After getting a late start in training camp due to a failed physical, Jarveon Williams cleared to practice on Monday and the former University of Texas San Antonio star faces a really tough battle to make the Cincinnati Bengals’ roster at a crowded unit.
The 5-foot-9, 202 pound force can help the Bengals in multiple areas after returning kicks in his first two years in college, but he’s probably last in the pecking order at running back and he’ll have to hope he does enough to earn even a practice squad spot with the Bengals.
Position: Running back
Weight: 202 pounds
College: Texas San Antonio
Hometown: Converse, Texas
Draft status: undrafted
Just like every other undrafted free agent, Williams signed a non-guaranteed contract worth $465,000 if he makes the 53-man squad. There’s no penalty for the Bengals if he’s cut.
After helping UTSA receive its first bowl invitation with 900 yards and eight touchdowns on 207 carries in his senior season, Williams rushed for a game-high 125 yards in the Gilden New Mexico Bowl last season in college. The Roadrunners lost to New Mexico, but it was clear their starting running back and captain could play.
Can he do it at the highest level though? After playing for a small school and despite becoming its all-time leading rusher, Williams never posted eye-popping numbers and it wasn’t clear he could establish himself as a dual threat - although he returned kicks in his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Williams’ numbers were much better in his junior season than his first two college years and despite missing a few games, he still surpassed 1,000 rushing yards at a 6 yard clip and also hit paydirt eight times. He was involved a little bit more in the passing game as a senior (19 catches for 221 yards), but his average per carry went down all the way to 4.3, the lowest of his four-year career in San Antonio and he didn’t reach the 1,000 yard mark on the ground.
Considering the Bengals will probably carry four running backs on their 53-man squad and without considering fellow rookie defensive back Brandon Wilson a back (though he has experience there), there’s little room for Williams on the team unless at least two of the top guys are injured. Giovani Bernard is back healthy for training camp and Joe Mixon is proving himself as a reliable threat. Jeremy Hill isn’t going anywhere and veteran Cedric Peerman is still important to the team, certainly ahead of Williams on the depth chart. In fact, he was activated from the PUP list last season instead of first-round pick William Jackson III. Though, Peerman is currently on the NFI list with a hamstring injury.
Second-year player Tra Carson was on the practice squad all of last season and was called up for the team’s last game against the Ravens, although he didn’t play a snap. He figures to have better chances to make the roster as the fourth running back than Williams. And there’s also Boom Williams, the 5-foot-8 fellow undrafted free agent and local hero from the University of Kentucky, who had better numbers against more impressive competition in college than the former Roadrunner.
The practice squad is likely the limit for Williams in his rookie year.
Roster odds: 0.1 percent.