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Rams Roster Profile: Can Kyren Williams complement Cam Akers in run game?

After drafting Zach Evans, is Kyren Williams still RB2?

NFL: MAY 23 Los Angeles Rams OTA Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams will be wrapping up Organized Team Activities this week with the final day of mandatory mini-camp taking place on Thursday. Once that is concluded, the team won’t take the field again until training camp.

For depth players on the team, this is a chance to get some positive momentum going into the offseason and show that they can handle a larger role.

Between now and the Rams’ first preseason game, I’m going to preview approximately 45 players on the roster. The goal here will be to highlight players looking to take that next step in 2023 as well as players who will serve as key depth on the roster. I may expand into the occasional star or roster-bubble player, but for the most part we’ll be looking at the players who will truly make or break the Rams season.

Today, we’re looking at 2022 fifth-round pick, Kyren Williams.

2022 Season in Review

The 2022 season wasn’t the rookie year that Kyren Williams would have wanted. He missed time with a broken foot in the offseason. Then in the first quarter against the Buffalo Bills in Week 1, Williams suffered a high ankle sprain. It was a fluke injury as Brandon Powell got tackled into Williams’ right ankle on a kickoff that shouldn’t have gotten brought out of the end zone in the first place.

Williams didn’t play until Week 10 and it was one game later that he showed some of his potential. Against the New Orleans Saints, the rookie out of Notre Dame had seven carries for 36 yards. He followed that up the following week with 35 yards on 11 carries to go with three receptions for 25 yards.

When all was said and done, Williams finished his rookie year with 35 carries for 139 yards. He’ll have a lot to prove in year two.

The Good/Best Case Scenario

The Rams really liked Williams coming out of Notre Dame and were excited about him heading into the season. Prior to Week 1, Williams ESPN’s Adam Schefter said,

“(He’s) somebody that the Rams like. He showed some things this summer. Sean McVay after the last preseason game talked about the fact that he was somebody that could contribute this year.”

NFL Network’s Peter Schrager also name-dropped Williams before the Bills game. That doesn’t come out of nowhere as Schrager is someone who is close with McVay. Due to the injury, we’ll never know what the exact plan was for Williams early on in the season. However, he’s certainly not someone to completely write off. It wouldn’t be surprising to see more of Williams in 2023.

Last October, McVay was quoted saying,

“He’s a pro. I think he represents a lot of the things that you want from Rams types of players and kinds of guys that we want in this building. It’s been unfortunate, the couple setbacks that he’s had, but I’ve seen a guy that’s been unfazed. I do know that when he gets his opportunities, I expect him to be able to do what he does and that’s play good football.”

Williams’ 2.86 yards after contact per attempt led the Rams last season, albeit in a small sample size. His 0.97 yards per route run also led LA running backs and was in line with Chase Edmonds and Kenneth Gainwell who are two very good receiving backs in the NFL.

The best case scenario for Williams in 2023 is for him to remain healthy throughout the season and be a true complement to Cam Akers.

The Bad/Worst Case Scenario

There’s no question that injuries have been an issue for Williams. He broke his foot in training camp and then in Week 1 suffered a high ankle sprain that put him out of commission for a majority of the season. That play may have been a fluke, but that’s not the type of start that you want to see for a rookie.

It may not be completely because of Williams, however, the Rams did draft Zach Evans to add some depth to the running back room. There are two worst case scenarios for Williams. The first is that he experiences another setback and gets injured again. That part may be out of his control. What he can control is his performance on the field. The absolute worst case scenario for Williams is that he gets surpassed on the depth chart by Evans and becomes a forgotten player in the Rams running back room.

Biggest Question: Can Kyren Williams be a complement to Cam Akers?

This will be Cam Akers’ backfield following a dramatic season that saw him on the trade block. However, who comes in to relieve him and be the RB2 in the backfield is still up for debate. The Rams would like that to be Williams, but that’s certainly not a guarantee.

There were some flashes of it last season. The former Fighting Irish running back showed that he can be a receiving threat out of the backfield. However, he still has a lot of room to grow in pass protection. The makings of a good complementary running back are there. It will be up to Williams to show improvement and that he can be that guy.

Roster Battle

The Rams drafted Zach Evans out of Ole Miss for a reason. Yes, the running back room desperately needed depth. Because of this, the Rams added insurance behind Akers and Williams. However, there’s a real opportunity for Evans to beat out Williams as the complementary back to Akers.

Evans was drafted in the sixth-round, meaning Williams should be seen as the favorite. Still, the injuries suffered in his rookie season leave a lot of question marks. Evans has also dealt with injuries in his career, but there have never been questions about his talent. This will be one to watch in training camp and the preseason.

2023 Outlook and What to Expect

The expectation for Williams is that he should win the complementary role to Akers in the Rams backfield. It would be great to see him relieve Akers when needed and then come in on third downs and in passing situations.

It’s hard to call year two “make or break”, but but another year like 2022 and Williams may be competing for a roster spot come this time next year.

Chances of Making Final Roster

With the current depth in the Rams running back room, Williams is very likely a lock to make the roster. He’ll be competing more for the RB2 role than he will for a roster spot on the final-53.

Final Roster Confidence: 10/10