The Falcons have moved Avery Williams from defensive back to running back ahead of the 2022 season. Arthur Smith announced the move on Thursday prior to the start of Atlanta's first open OTA practice.
Williams was drafted by the Falcons in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and he played a significant role on special teams for the Falcons last season. Primarily used as a return man, Williams accumulated 643 return yards through 15 games. He averaged 21.3 yards per kick return, and 7.6 yards per punt return.
Originally coming to Atlanta as a defensive back, Williams returns to his running back roots. Williams was a running back in high school. Prior to his senior year, Williams transferred to JSerra Catholic High School where he was named Trinity League's co-Most Valuable Player after rushing for over 1,000 yards and scoring 14 touchdowns. He was also an All-Area selection at defensive back as well. Receiving no college offers coming out of high school, Williams walked on at Boise State. He got his foot in the door as a running back, but was moved to defensive back when the need arose at the position group.
However, Williams really came into his own at Boise State as a return specialist. During his senior year, Williams returned 19 kicks for 533 yards and two touchdowns, along with 229 more yards and two more touchdowns as a punt returner. Williams tied the NCAA Division I career record with nine return touchdowns. He became a consensus first team All-American selection as an all-purpose player because of it.
Though Williams will be making the move on the depth chart to running back, make no mistake about it: this doesn't change the Falcons expectations for him in return action. In a way, Williams follows in the footsteps of Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson made a career for himself on special teams before the 2021 season in which the Falcons used him as an offensive weapon in both the run and pass game.
Williams officially joins Patterson in the running back room, along with Damien Williams, Qadree Ollison and Tyler Allgeier.