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Analysis: Bills keep doubling down as a run-first offense with Jonathan Williams pick

The Buffalo Bills ranked No. 1 in rushing last season, then prioritized left tackle Cordy Glenn and left guard Richie Incognito in free agency.

Into the fifth round of this weekend's NFL Draft, the trend continued.

This is a team that still wants to run early and run often.

Despite boasting a full convoy of backs, the Bills took Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams, who missed all of the 2015 season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ligament in his foot. Splitting carries the year before, he rushed for 1,190 yards and 12 touchdowns. He'll now join a backfield that includes LeSean McCoy, Karlos Williams, Mike Gillislee and James Wilder Jr. Last year, this group was hit hard by injuries at various points. In a 14-13 win at Tennessee, Buffalo was forced to start Boobie Dixon (19 yards on seven carries) and Boom Herron, picked up off the streets, even had a team-high nine carries that game.

In selecting Jonathan Williams, the Bills aren't taking any chances.

Until many other teams, they still value the running back position — Williams is the 14th they've drafted since 1997. Over that same span, they've drafted five quarterbacks.

"I feel like I am a back that can do anything," Williams said. "You know, a three-down back that can run the ball inside and out on first and second down. Can pick up pass protection and catch the ball on third down. So I think I'm a complete back."

The Bills' director of player personnel Jim Monos said that Williams is right on track to return from the foot injury. They're confident he'll be 100 percent.

And Monos maintains that this pick "had nothing to do with anybody on our roster." He calls Williams a "downhill" back, who's not necessarily a "blazer."

The Bills averaged 31.8 rushing attempts per game last season, second-most in the NFL. And they also led the NFL with 152 rushing yards per game despite injuries to McCoy, Williams and Tyrod Taylor. This pick is another sign that the Bills plan on running, and running often, in 2016. They don't want to be forced to scan the waiver wire again for fliers midseason. Jonathan Williams, Monos said, will compete with Gillislee.

Rex Ryan, once a big, big fan of Jamal Lewis, must love Williams' running style.

He had an elusive rating of 101.9, per Pro Football Focus' analytics, the fifth-best score among all FBS running backs in 2014. Like the other Williams, he could potentially be a mashing complement to the shifty McCoy.

"He is a beast," Williams said. "He is definitely real shift with the ball. Can score at any time. Definitely looking forward to being in the same backfield as him and watching him and learning from his game."

 

 

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