As one sports pundit put it, “Dexter goes from one historic team playing in an iconic venue to another.”
In the middle of the sixth round of the 2019 NFL draft, Green Bay managed to both fill a roster need and obtain one of the best remaining available players. Dexter Williams was the pick, and given that the Packers only have two notable running backs, Williams is almost a lock to be on the team’s roster in September.
For two reasons, I’d also expect Williams to get more than a token amount of playing time during the season. One is that Matt LaFleur is likely to employ a lot of two-back sets throughout the season, and two is that bumps and bruises are common enough that even if both Aaron Jones and the other Williams (Jamaal) avoid serious injuries, Dexter will probably get some turns while one or the other front-runner is resting.
There are two reasons Williams slid down to Round 6. One is that he does not have a lengthy collegiate record, and the other is that he’s had “character” issues.
The behavioral problems consist of a marijuana arrest two years ago and a four-game team-imposed suspension to start his senior year. What specifically led up to the suspension has not been disclosed. Whatever it was, when Dexter began his final season in the Notre Dame’s fifth game, he was fully reinstated and turned in some great performances over the last nine games.
Prior to his senior year, Williams saw little action in his first three years on the team. The reason was that he was playing behind Josh Adams each of those years. Though Adams went undrafted, he ran up 3,201 yards in the three years that Williams served as his backup. Adams was eventually picked up by the Eagles, and increasingly got playing time, winding up his rookie season with 511 yards and three rushing touchdowns.
The first sign that Williams was ready to bust out came in 2017. Though he had just 39 carries, he accumulated 360 yards, for a remarkable average of 9.2 yards per carry.
In only those nine final games of 2018, Williams rushed for 995 yards and 12 scores on 158 rushes. That works out to 111 yards per game and 6.3 yards per carry. In those games, the Fighting Irish faced lots of quality competition, including: Stanford (then # 7), Virginia Tech (24), Syracuse (12), and Clemson (2). Notre Dame was ranked third, and was undefeated, prior to being handily whipped by #2 Clemson in the Cotton Bowl. In his final season, he was a workhorse, as shown by his four games with 140-plus yards and a touchdown scored every 12 carries on average.
Physically, Dexter has adequate running back dimensions: 5’11” and 213 pounds. His NFL Combine numbers are also fairly standard. Though his 4.57 dash time is below average, it hasn’t prevented him from reeling off a bunch of long runs, including a 97-yard jaunt against Virginia Tech, in which the defensive backs were unable to close on him.
His best trait – and it’s immediately apparent on his highlight reels – is his “one-cut” ability – he explodes forward once he sees a hole or decides the direction he’s going to take.
A number of observers think that Williams will be a perfect fit for the offense Coach LaFleur will feature, which is referred to as an outside zone run scheme. GM Brian Gutekunst agrees, saying, “Very much his skill set fits what Matt wants to do in the run game.”
Scouts also like his flexibility, hip movement, run-to-daylight instinct, and that he “drops heavy, preemptive blows on tacklers.” Williams was used sparingly as a receiver at Notre Dame, catching 16 passes for 133 yards as a senior, so he’ll likely need developing in that area.
Dexter earned the nickname “Juice” in high school because of his infectious personality.
He joins former Irish teammates DeShone Kizer and Equanimeous St. Brown in Green Bay.
In his junior year he was a standout at special teams, including being tied for second on punt-return tackles.
Williams has already indicated that his mother will be moving up to Green Bay to be with him.
Note: Whether, and how soon, Dexter will jump ahead of Jamaal Williams on the depth chart remains to be seen, but I’ll explore that question next time.