This Thursday, former Kansas football leading rusher Pooka Williams Jr. will be one of many running backs with their hopes set on the 2021 NFL Draft.
While his size may not be preferred by most, his speed and agility stand out amongst the competition. PFF’s Mike Renner labeled Pooka as the best scatback option in this year’s draft.
Williams had quite a few flashes during his time with the Jayhawks, however, he missed considerable time following his decision to opt-out of the 2020 season in October.
Since then, Pooka has announced his declaration for the NFL Draft and has been putting in the work, including his pro day at KU before the upcoming draft.
With talented footwork, Pooka has a lot of options to work with. If he continues to pursue his football career as a rusher, it may be challenging initially.
Smaller backs generally have a tougher time adapting to the professional setting and keep in mind, Williams didn’t finish his third season in Lawrence.
However, Pooka led Kansas on the ground for two tremendous seasons. He has a quick sense to him that allows for lethal changes of momentum.
This could be something NFL franchises consider, given his consistent yardage at Kansas and the possibility of utilizing him as a short-range threat in the air.
With a 1-15 record this past season, the Jaguars managed to add their third straight losing season since 2017. With some hope left in Gardner Minshew’s arm, adding some more leverage on the ground couldn’t hurt, right?
Considering this to be ‘crunch-time’ for head coach Doug Marrone, he’ll be looking for a creative move to make in this year’s draft. If Pooka can become a dependable dual-threat rusher/receiver, Jacksonville could have something to be excited about.
The NFL is a much different scene and a rebuilding franchise like the Jaguars could help Pooka familiarize himself with a team working their way up the ladder, which he experienced at Kansas.
Following a 13-3 season, the Buffalo Bills have seen considerable growth over the past four years.
However, the Bills leading rusher Devin Singletary found himself at 24th in the league with an average of 4.4 yards per carrying. Behind him was Zach Moss, who found slightly fewer touches on the year but led the Bills in broken tackles.
While their height is similar, Williams’ 4.36 second 40-yard dash could tell a different story in 2021.
Throughout his college career, Pooka had a knack for working himself out of tricky situations for a major boost in yardage. How this will translate to the NFL, remains up for debate.
However, when competing against growing AFC defenses, his reliance on speed could be more than what the Bills are going after in a running back.
Both Singletary and Moss are 23 years of age and have seen a brief amount of time in Buffalo. If head coach Sean McDermott is looking to add a new dynamic in speed and creativity, Pooka could be it, but it might not come without some skepticism.
Washington Football Team
Pooka could land in Washington with old friend and NFL-Jayhawk Steven Sims Jr., however, the amount of touches he’d get is something of concern.
Under the leadership of running backs coach Randy Jordan, Washington finished on the bottom half of the NFL’s rushing teams with just over 100 yards per game.
Getting his start with Washington in 2020, Antonio Gibson rushed for 795 yards in his rookie season. Considering the struggles seen offensively and from the quarterback position, Gibson had a decent first year in the D.C. area.
Capturing the NFC East this past season with a record of 7-9, head coach Ron Rivera could be looking for a way to sustain the momentum heading into this coming season.
Having the ability to fall back on the ground could play into Washington’s favor, however, putting too much on Gibson’s shoulders could be an issue.
Considering the consistent rushing from Gibson, mixing Williams’ skillset into the mix could draw more fast-paced plays and create an alternate option when defenses mount the pressure inside.
Whether or not Pooka will mesh well with NFC defense is hard to tell, but that isn’t to say there’s promise his ability to contribute to an NFL offense.