Despite the presence of Beanie Wells—a former first-round pick of the Cardinals in 2009—and the fact Williams missed of the 2011 season with a ruptured patella tendon, the former Virginia Tech back has displayed enough during camp this summer to think he can steal a good number of touches away from Wells in 2012.
Here's a closer look at everything you need to know about Williams' fantasy value and drafting availability for the 2012 season.
General Fantasy Info
Average Draft Position: 119.7 (ESPN)
Player Rank: 40th among RBs (ESPN, standard scoring)
Suggested Round: Eighth-to-ninth round
Season Projections: 112 points (ESPN.com)
Bye Week: 10
RB Ryan Williams continues to impress. He made something out of nothing a few times Thursday night, and he did a nice job of avoiding taking losses when blocking mistakes were made. If he stays healthy, Williams shows every sign of being a special player.
Williams has also appeared over the knee injury that cost him the entire 2011 season, making hard cuts in camp on the repaired patella. Still, this was a major injury and one that deserves caution from fantasy owners.
Regardless of whether or not Wells is healthy, Williams is going to get touches. He's proved in camp and the preseason that he's more than capable of handling a large role on this offense.
However, given a clean bill of health for both backs, Wells will be the one that starts for the Cardinals to open the 2012 season.
Yet judging Wells' shaky injury history, there figures to be opportunities for Williams to start a number of games this season—if the repaired patella holds up. That's a big if, too. Cadillac Williams never really recovered after rupturing his patella several years back.
Making a projection for Williams is difficult to do, as it's anyone's guess how Wells will hold up injury-wise and Williams' patella injury is one that could limit him at times in 2012. But assuming both stay relatively healthy in 2012, there's no reason why Williams can't get close to 200 total touches this season.
100-150 carries seems reasonable, and Wells' limited receiving ability should give Williams a bigger role on third downs. He could catch 40-50 balls as a primary check-down option on passing situations.
Projection: 129 carries, 541 yards, three TDs; 39 catches, 325 yards, two TDs
In 2012, Williams isn't a can't-miss back. He may be down the road, but not this season. There are a number of backs that will and should go ahead of Williams, including Toby Gerhart, Peyton Hillis, Michael Bush and C.J. Spiller.
But don't fall asleep at the wheel if Williams is still on the board with the likes of Felix Jones, Shane Vereen, Daniel Thomas, LeGarrette Blount and Mikel Leshoure. Feel confident taking Williams over all of those similarly-drafted backs.
Williams has been starting to creep up fantasy boards as the 2012 season approaches. According to ESPN, Williams has made the second-biggest jump (behind just Green Bay's Cedric Benson) over the last seven days of online drafts.
There is obviously promise here if Williams can stay healthy for most of this season. Wells, the man standing in his way, has proven to be completely unreliable and won't be a big factor in the passing game.
If Williams doesn't get picked higher than his current ADP, feel free to take a late-round chance on him as one of your backup running backs. His ceiling is high, and at that point, the risk is low.
Williams isn't a fantasy starter yet, but he could be by the end of the 2012 season.