The 49ers traded up in the fourth round to take Utah running back Joe Williams at pick 121 in the fourth round. San Francisco traded its 143rd (fourth) and 161st (fifth) picks to Indianapolis in the trade.
Who is he?: Williams is an excellent athlete who ran his 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds at the combine at 210 pounds. He had several explosive games last year at Utah, including a 333-yard, four-touchdown performance against UCLA and a 222-yard effort against Indiana in the Foster Farms Bowl at Levi’s Stadium. Williams “retired” for a time last season, missing four games. When other Utah running backs got injured, he returned to the team and was effective, scoring 10 touchdowns over that span.
How he fits: The 49ers were lacking an electric, change-of-pace runner, which Williams can be. He’ll likely compete with Tim Hightower and DuJuan Harris to be Carlos Hyde’s main backup. Said Williams during a conference call with reporters: “I’m the seventh running back on the roster, so for me to take that starting job that I think Carlos Hyde has, I’m going to come to work every day and show the coaches and the staff that they can trust me in the game.”
How he’s a risk: Williams took a circuitous route to Utah, getting kicked out of UConn in 2013 for using a teammate’s credit card. That he decided to step away from the Utah program for a month last year raises additional character and commitment concerns. Williams said that he has had trouble reconciling his sister’s death in 2006 and that he is a more mature version of himself now. “I can assure the 49ers organization and the fans that they’re getting a completely new person,” he said.
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