For years the Arizona Cardinals have tried to land an impact running back. Emmitt Smith was beyond his prime when he reached the desert; same was true of Edgerrin James. Marcel Shipp and J.J. Arrington had their moments, but both came and went without much fuss.
Now it's Ryan Williams' turn. And of all the backs Arizona has tried to make fit in the past few years, the Virginia Tech dazzler brings the most to the table.
Arizona used its second round choice (No. 38) to add the 21-year-old back to an already crowded backfield; Williams will battle Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower for carries. "It wasn't done with the idea of sending one of those guys a message," coach Ken Whisenhunt told the media. "I think it was done with the idea of 'this was a very good football player.'"
Whisenhunt admitted the team had Williams rated as its 15th-best prospect. Other teams viewed Williams much differently due to durability concerns and a few of his measurable qualities. To be specific, he stands just 5-foot-9 and scouts were turned off by his subpar 40 time at the NFL Combine (4.59). It's just a number, said Williams. "I think 40 speed and game speed are two different things," he told reporters. ACC defenders may agree. In less than two full seasons he tore up the league, and in 2009 set a conference single-season record for touchdowns (22). That year Williams also set a school record for rushing yards in a season (1,655). Now Williams hopes to bring a little bit of that electricity to the NFL.
Had injuries not nagged at Mathews during his '10 campaign who knows how well he could have performed for San Diego? As it was, Mathews began and ended the season with a 20-carry effort, with four missed starts in between. Mathews began to find his groove toward the end of the regular season, with five touchdowns in four December starts. Like Mathews, Williams' numbers will slowly build over the course of the year as his workload increases.