No fantasy: Ryan Williams looking good

ESPN's injury expert, Stephania Bell, drafted the Arizona Cardinals' Ryan Williams late in a couple fantasy football drafts.

Yes, she thinks the talented second-year runner is well on his way to bouncing back strong from a torn patella suffered 13 months ago.

"When he was in the preseason games, you really saw life in those legs, quick movements, scampers up the side," Bell said Thursday. "That is what I was looking for. Did he have the ability to make a guy miss and blow out of there? I saw glimpses. That is encouraging because you only get better."

The fact that Williams has met or beaten every marker during his recovery is a positive sign. I think it also shows something that can't be quantified: heart.

So, while 1,000-yard rusher Beanie Wells is the Cardinals' starting halfback entering Week 1, we should expect a healthy Williams to make this a competitive situation.

It was telling, I thought, when Arizona used a 2011 second-round choice for Williams only two years after using a first-rounder for Wells. That move said there were still some question marks about Wells (some of them answered by that 1,000-yard season). Mostly, it said the Cardinals were exceedingly high on Williams, a player they ranked 15th among all 2011 prospects, according to coach Ken Whisenhunt.

The injury Williams suffered against Green Bay in the 2011 preseason had the potential to threaten his career. The patella anchors the quadriceps and must be sound for an athlete to execute movements with explosiveness.

"A patella tendon rupture is a devastating injury," Bell said. "You are really stiff after that surgery. It's hard to get your motion back. Getting back to the level of being able to run hard, stop on a dime, you worry about that coming back."

Williams carried eight times for 40 yards and a touchdown during the preseason. He absorbed and ran through contact to his lower body. We should expect to see him against Seattle in the opener, without apparent limitations.

"I love the way Ryan Williams looks when he's running," Bell said. "Some of it is less tangible. Athletes will describe it as though it feels like they are dragging or can't get that burst off the line. Williams looks good early and that is about as much encouragement as you could have. I like him. And yes, I picked him up late in a couple fantasy drafts."