Undrafted players face quite the uphill battle to make an NFL team’s 53-man roster, especially in their first season. The Cincinnati Bengals have seen a few of these types of players earn their keep from year to year, but it is still seen as an impressive feat. Vontaze Burfict, Vinny Rey and Ryan Hewitt, for example, have all been undrafted players to make it with the Bengals and even get signed to second contracts with the team.
In 2017, Stanley ‘Boom’ Williams, out of Kentucky, is fighting to become the next undrafted player to surprise NFL evaluators and earn a chance to make an impact with the Bengals.
It will be a difficult task for sure, especially considering the Bengals drafted a running back in Round 2 of the 2017 NFL Draft. Williams is often criticized for his size and toughness but he has the burst and agility to carve out a niche at the NFL level. Think Darren Sproles coming out of Kansas State with less power and more experience in the passing game. So, can Williams make it and prove his worth in a crowded backfield?
Stanley ‘Boom’ Williams
Weight: 190 pounds
Position: Running back
Hometown: Monroe, Georgia
Williams is signed to a three-year, $1,665,000 contract with the Bengals, including an average annual salary of $555,000. In 2017, Williams will earn a base salary of $465,000, while carrying a cap hit of $465,000. He is set to become a restricted free agent in 2020, according to Spotrac.
Williams cut his teeth as a running back at the University of Kentucky. Although he was talented enough to play at some great schools, he picked Kentucky because he knew he would shine there, which he did. 367 carries for 2,513 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground in addition to 38 catches for 292 yards and two touchdowns in the air is nothing to take lightly, especially in just three years.
In his sophomore season at Kentucky, he set the school's all-time record for yards per carry during the course of a season (7.1). You read that right. That’s a yard and a half more per run than when James Brooks set the Bengals’ all-time single season record in 1989 (5.6). Of course, college is a different game than the NFL, but it sure was impressive.
Williams finally broke the 1,000-yard mark last year in his junior season at Kentucky, averaging a whopping 6.8 yards per carry. When Williams declared for the 2017 NFL Draft, the Wildcats lost a player who might have been the greatest to ever play the position for the blue and white. Unfortunately, the aforementioned size and power drawbacks hurt his stock in the draft, to the point he fell out of the draft entirely. But, the Bengals saw enough potential o bring him in on a free agent deal to allow him to compete this offseason.
Williams’ ability to do exciting things with the football is impossible to deny. A career average of 6.8 yards per carry in college is absolutely astounding, especially considering Kentucky is not one of the powerhouses in the SEC. Not to mention, of the 18 touchdowns he recorded for the Wildcats, a school-record seven went for 50 yards or more.
If Williams can bring even a sliver of that excitement to his NFL career, he will encounter very little trouble finding a spot in the league, whether it’s with Cincinnati or elsewhere. With the Bengals’ running back position currently looking as crowded as it is, the task seems like a daunting one for Williams to make the 53-man roster. But an incredible preseason could change that. That’s especially true with Cedric Peerman currently injured and turning 31 in October. If Peerman doesn’t get healthy soon, it could open up an opportunity for Williams to show what he’s got. Add to that an unproductive Jeremy Hill who’s running out of time on his rookie contract, and some room could open up on the roster next year, if Williams doesn’t make it onto the roster in 2017. If he can bide his time and hone his skills on the practice squad in his rookie year, his future with the team could be very bright.
Roster odds: 5 percent.