0
*2012 13 13 340 26.2 0
2013 14 5 88 17.6 0
*2014 12 3 41 13.7 0
Career 29 655 22.6 0
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 4/30/2015.

Scouting Report


Size/speed combo is excellent. Explosive athlete who showed elite burst and top-end speed when at optimal weight. Angular running style and runs to daylight at the second level. Turned the corner with ease as a junior. Excellent receiver and can be a vertical threat. Aggressive, physical runner who relishes contact. Very good short yardage back as a senior. Keeps feet moving and can move the pile. Reliable in pass protection and a willing blocker.


Gained too much weight and was much less explosive as a senior. Upright runner. Inexperienced at the position. Inconsistent vision as a zone runner. Pressed LOS too aggressively as a senior and missed cutback lanes. Linear runner with stiff hips and limited wiggle. Won’t make secondary players miss. Maturity and significant character concerns.

Combine/Pro Day Results

Combine Results















9 3/4








These are excellent numbers relative to his peers, though they’re actually a little disappointing given the explosiveness Williams displayed at a lighter weight:

That 1.61 10y time continues to reflect the disappearance of the elite burst he showed early in his college career, and his 40 and vertical numbers suggest he is less twitchy than he was early on.

If I were on the Bills’ coaching staff, I would require that Williams drop his weight to around 220 pounds, where he was much more explosive, in the hopes that he might regain some of the big-play potential he has flashed in the past. 220 pounds is still a good sized NFL running back, and it was his speed and burst that made Williams special before.


Williams’ ceiling remains extremely high—higher in my opinion than any back in the draft except Todd Gurley. Every year an excellent running back emerges in the NFL who was less impressive in college than in the professional ranks, and Williams could wind up one of those players. I would not be surprised to see Williams wind up with multiple 1,000-yard seasons and even become one of the top few backs in the NFL. That’s all within the realm of his potential.

But Williams also has a very low floor. First of all, he has two significant red flags with respect to character—the immaturity that kept him from being a contributor through most of his college career and indications of potential domestic violence (and at least constant domestic drama as evidenced by his Twitter account). It’s conceivable that Williams quickly finds himself out of the league due to off-field problems.

Secondly, there is a wide gap between his ceiling and his floor as a player. He is not a special runner at 230 pounds and projects more as a role player based on his senior film. He is, however, an excellent special teams player and will likely have a roster spot due to that for years to come, which at least sets the floor at some level of productive contribution.

Overall: Projecting His Impact with the Bills

High ceiling, low floor, and character concerns. That is Karlos Williams in a nutshell. The biggest question for the Bills is whether he will regain his explosiveness if he loses weight (and whether he keeps his nose clean off the field).

As a rookie, I expect Williams to make the roster as the RB3 and perhaps get some time as a third down back thanks to his excellent receiving ability and reliability as a blocker. He may also get a look as the goal-line or short-yardage specialist, as he excelled in those roles in his final two years at FSU.

One place he will make an instant impact is on special teams, as he is a dynamite special teams player. Williams is usually the first player down the field on kickoff coverage and has the mentality, size, and hitting ability to be a feared wedge buster. He’s also a very good blocker when lined up opposite the top kick returner and is a capable returner, along with potentially being an elite returner himself at a better weight.

Compares To

At 220 pounds: DeMarco Murray

At 230 pounds: Alfred Blue


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