2023 NFL Draft: Buffalo Bills LB Dorian Williams Injury Analysis

2023 NFL Draft: Buffalo Bills LB Dorian Williams Injury Analysis

Addressing the defense, the Buffalo Bills selected Tulane LB Dorian Williams in the third round with the 91st overall selection Friday night. 

Williams comes to the Bills having appeared in 48 games over his four-year career with the Green Wave. Despite playing such a physical position, he was incredibly durable, not appearing to have suffered any known injuries until the Senior Bowl. 

Below is Dorian Williams’s publicly known injury history and concerns moving forward. 

Injury History


Left wrist fracture, missed Senior Bowl.

Williams suffered a left wrist fracture during practice for the Senior Bowl, undergoing surgery and missing the game.

He was able to still participate at both the NFL Combine and Tulane’s pro day, only skipping some drills including bench press. In the Instagram post below, the cast with a window cut out can be observed as he runs the 40-yard dash. The picture also provides a clue as to the specifics of the wrist injury.

Wrist Fracture

To only suffer a wrist fracture during a collegiate career in a showcase game is impressive considering his positional demands.

Looking at the wrist fracture, it’s possible he suffered either a distal radial fracture also known as a Colles fracture. It’s also possible that he suffered a scaphoid fracture. Both have the same mechanism of injury, falling on an outstretched hand. 

There are several clues that suggest scaphoid fracture though. Noting the cast placement above, his thumb is immobilized. These are more common with scaphoid fractures according to the literature and due to the anatomy of the scaphoid in relation to the metacarpal of the thumb, restricted movement is necessary. 

Credit: Whitehouse-clinic.co.uk

The window that is cut out of the cast potentially suggests that he required the use of K-wire or percutaneous pinning to help stabilize the fracture following the injury. These are thin metal pins inserted into the bone during surgery and then later removed once enough healing has occurred. Having a window in the cast allows for easy access. 

Credit: surgeryreference.aofoundation.org

Schaphoid fractures are incredibly common and depending on the location of the fracture, can be troublesome when healing. This particular bone does not have a great blood supply which means that this area can be slow to heal or not heal altogether. The surgery helped ensure proper alignment and healing of the bone to prevent complications. 

Looking at the research, most scaphoid fractures in NFL athletes require surgery. Research varies, but upwards of 47.4 percent report some limitation in motion or strength. Furthermore, arthritis was found in 32 percent of those that underwent surgery. 

In another study, under 30 percent of the athletes who underwent surgery reported some restriction in movement, strength, or reported pain. Grip and pinch strength were largely unaffected and 34 percent were found to have degenerative changes, very similar to what was mentioned in the other study above. 

Thankfully, this type of injury does not affect performance in the first year of participation in the NFL. 

Despite arthritis being a concern, that case can be made for nearly every orthopedic injury in such a violent sport. The key thing to keep in mind is how much can that arthritis be accelerated or affect performance at the time the contract is signed. I have very little concern for performance based on the information that is known and the length of a rookie contract. 

Buffalo Bills Injury Outlook

Whichever bone was broken in there, scaphoid or radius, the Bills were comfortable with the healing process and selected Williams in the third round. I do not believe that the injury caused him to fall, it appears his talent was more of a reason for his draft selection. Plenty of players suffer broken bones and as long as they are managed appropriately, there are no long-term concerns. Knowing this is the only injury, there are no concerns moving forward from an injury standpoint.

It appears the Buffalo Bills took a player at a position of need and talent regardless of injury concerns. While the linebacker room lacks top-end talent other than Matt Milano, there is plenty of depth to develop throughout the next several years. 

Top Photo Credit: AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman