Tailback Damien Williams has rejuvenated his career the past two seasons with Kansas City but likely will lose touches this year to rookie first-rounder Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Here are Williams’ odds at Mybookie to lead the NFL in rushing yards in the 2020 regular season.
- Odds to win NFL rushing title: +4500
Williams was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma in 2014 by the Miami Dolphins. Williams has some off-field problems at OU and eventually was kicked off the team so that clearly hurt his draft status.
Williams didn’t start getting many carries for Miami until 2017 when then-starter Jay Ajayi was traded to the Eagles. Williams started four games before suffering a shoulder injury in Week 12. Williams finished the season with 46 carries for 181 rushing yards along with 20 receptions for 155 yards and a receiving touchdown. Williams never once averaged even 4.0 yards/carry for the Dolphins in four seasons. Even in a part time role, he was eking out an average of 3.6 yards for every carry.
The Chiefs, however, saw something in the misused back, and Kansas City signed him before the 2018 season. Williams was a backup to Kareem Hunt, but Hunt was released during the 2018 season for an off-field issue. Spencer Ware was the first back to get the nod for Andy Reid. He also signed Charcandrick West off the street, but that didn’t work. Reid begrudgingly turned to Williams in the 2018 playoffs.
In the Divisional Round victory over the Indianapolis Colts, he had 129 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown to go along with five receptions for 25 receiving yards. In the AFC Championship against the New England Patriots, he had 30 rushing yards, a rushing touchdown, five receptions, 66 receiving yards, and two receiving touchdowns in the 37-31 overtime loss.
Last year, Williams finished with 498 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns to go along with 30 receptions for 213 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns. He was much more valuable in the playoffs.
In the Divisional Round against the Houston Texans, he rushed 12 times for 47 yards and two touchdowns and caught two passes for 21 yards and a touchdown during the 51-31 win. The next week in the AFC title game vs. the Titans, Williams rushed 17 times for 45 yards and a touchdown and caught 5 passes for 44 yards in the victory.
And in Super Bowl LIV against the San Francisco 49ers, Williams rushed 17 times for 104 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown, and caught four passes for 29 yards and a touchdown during the 31-20. His receiving touchdown gave the Chiefs the lead while his rushing touchdown sealed the win. He became the first player in Super Bowl history with at least 100 rushing yards while recording a rushing and receiving touchdown.
Including the regular and postseason, Williams has received double-digit carries from the Chiefs in 13 total games over two years. In that time, he’s put up 187 carries, 975 rushing yards, and 13 rushing touchdowns to go with 55 catches, 435 receiving yards, and 6 receiving touchdowns. That’s 5.2 yards per carry and 19 scores.
This offseason, the Chiefs exercised Williams’ 2020 option. He will make $2.3 million in the final year of his deal.
The Chiefs took LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire with the No. 32 overall pick in this year’s draft so Williams will again share touches. Still, Chiefs running backs coach Deland McCullough expects a “big jump” from Williams this season.
“When he shined, he shined at a level that helped us get over a hump in a few games — and obviously helped us in winning the Super Bowl,” McCullough said. “Just listening to the way Damien spoke about himself and the things we’re doing and the things he’s going to do to improve, I think his maturation in this offense is going to be a big jump this year.”
However, with Williams being injury prone and the fact that he’s 28 years old (which is old for running backs), it’s safe to say that Williams isn’t going to be the running back of the future in Kansas City. That’s going to be Edwards-Helaire.
Kansas City is a 10-point home favorite for Week 1 vs. Houston.