EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - The growing popularity of the forward pass in the NFL likely helped the Giants acquire one of the country's best running backs in the NFL Draft.
Boston College's Andre Williams rushed for 2,177 yards, averaged 6.1 yards a carry and was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2013, a trio of achievements that would seem to be worthy of a first-round selection. But for the second year in a row, no backs were taken in the first round. And when the Giants were on the clock to make their fourth-round choice, Williams was available. So the Giants added him to their stable of backs with the 113th overall pick.
"We're a little bit surprised by the BC running back (being available), because he had so much production coming out," general manager Jerry Reese said. "He's a big back, we were a little bit surprised that he was there. He was kind of sticking out last night when we looked at the board before we left."
Williams sounded as if he would have been happy going in the seventh round, as long as the Giants selected him.
"It's not necessarily when I got picked up, it's where I got picked up," he said. "From the start I had a feeling it was going to be the Giants and it really ended up turning out that way. I'm really just glad that it turned out that way. Patience is a really valuable thing. It worked out the best possible way it could, no matter what round it ended up being. Whether it was after the fourth round had I came to the Giants, I would have been just as happy. The round doesn't really bother me at all."
Williams is a powerfully-built 5-10, 230-pounder. In his first three years at BC, he totaled 349 carries for 1,497 yards and 10 touchdowns. Then he topped all those numbers as a senior, when he had 355 rushing attempts for 2,177 yards (both Atlantic Coast Conference records) and 18 touchdowns. He had nine 100-yard games, five 200-yard games and an ACC-record 339 yards (on 42 carries) vs. North Carolina State.
Neither Williams nor the Giants seem concerned by last season's heavy workload.
"I did take a lot of carries this year, but the last three years that I played before that, I didn't take nearly as many carries," Williams said. "I think it was good for me to take that many carries, to be so close to the professional level at that time. It was good to get that many carries and show that I could be durable, I could take a lot of carries. My body is built for it. I'm 230 pounds. It doesn't really faze me to take that many carries. It was a lot of fun doing it this year."
"He's got a lot of carries under his belt and the thing about it, he comes through the line of scrimmage and 22 eyes are looking at him and he still rushes for 2,000 yards," Reese said. "We're very impressed with that and, again, this is the kind of guy that if you want to pound the rock, this is the kind of guy you can pound the rock with. If you get up in a game and you're trying to run the clock out in that four-minute drill at the end, this is the kind of guy that you can get the ball to over and over and over and he'll get first downs for you."
Williams joins a backfield that includes free agent acquisition Rashad Jennings, holdovers Peyton Hillis and Michael Cox and, the Giants hope, David Wilson, the 2012 first-round choice who missed most of last season with a neck injury.
"(Williams was) a very good value for us, gives us some more depth at our running back position, creates a lot of competition," Reese said. "We're still hoping that David Wilson comes back and is able to go, but we said out of the gate that we weren't going to count on that until the doctors say that he can practice full-contact. And he hasn't been released to do that. We think he's going to be there but we couldn't pass up the value of a running back like this, of this caliber, at this point in the draft."
The Giants finished 29th in the NFL in rushing yardage last season, averaging just 83.3 yards a game. Tom Coughlin is determined to improve that figure and believes Williams can be a catalyst in realizing that goal.
"Along with what we currently have here, this is a big, powerful guy, basically a first and second down runner, can run the zone scheme," Coughlin said. "When you stop and think about what Boston College was able to accomplish this year…they would come out sometimes in two or three tight ends, which would bring the entire defense down and actually have the offensive formation contained almost hash mark to hash mark in college football. And yet this kid still rushed for 2,000-plus yards. He's able to break tackles, he's fast enough that when he gets in the open he can go all the way. He's demonstrated that. He runs outside, he runs inside, he's run the counter game, the gap scheme stuff, the power and he breaks arm tackles, he runs through people, he's strong, he's not big, strong legs that allow him to drive through people and fall forward, which is another nice thing.
"Yes, that does give us a chance. I think that also makes our offensive linemen realize that you wouldn't take a guy like unless you were committed to the run. We've got to get going up front again and be the dominating force up front, which can move the defense."
Thanks in part to the league's shift to the air, the Giants added a back who will help them on the ground.
Photos of Giants fourth round pick RB Andre Williams