2022 NFL Draft Profile: UNLV RB Charles Williams
The Rebels’ record-setting running back hopes to break more new ground for the program by getting selected in the NFL Draft.
Can the Chuck Wagon find a path to a new frontier?
The UNLV Rebels haven’t had much success on the field during their tenure in the Mountain West, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a single player who left that program better than he found it than Charles Williams.
After failing to capture the attention of his hometown team, Fresno State, out of high school, Williams left the San Joaquin Valley for the desert and made an instant impact by leading UNLV in rushing yards as a freshman in 2016. He’d miss nearly all of the following season after suffering a serious injury, but would eventually work his way back to lead the Rebels in rushing three more times from 2019-21, finishing his collegiate career as the program’s all-time leading rusher while also building a family and getting it done in the classroom.
Now, one big question remains: Can the “Chuck Wagon” become the first UNLV player selected in the NFL Draft since Joe Hawley in 2010?
Measurables (taken from DraftScout.com)
Height – 5′ and 9 1/2″
Weight – 200 pounds
40-yard time – 4.48 seconds (from Paloma Villicana)
10-yard split time – 1.52 seconds
Arm length – 30 1/8″
Hand size – 8 7/8″
Wingspan – 72 1/4″
Vertical jump – 30 1/2″
Broad jump – 9′ and 8″ (or 116″)
Shuttle time – 4.58 seconds
3-cone drill time – 7.28 seconds
Bench press – 16 reps
Despite being the focal point of an often iffy offense, Williams showed the kind of patience and burst that allowed him to rip off more long runs than you’d suspect: In the last two full college football seasons, 2019 and 2021, Williams was one of just two FBS running backs with at least ten runs of over 20 yards in each year (he had five in the abbreviated 2020 season, too). Most recently, that was on display at January’s Hula Bowl:
— Chris Maathuis (@sports8) January 15, 2022
That patience, in tandem with good vision and footwork, helps to shore up above-average speed that doesn’t quite put Williams in true burner territory. He can cut to the edge or cut back inside if there’s daylight as well as anyone, so while there’s no one A-plus tool in his arsenal, the sum of the parts should be more than enough to at least be a two-down back at the next level.
It’s unclear how much Williams can contribute as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, though that may be a by-product of not often having to do so under either Tony Sanchez or Marcus Arroyo. Williams told Sam Gordon of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, however, that improving there was a point of emphasis in preparation for last year and, as a result, he did some damage on that front in limited opportunities last year, particularly with the screen game against Fresno State.
At present, he also needs work on pass protection, as well. According to Pro Football Focus, Williams’s 22.7 grade on that front was the worst among all qualifying Mountain West running backs in 2021.
Williams is also one of the oldest running back prospects in this year’s class and has taken more punishment than many of his peers over the years: His 799 career rushing attempts is the third-most in Mountain West history. And though his ankle injury is several years behind him at this point, it wouldn’t be shocking if that threw up a red flag in some war rooms.
Running back is a tricky position to predict this year because, while standouts like Breece Hall and Kenneth Walker III have positioned themselves atop numerous big boards, it’s not a guarantee that they’ll even be first-round picks given the relative fungibility at the position.
Personally, while he may not have the ceiling of other backs in this year’s class, I think he’s more than proven that he can get things done at the next level. Bet on Williams hearing his name late on Day 3, most likely in the seventh round.