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Trayveon Williams is running out of chances

With multiple running backs in the mix, can third-year running back Trayveon Williams emerge as the primary backup?

Cincinnati Bengals v Houston Texans Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

After posting the most rushing yards in a single season in Texas A&M history, Trayveon Williams became a steal of a late-round draft pickup for the Cincinnati Bengals, who took him with the 182nd pick of the 2019 NFL Draft.

Trayveon Williams

Height: 5’ 8.5”

Weight: 206

Age: 23

College: Texas A&M

Hometown: Houston, TX

Experience: third season

Cap Status

Williams is set to make $895,496 this year, one of the lowest salaries on the team. And, to be fair, there’s no reason for it to be higher. Williams hasn’t shown much, and currently looks like a third-string running back. Of that total, $850,000 is his salary, while the other portion is a signing bonus. Williams has one more year on his rookie contract in which he’ll have a cap hit of $1,010,496.

Background

Williams entered college with a plethora of offers. He was a four-star recruit and the eighth-best all-purpose back in the Class of 2016. And he justified those expectations with awe-inspiring numbers at Texas A&M. Williams averaged 6.0 yards per carry in his college career and totaled 3,615 yards on the ground. His last year, he had 1,760 yards and 18 touchdowns rushing while averaging 6.5 yards a carry.

Unfortunately, that production hasn’t translated to the NFL just yet. Williams was limited to 10 games and 131 snaps in Cincinnati as a rookie in 2019. That offseason, he did find the time to talk to a couple of Cincy Jungle writers, and he was an absolute delight and a gentleman.

Williams would make 11 appearances in 2020 but only get 87 snaps and touch the ball 31 times. He managed 26 rushes for 157 yards and 5 receptions for 30 yards (plus 5 total first downs) but that was largely because Mixon missed games due to injury. The worst part is that few of his snaps have come with him as the primary back.

Mixon and Giovani Bernard led the backfield over that period. Mixon will receive even more of a workload now that Bernard with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but there will clearly be opportunities for Williams and the other running backs as well.

Outlook for 2021

Williams isn’t going to be the No. 1 back. Nor is he going to be the No. 2 back, as that spot is expected to be taken by Samaje Perine, who played well late last season, totaling 146 rushing yards on 6.6 yards a carry over Week 16 and Week 17 against the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens.

Perine is a bit bigger than Mixon, though not as explosive. Perine runs hard and hits holes decisively. He is also a 25-year-old vet who the team thought was valuable enough to sign to a new deal this offseason. It is, thus, likely that Mixon and Perine, who were teammates at Oklahoma, split carries 75-25.

As John Sheeran points out in the video below, Williams had a good opportunity to succeed coming into the NFL, as he joined the Bengals alongside his coach from Texas A&M, Jim Turner, who was the offensive line coach and run game coordinator for the Aggies. That means Williams had an advantage in terms of not having to adjust to a new system. Still, he couldn’t get on the field. “With the timing of everything, including the drafting of Chris Evans, it seems like Trayveon could be more on the bubble than we think,” Sheeran said.

You can also listen to the discussion on iTunes or using the player below:

While he could break out behind Mixon and Perine, it’s more likely that Williams would need another injury-plagued season from Mixon—which no Bengals fan actually wants to see—to get enough carries to make his mark on the roster.

If Mixon does miss time, Williams is a better Mixon replacement than Perine. Williams has better speed. He’s not lightning quick, but he’s more of an elusive back than he is a ground-and-pound guy. To give you an idea, his 10, 20, and 40-yard dash numbers were in the seventieth percentile. In the meantime, though, you can expect to see Williams mostly on special teams.

Roster odds: 75%

The Bengals drafted Chris Evans, a similarly-dynamic running back, out of Michigan in this year’s Draft. They also added Pooka Williams, kind of a smaller version of Williams, as a college free agent from Kansas. And Mixon and Perine are essentially guaranteed to be ahead of Williams. Thus, there is a chance that Williams could end up on another roster come September.