Javonte Williams - RB - UNC
Welcome the rookie profile for Javonte Williams. Williams started as a rotational back in a committee in 2018. In 2019 Javonte Williams and Michael Carter dominated the UNC backfield. A Thunder and Lightning duo, both declaring for the draft in 2020.
Team: Denver Broncos
Height: 5′ 10″
Weight: 212 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.41s
3-cone drill: DNP
20-yard shuttle: DNP
Vertical Jump: 33.5″
Broad Jump: 128″
Bench Press: 18 reps
Javonte Williams consistently improved every year throughout his college career. He was recruited out of high school as a 3-star prospect per 247 sports and as a true freshman carved himself out a small role in a backfield split between Antonio Williams, Michael Carter, and Jordon Brown. His sophomore year is when the tandem of Michael Carter and Javonte Williams became a vital part of UNC’s success. The duo continued to be a focal point of UNC’s offense in 2020, Williams’ junior year. Playing alongside Carter all 13 games his sophomore year and through 11 games his junior year, there were increases in not only his touches but also his efficiency. Williams was somewhat hidden from a lot of fans and analysts until his senior season when he dominated his way through 2020 scoring 22 total touchdowns and gaining 1400+ all-purpose yards. Good enough to be named to PFF’s First Team All-America winning PFF’s All-ACC player of the year.
Williams is everything a coach or GM would want in a running back. He has prototypical size at 5’10” and 212 lbs, showed top tier vision, burst at the line of scrimmage, and demonstrated that he is more than capable in the passing game. Williams has a very powerful running style as he is more than willing to run a defender over and through arm tackles. He consistently picks up extra yardage by either falling forward or showing great contact balance and keeping the play going. For someone that is such a physical runner, Williams runs with a certain fluidity by keeping his hips low and possessing really solid lateral mobility. Even though he was in a timeshare in college, he has the skillset to become a true three-down back in the NFL.
Williams’ powerful running style is a double-edged sword. It makes him a good running back today, but in the long term that running style equates to more wear and tear on the body from more hits seeking out contact and potentially bigger hits by not evading tacklers. He doesn’t have elite speed, but his game speed is fast enough to be effective at the next level. Whether Williams can be a workhorse/three-down back is still a question mark despite his skillset, solely because we haven’t seen it yet. That being said, he still has been very effective in a split backfield.
Expected Draft Capital:
End of Round 1 into Round 2.
Best Draft Fits:
A running back like Williams can fit in almost any system and would provide an immediate boost to all running back needy teams. Teams specifically that would be a good fit and need immediate production from their backfield are the Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills, and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Denver Broncos: Rounds 2, Pick 3
The Denver Broncos traded up immediately on Day 2 to get their guy Javonte Williams with the third pick in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Surprisingly it was the Atlanta Falcons that traded out of this pick, as many had them bookmarked as drafting one of the top running backs in this class. With Melvin Gordon still on the roster and question marks at other positions, it was a bit surprising that the Broncos made this trade up for Williams in the second round. But it is clear that they believe in his talent, and he made a case this past year to be considered with the other top running backs in this class.
From day one Javonte will be splitting the workload with Melvin Gordon. There is little depth behind Gordon as Philip Lindsay departed in the offseason to Houston and Royce Freeman has never lived up to his draft capital. Mike Boone was also brought in during the offseason, but he was signed to provide depth and bodies at the position. The backfield will most likely lean heavily on Gordon to start the season, but Williams will slowly start to take over the backfield as the season goes on. Gordon will be a free agent after this season, leaving Williams as the sole beneficiary of the backfield. Additionally, Gordon has occasionally missed some time in recent seasons due to injury, so we could see a sneak peak of what the Broncos’ backfield will look like when it is just Williams’ workload.
Javonte overall is in a good situation where he won’t be relied upon right away, but it is clear the organization wants him to take over the backfield by next year. If quarterback Drew Lock can take a step forward, that would relieve a lot of the pressure put on the running game. Javonte should provide a solid running back two floor, and fantasy managers in redraft leagues should target him as a their running back three or four depending on earlier draft picks. Javonte provides a running back one ceiling if Gordon were to ever go down during the season. For dynasty leagues, the choice is generally between Javonte and Etienne for the second running back off the board in the first round. Javonte provides usable value this year as he looks to split time with Gordon, but there is also a clear path to Javonte being the lead back as late as next season. By then he will be producing low end running back one to high end running back two numbers year in and year out for your dynasty team. He provides a nice investment opportunity at the position.
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Image Credit: Jim Dedmon – USA TODAY Sports