With the No. 35 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Broncos select North Carolina running back Javonte Williams….
Javonte Williams Career Statistics
No back has surged more this offseason than Williams. After 1,391 yards and 11 touchdowns over his first two seasons at North Carolina, Williams exploded for 1,445 yards and 22 scores last year while catching 25 passes for 305 yards and three scores as part of the production. A tackle-breaking machine in 2020, Pro Football Focus credited Williams with 0.48 broken tackles per attempt, the most by a back since they have been charting.
You can also find a clear path to argue Williams as being the best running back in this class while factoring in age with his three-down potential. Williams (5’9″ and 212 pounds) showed plenty of acumen as a receiver (50-539-4 over his three seasons), is two years younger (the second-youngest back in this class) than Najee Harris and over a year younger than Travis Etienne, and as a byproduct, the lone early declare prospect among that trio.
The main knock on Williams is that he has never been a workhorse in college, with 183 and 182 touches over those past two seasons, playing alongside Michael Carter, who is a favorite of many among the second tier of backs in this class. We were in a similar position two years with Josh Jacobs, who had even fewer collegiate touches than Williams has had, while Jacobs was playing next to Damien Harris, who was selected in the same class in the third round.
Williams came out of his Pro Day in the 65th percentile in athletic score in the prospect model and posted an 84th percentile agility score, but checking in at 212 pounds after being listed at 227 pounds and being lighter than Etienne was a surprise.
Denver was 25th in the expected points added via rushing in 2020 while they had a 43% success rate on rushing plays, which was tied for the lowest rate in the league.
Heading to Denver, Williams will play alongside Melvin Gordon, who is in the final year of his contract (he can be released for a dead cap hit of $6.5M). In seven games where Phillip Lindsay missed or exited early in 2020, Gordon averaged 20.1 touches as opposed to 13.3 touches with Lindsay active. In the eight games that the two played together in full, Gordon received 29.2% of the team touches compared to 23.4% for Lindsay. Gordon accounted for 43% of the team carries compared to 36% for Lindsay. In the passing game, Gordon will surely have a 2021 edge. In the games he and Lindsay played together last year, Gordon ran a pass route on 47.5% of the team dropbacks compared to 29.3% for Lindsay.
We seen a similar layout a year ago for a number of rookie backs selected alongside an expiring contract. Williams may start in a timeshare if Gordon is retained, but can make an end of the season push to take over down the stretch.
Early 2021 Javonte Williams Projection: 172 carries, 757 yards, 5 TD, 17 receptions, 123 yards, 0 TD