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Falcons move CB Avery Williams to running back

The second-year pro will be switching sides of the ball, per a report from ESPN’s Michael Rothstein.

NFL: JAN 09 Saints at Falcons Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When the Falcons drafted Avery Williams last year, it was clear pretty much immediately that his biggest impact was going to come on special teams. Sure enough, Williams began the year as the team’s punt returner and eventually assumed kick returner duties as well, turning in a quality rookie season in that role.

Williams also came into the league as a cornerback, and he got some limited run there last year as a fill-in starter and reserve. Now it appears he’ll be switching sides of the ball, as ESPN’s Michael Rothstein reports that the team has moved him to running back in organized team activities.

Rothstein reported during April voluntary workouts that Williams was getting some run on offense, which was an intriguing note but one that I tried not to read too much into. As Rothstein himself said at the time, it was just voluntary workouts, and the team might have just been trying him there as a lark. We still have to see if this move sticks, but it appears that with a logjam at cornerback and with an ever-present need for playmakers on offense, Williams will get a real shot to stick at running back.

It’s not hard to see why the team might consider doing this. Williams was a stellar running back in high school, has proven as a returner to be very dangerous with the ball in his hands, and has both plenty of speed and quality physicality for his size. Assuming he hones his pass protection and pass catching abilities, it would not be surprising to see him carve out a role as a key reserve behind a stable of powerful runners in Atlanta, given that we already know he’s capable of making things happen as a ball carrier given what he showed us in college and in the pros as a returner. It’d be difficult to see him earning a spot higher than fourth on the depth chart this year—Tyler Allgeier and Damien Williams are locked into spots, and while Cordarrelle Patterson will play multiple roles he’s going to get his touches at running back—but there’s little question the project is a worthwhile one.

This also frees up room in the cornerback group, where the Falcons were rolling a dozen deep heading into the summer. A.J. Terrell, Casey Hayward, Isaiah Oliver, and Darren Hall probably all are locked into spots, but the competition should be fierce for a fifth and possible sixth roster spot between new additions like Dee Alford, Teez Tabor, and recent post-tryout signing Tre Webb.

Williams is still likely to make his biggest 2022 impact as a returner—I have high hopes he’ll be one of the better ones in the league one before long—but there’s a path to playing time at running back this year and likely a larger role available in 2023 if he shines in his limited opportunities this year. Let’s hope this proves to be a great move for player and team alike.