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Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports


Shanahan’s hand-picked 2017 draft pick part of early roster cuts

Aug 31, 2018 at 5:38 PM


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One of the most notable draft picks from 2017, running back Joe Williams, was cut by the team today in just his second season with the 49ers. Williams spent all of 2017 on IR due to an "ankle injury" and was projected to make a run at a roster spot early in the off-season.

The selection of Williams in last years' draft was put into the spotlight due to several reasons. Peter King, a prominent writer for Sports Illustrated at the time, documented his take on the 49ers' draft as a guest from inside the teams' draft war room. One of the main stories that King chronicled was the selection of Joe Williams.

What came out of the story was how enamored Kyle Shanahan was with Williams. It was perceived that Williams was the one guy who Coach Shanahan wanted on Day 3 of the draft. However, there was a catch to this story.

Williams had previously quit his University of Utah team in the 2016 season, due to what could be described as "personal reasons". Williams lost his sister ten years prior to, and he expressed that he never really was able to get over that traumatic event.

49ers' General Manager, John Lynch, felt that it was necessary to do his due diligence before approving the selection of Williams. Lynch publicly stated that he previously had Williams off the draft board due to him quitting his team. After speaking with Williams, Lynch felt comfortable with giving Shanahan the thumbs up to move forward with the selection.

But this was Shanahan's decision. Williams was the guy he could mold into becoming the next great running back who would excel in his offensive system. Or at the very least, the next Devonta Freeman or Tevin Coleman, who became quality NFL running backs while Shanahan was the Offensive Coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons.

Shanahan went "all-in" on his conviction for Williams and traded up from the bottom of the fourth-round to 121 overall in order to make the selection. Shanahan was willing to part with the 49ers' lower fourth-round pick along with a 2017 fifth-round pick in order to move up.

What Shanahan saw on Williams' film while at Utah convinced him, it could've convinced nearly anyone. On film, Williams looked big, fast, and explosive. All one needed to do was watch his game against UCLA to see the type of ability he had.

Williams ran for 332 yards for an average of 11.2 yards per carry in that game, to go along with 4 touchdowns. His 332 yards were a school record, shattering the previous total by nearly 80 yards. More than one of his touchdowns were "home-runs", not some goal line carry that any plodding running back could score. He was a weapon, and that was clear to anyone who knew anything about the game of football.

With all that talent and ability, what Shanahan may have underestimated is Williams' non-physical attributes. The real question was not Williams' physical ability, but did he have enough mental toughness to succeed in the NFL.

To this point in his NFL career, it seems like this may be the one thing holding him back. Williams looked tentative during preseason games before getting injured against the Houston Texans. He was not using his explosive capabilities to hit open holes when there were some. He committed mental mistakes, including bad drops and fumbles (last year) that just cannot occur in the NFL. His bobble that led to an interception against the Texans was a perfect example of that.

But is this the end for Williams? There is still a possibility that he lands on either the 49ers' practice squad to further develop or he could end up with another team. The hope either way is that Williams can one day overcome whatever obstacles he may be facing. His story is powerful, his ability has not left him, and maybe one day those abilities will be unleashed on the field again. Shanahan might still be wishing that this can happen with Williams wearing a 49ers' uniform.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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