On Saturday afternoon, Boom Williams announced he would be entering the NFL Draft following Kentucky’s 33-18 loss in the TaxSlayer Bowl.
We all knew there was a chance, a good one at that, but it was certainly a punch in the gut for fans knowing they wouldn’t be able to yell “BOOOOOOM” on Saturday’s or witness the antics of Boom Sr. at every CatWalk. He was one of the most highly touted signees in Kentucky recruiting history and certainly lived up to the hype in his three-year career.
Every college career must come to a close eventually, for some sooner rather than later. When Kentucky began recruiting at an elite level, that was part of the unwritten contract: three-and-done’s would slowly become more and more abundant each year.
The choice has been made, and it’s time to look at Boom as an NFL back…
Did Boom Williams make the right call?
Initial thoughts around the fanbase haven’t been too positive, with most believing he should’ve come back. “He’ll get eaten alive by NFL defenses,” “He’s too small,” and “He’s injury prone” have been the three most common phrases. I get it, I really do. And some of it may be true. However…
Boom needed to go, as it’s the best decision for him and his future.
Talent-wise, Williams is an elite back, there’s no denying it. When Kentucky’s offensive line struggled in his first two years, he still managed to show off his skill and put up impressive numbers, creating his own highlight reel when others were unable to carry the weight. When his offensive line flourished this year? Boom turned into one of the most dynamic backs in the SEC, rushing for 1135 yards and seven touchdowns on the year, to go with 48 yards and one touchdown through the air.
Boom has shown what he is as a college running back, and another year won’t change that. He has averaged over seven yards per carry in back-to-back years, finished fifth in the SEC in rushing yards this season, and proved to be one of the most efficient backs in all of college football. When you break down the film, Boom has matured as a runner, waiting for the holes to develop and running north/south rather than east/west. When the hole develops, it’s off to the races, and there’s not many that can stop him.
“Anytime you see the back of this guy’s jersey, you’re not going to catch him.”
When he gets to the pros, he may not bust out as many 70-plus yarders, but you better believe his speed matches up to NFL talent.
I look at the Tyler Ulis situation from last year as an example. Yes, Tyler Ulis was the best point guard in college basketball and one of the greatest in UK history, but what would he have gotten from another year in college? He did everything he had to do, put the team on his back, and showed everything he could to NBA scouts at the college level. He wasn’t going to grow several inches and pack on fifty pounds of muscle with another year in college. Fans hated saying goodbye because he was such an icon at Kentucky, but there was nothing left for him to prove at the college level. Boom has done the same thing at Kentucky. Was he going to grow three/four inches and develop a power run game, where he is magically able to truck elite SEC defenders next season? No, because that’s not his game. That’s not what NFL teams will use him for. He is what he is. Boom is a speed back, and he’s proven to be an elite one, at that.
When you factor in the risk/reward aspect, it just doesn’t add up. Could he have asked Eddie Gran to get more passes out of the backfield as a senior? Maybe, but he’s caught 38 balls out of the backfield for 300 yards (7.7 YPC) and two TDs in his career. Been there, done that. Could he have asked to return punts and kicks next year to prove his versatility? I guess, but he was a primary kick returner as a freshman, and had an average return of nearly 30 yards. Scouts can just look at that film. How much difference would that make to NFL scouts compared to the actual risk of returning for another season?
When it boils down to it, injury concerns and limited shelf life had to have been the main deciding factors. Boom dealt with some injuries in his first two seasons, but managed to stay relatively healthy throughout his junior year, not missing a game all season. Why risk coming back and getting hurt, lowering his draft stock or potentially cutting his career short? NFL running backs have a finite lifespan, even those considered “elite” backs have to stop earlier than most of their teammates after taking a beating throughout their career. If the money is on the table right now and draft stock is high, you’ve got to take it while you’ve got the chance.
In fact, Boom’s “injury history” really isn’t even that much of a “history” at all. He has missed just four games in three years at Kentucky, the same as Leonard Fournette and two less than Christian McCaffrey, arguably the two top draft-eligible backs in college. I’m not comparing Boom to Fournette or McCaffrey, but he’s not a fragile guy needing to be covered in bubble wrap like many make him out to be. He’s a tough kid that has been dinged up a few times, like most players in college football.
UK Football’s Pro Day will be a great opportunity for Boom to show scouts why he’s deserving of a selection, and one higher than most expect. Right now, he’s expected to be selected late, but if he’s able to run a ridiculous 40-yard dash (remember his infamous 4.2 second speed coming into college?) and show ability as a pass-catcher in some of the skill position drills, you can guarantee he’ll be moving up the draft boards. Last year, there were scouts representing nearly every NFL team in attendance watching guys like Josh Forrest, AJ Stamps, and CJ Johnson. With Toth, Boom, and others, it’s going to be a full house yet again.
With the NFL Draft this year, the running back class is extremely top-heavy, and the rest are all interchangeable. You’ve got Fournette, McCaffrey, Foreman, Cook, etc., and then the rest can be flipped around based on specific team needs. This works in Boom’s favor. If he’s able to prove he has a niche and separate himself among the pack, he’ll be taken before some of the other stereotypical eligible backs.
Darren Sproles, Dion Lewis, Shane Vereen, James White, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Jaquizz Rodgers all found niches as small, “different” backs in the NFL, and made impressive careers out of it. Boom Williams can prove to do the same.
Celebrate his career, appreciate what he did for the program, and tip your hat. He’s done his job, and now it’s time for him to prove people wrong at the next level.