The Denver Broncos traded up in the 2021 NFL Draft to select Javonte Williams. He had a stellar college football career at the University of North Carolina. What’s Williams’ fantasy football outlook in Denver playing alongside Melvin Gordon, and will he be a value at his current ADP?
Javonte Williams’ fantasy outlook for 2021
Williams was recognized by many drafts analysts as the third-best running back in this year’s class behind Najee Harris and Travis Etienne. Williams leaves North Carolina with only 366 career rushing attempts. His statistical production was impressive, considering he shared the backfield with Michael Carter.
Early years at UNC
Williams played in 11 games during the 2018 season for the Tar Heels. He rushed for 224 yards and 5 touchdowns on 43 attempts, adding 8 receptions for 58 yards. As a sophomore in 2019, he rushed for 933 yards and 5 touchdowns on 166 attempts. Additionally, Williams caught 17 passes for 176 receiving yards and another score. His NFL Draft stock rose significantly in 2020.
An epic final season
Williams was considered a “dark horse” candidate for last year’s Heisman Trophy. He and Carter were the top running back duo in college football. Williams finished last season with 157 rushing attempts, 1,140 rushing yards, and 19 rushing touchdowns. His rushing yards were the 13th-highest total in the UNC history, sixth-most in the country, and third-best in the ACC. He generated 27 rushes of 15+ yards, averaging a robust 7.3 yards per attempt. Williams also caught 25 passes for 305 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The former Tar Heel is a tackle-breaking terminator who will slay any defender in his path. Furthermore, Williams is blessed with the route-running ability, pass-protection skills, and toughness to operate as a three-down running back sooner than later. He will be competing with Gordon for opportunities in Denver’s backfield. The veteran will become a free agent after this season.
Can Denver’s new dynamic duo coexist in 2021?
Gordon finished 2020 with the ninth-most rushing yards (986) among running backs but only finished with 32 receptions and 158 receiving yards. The Broncos have 127 unaccounted rushing attempts due to the departure of Phillip Lindsay. Williams will inherit all of those attempts and then some.
Williams and Gordon can coexist in the Mile High City. Both have a similar skill set that allows offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to use both interchangeably and not tip off opposing defenses. The tandem will be running behind a solid offensive line led by renowned coach Mike Munchak. Denver will have a high percentage of their starters on the offensive line returning this season.
This bodes well for the Broncos’ running game to take center stage in 2021. That will alleviate some pressure off Teddy Bridgewater or Drew Lock and the team’s passing game. Denver didn’t move up from the 40th pick to the 35th to not provide Williams a significant opportunity in 2021. The training camp battle between him and Gordon will be fun to watch.
Williams projects for around 250 opportunities, 1,150 total yards, and 6 touchdowns in 2021. He can be viewed as a high-end RB3 with RB2 upside.
Javonte Williams’ ADP
Williams is typically off the board in the fifth or sixth round when you review redraft ADP data from Fantasy Football Calculator. Similarly, Williams has an ADP of 50.11 in pay-to-play fantasy formats such as the National Fantasy Championship. Meanwhile, Williams’ ADP in PPR formats on Sleeper is 65.1 and on Fleaflicker is 66.3.
Should you draft Williams in 2021?
Yes — Williams’ age and the low number of opportunities are advantages he has over Gordon. The veteran has accumulated 1,530 touches during his six NFL seasons. It is a perfect situation for Williams’ role to be expanded as the season progresses. He could become a league winner similar to Cam Akers last season.