Javonte Williams or Melvin Gordon: Can you start either Broncos RB in fantasy on Thursday Night Football?

With the Broncos employing a true timeshare at running back, should fantasy managers start Melvin Gordon or Javonte Williams in Week 7?

Both Denver Broncos RBs — Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams — have fantasy value. Through six weeks of the 2021 season, they’ve been mired in a timeshare. Will anything change in Week 7, and can fantasy football managers start either one on Thursday night?

Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams are essentially the same player

Over the first six weeks of this season, Gordon is averaging 11.7 PPR ppg and Williams is averaging 9.8 ppg. While Gordon has been slightly more productive overall, the actual difference is negligible.

Over the past five weeks, Williams has actually been the better player, averaging 10.4 ppg vs. Gordon’s 9.8 ppg. The sole difference is Gordon’s 70-yard touchdown run during garbage time in Denver’s Week 1 destruction of the Giants.

The Browns are a pass-funnel defense

The bad news for the Broncos’ RB duo is that the key to moving the ball against the Browns is to pass. Cleveland allows the second-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs but the fifth-most ppg to wide receivers. Additionally, just 11% of the receiving yards the Browns allow have gone to running backs.

The short week complicates things

This game is on a Thursday, which may throw a wrench into typical game plans. Although passing is the optimal approach, both teams may opt to slow the game down by running a bit more than usual. That could work to the benefit of Gordon and Williams, but overall volume really hasn’t been the issue.

Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams are in a true 1A/1B timeshare

Neither Gordon nor Williams is more than a weekly RB3 because of the shockingly even split in work between the two backs. Gordon has played 55% of the snaps, while Williams has played 45% of the snaps. Gordon has touched the ball 83 times against Williams’ 79 touches. The duo is nearly identical in yards per carry as well (Gordon, 4.7 – Williams, 4.6).

Should fantasy managers start Gordon or Williams this week?

As a fantasy football manager, I prefer not to have my fantasy players playing on Thursday Night Football. I like to avoid it as much as possible. When it comes to studs, we obviously have no choice but to play them. However, for fringe players, it’s much easier just to sit them on the short week. Unfortunately, that’s not really an option this week.

I cannot recall a prior situation where more top-end fantasy talents were out due to bye weeks or injuries than Week 7 of the 2021 NFL season. With so many fantasy starters not playing, fantasy managers will actually be erring on the side of caution by starting Gordon and Williams on Thursday night.

While it’s unlikely that either running back has a spike game, they are both due for positive touchdown regression. The Broncos haven’t rushed for a touchdown since Week 3. Simply put, Denver isn’t going to score all of their touchdowns through the air the rest of the season.

Eventually, one or both of Gordon or Williams will find the end zone. Unless your team is healthy and without players on bye, start Gordon and Williams this Thursday and hope your guy scores a touchdown.

Jason Katz is a Fantasy Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter: @jasonkatz13 and find more of his work here. Don’t forget to listen to the PFN Fantasy Football podcast and check out our free fantasy newsletter.