The Colts have a clear top three in their running back group with Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, and Jordan Wilkins. Mack is the every down back, Hines is the versatile back who can play some receiver, and Wilkins is a valued young player who could be a starter one day. The missing element they need in the backfield, though, is a power back who can pick up tough yards and protect Andrew Luck in the passing game.
The Colts tried multiple backs on the roster last year to fill this role, using players such as Christine Michael and Robert Turbin before finally settling for Jonathan Williams to close out the year. GM Chris Ballard was clearly not settling at that position this offseason, though, as he signed former Kansas City Chiefs running back Spencer Ware. Unfortunately, Ware is set to have ankle surgery and reportedly will be waived off of the reserve/PUP list according to many reports. With Ware out, the attention again turns back to Williams and newcomer Keith Ford, who have both had great camps so far.
In today’s article, I will be looking at both of these young running backs and talking about what each could bring to the team as that fourth running back. Ballard and Reich seem set to have four backs on this roster and one of these two players could be the clear answer.
5’11” 220 pounds
Pro Day Measureables:
40 Time: 4.59 / Bench Press: 16 reps / Short Shuttle: 4.29 seconds / 3-Cone: 6.97 seconds
30 carries for 94 yards and one touchdown in only 14 active games in his four year career.
Williams was very productive in college despite fighting through injuries in his time at Arkansas. Here he shows off a lot of the traits that evaluators loved in his college game. Soft hands out of the backfield and then he is able to turn it up field, fight through contact, and find the endzone.
More recently, he was able to put together some good film with the Bills before being cut in favor of other backs. Here, he shows off great vision to find the cut back lane, and then he fights through contact for extra yards at the end of the play. On these two clips, you can see the ability that Williams could bring to the position. He is a good pass catcher and a tough runner and that is exactly what the Colts are looking for.
Williams may not be the flashiest player, but he fills exactly what the Colts want out of their fourth running back. He is a tough runner who has the ability to pick up tough yards, and he has soft, reliable hands out of the backfield. Colts.com writer Jake Arthur also told me on the Colt 45 podcast this past week that Williams has looked great in pass protection all offseason in camp, as well.
When you take into account the fact that the Colts kept him on the roster for most of last year, and that GM Chris Ballard raves about him whenever he gets the chance, I think Williams has the inside track to make the roster as the fourth running back. If he continues his great camp and puts together a good preseason, he should be a lock to make the roster.
5’10” 220 pounds
Pro Day Measureables:
40 Time: 4.54 / Bench Press: 19 reps / Vertical Jump: 39 inches / Broad Jump: 126 inches / Short Shuttle: 4.41 seconds / 3-Cone: 7.09 seconds
21 carries for 79 yards and zero touchdown in only three active games in his one year career.
Ford was a player I really liked out of Texas A&M years ago. He is a big running back who runs with a ton of power and strength. The biggest aspect of his game, though, is his burst and acceleration. He is similar to Jonathan Williams in a lot of ways, but if the Colts want a more explosive big back rather than an agile one, Ford would be a better option.
Ford isn’t a big name, he went undrafted in the 2018 NFL Draft. He was a talented player in college who shined in committee work for both Oklahoma and Texas A&M. He may not be the most agile or quick runner, but he is a low to the ground, powerful runner who is insanely explosive as well.
Williams may have the inside edge for the final spot, but with a good preseason, Ford could beat him out. Unlike Williams, Ford is more explosive and powerful while also being a bit better in pass protection. It will certainly be interesting to see how this battle plays out in the preseason, as both of these young runners compete for a final roster spot.