Javonte Williams grew up loving football his whole life, but he almost never played college football. Now he's one of the first three picks in the second round of the NFL Draft after the Broncos traded up to No. 35 overall to take Williams.
Through three years of playing linebacker at Wallace-Rose Hill High School in Wallace, N.C., Williams received no FBS offers and seemed destined to hang up his cleats. But his high school coach, Kevin Motsinger, moved him to running back as a senior, and he romped for 2,271 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns.
It was enough to catch North Carolina's attention, and so the 247Sports three-star prospect went to the Tar Heels. He split the rushing workload over the past two seasons with fellow prospect Michael Carter, breaking out in 2020 with 1,140 rush yards on 157 carries and 19 scores on the ground and 305 yards on 25 receptions with three touchdown catches. The year was so impressive that it resulted in the highest rushing grade ever given out by Pro Football Focus for a college running back ever.
Williams turns 21 years old on April 25, a mere four days before the first day of the 2021 NFL Draft.
We're breaking down everything you need to know about Williams from a Fantasy manager perspective, including best fits, Dynasty outlook, measurables, scouting report, key stats and an NFL comparison.
2021 Fantasy impact
Williams' landing spot isn't a great one for 2021, because Melvin Gordon didn't really give the Broncos any reason to think he shouldn't be the lead back last season. So, Williams likely slips into the Phillip Lindsay role for the Broncos. Last year, that was worth around 11 carries per game, and I would expect something similar for Williams in that role. Which means he'll be Fantasy relevant from Day 1, but not likely a must-start guy.
However, this could be a similar situation to Cam Akers, J.K. Dobbins, and Jonathan Taylor last season, where it took a little while for each of them to become must-start options before all three were key to Fantasy rosters down the stretch. Maybe Melvin Gordon gets hurt. Maybe Gordon just isn't effective. But there will always be a path for a talented running back to get on the field. Life finds a way.
Williams won't be a reliable Fantasy starter from Week 1, but he could be a flex option. I've got him ranked as RB38 right now, with Gordon falling just a little from RB17 to RB19. Williams will probably get pushed up to the top-75 range in drafts, which might be a little rich for my blood, but it's easy to understand why. Ideally, Williams would be an eighth-rounder you could target as your first bench RB or as one of your upside plays in a zero-RB role. But if you're bullish on him, don't be afraid to push him up. -- Chris Towers
Williams is in a great spot for Dynasty leagues. This Broncos offense has so much talent, that if they can just get decent QB play, they're primed to explode. That QB spot is still a question mark, but Williams should be the long-term answer at RB, with Gordon's contract set to expire at the end of the season. Williams might just be a fringe No. 3 RB in re-draft leagues, but he should be a top-24 RB in Dynasty leagues and a top-seven pick in rookie-only leagues.
- Young player. Born on April 25, 2000. Will be 21 years old when 2021 season starts.
- Built like a linebacker, because he used to be one. Added 15 pounds of muscle over two seasons. Thick, compact body complete with strong legs.
- Handled the physical rigors of running back -- didn't miss a game in college due to injury, though may have played through an MCL sprain in 2019.
- Understood zone and power blocking schemes. Played in various formations and should be able to grasp any offensive system.
- Diagnosed his blocking very well. Ran patiently behind his blockers. Rarely stopped his feet in the backfield -- negative runs were frequently caused by poor blocking, not by his own doing.
- Violent, powerful, physical runner who frequently broke tackles to pick up more yards and dragged defenders at the end of runs.
- Lowered the boom on many runs to maximize gains. Won a lot of battles running into defenders and knocking them down.
- Would fight like hell for extra yards when wrapped up.
- Very good balance and low-pad level helped him pick up extra yardage after contact.
- Gained yardage at times in spite of his offensive line. Several plays from 2020 where he was dead to rights in the backfield but maintained balance and shed tacklers for positive yardage.
- Physicality definitely transferred to short-yardage situations -- earned that role for North Carolina. Helped him score in 10 of 11 games in 2020.
- Quick cuts to freeze defenders and buy some space.
- Good burst on handoffs and in space to create momentum and, at times, out-run collegiate defenders.
- Understood the importance of holding on to the ball. Fumbled once in 2020, three times in 2019, none in 2018. Covered up the ball when defenders closed in on him.
- Excellent awareness and instincts displayed. Recognized and recovered teammate's fumbles. Would occasionally go from blocker to receiver to help out his quarterback in a pinch (helped result in a long receiving touchdown vs. Boston College).
- Usually showed good hands. Adjusted to poorly thrown balls well. Fluid movement to run upfield after making the grab.
- Very good route runner when he ran out of the backfield. Got a step on defenders with jukes and head-fakes as well as with his solid speed versus slower players. Ran flares, screens, wheels, digs and the go route.
- Worked on his pass protection and was very good at it in 2020. Rarely did a blocker he faced make his way to the quarterback.
- Was on UNC's onside-kick hands team
- 36-inch vertical jump at his Pro Day suggests good explosiveness.
- Graduated high school with a GPA of 4.6. Comes off as bright, thoughtful guy.
- Broke out in junior year (age-20 season). Wasn't a polished, ballyhooed prospect out of high school; North Carolina was his only FBS scholarship offer.
- Wasn't a full-time back at UNC -- frequently shared running back duties with fellow prospect Michael Carter.
- Only five career games with 20-plus touches.
- Played like a grown man in college but will face other grown men in the NFL. There is some concern he might not be quite as rampant as a power runner in the pros.
- Would occasionally run too low to the ground on short-yardage plays and come up short of the conversion.
- Acceleration was typically solid. Would win the edge a good amount of the time but wouldn't show as much speed in open space. Took him a while to kick into second gear, which means he didn't flash his second gear often.
- Speed was typically solid. Would get caught from behind frequently.
- Three drops on 27 catchable targets, per Pro Football Focus.
- Some may consider it a red flag that he sat out of the Orange Bowl, his last college game.
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Advanced stats to know
(all from 2020)*
- Scored in 10 of 11 games in 2020.
- 4.59 yards after contact per attempt ranked 11th in the nation, ahead of Travis Etienne (3.84) and Najee Harris (3.26).
- Broke Pro Football Focus' record for broken tackles per attempt (0.48) and earned the highest single-season rushing grade in PFF's history (95.9).
- 75 broken tackles led the nation.
- 27 carries of 15-plus yards (second-best in nation), but only 13 carries of 20-plus yards and 10 of 25-plus yards (including three against Duke).
While Williams compares himself to Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara, I see him more as a version of Chris Carson. Both are tough, strong, compact running backs who pick up chunks of yardage after contact and have underrated receiving skills. Williams is readier for the pro game than Carson was when he came out of college, including as a pass protector, which is why it's a cinch he'll get picked far earlier than when Carson got taken. Williams may also be a tad bigger than Carson, not to mention younger.