Javonte Williams Made a Statement in Week 2 and the Window to Acquire Him is About To Slam Shut
September 21, 2021
After getting drafted by the Denver Broncos with the 3rd pick in the 2nd round of the 2021 NFL draft, Javonte Williams began drawing tons of hype across the dynasty community as part of the "big 3" in the first round of rookie drafts alongside Najee Harris and Travis Etienne. And for good reason.
Williams dominated in college at North Carolina, particularly in his final (Junior) season where he put up 1,140 yards on 157 carries (7.3 YPC) for 19 TDs in just 11 games. He also added 25 receptions for an additional 305 yards and another 3 TDs.
He then tested explosively at his Pro Day (despite a pedestrian 40-time) and registered a 71st percentile burst score and 89th percentile agility score, drawing a closest comparable player to Knowshown Moreno (per PlayerProfiler.com).
Shawn Siegele (@FF_Contrarian) at Rotoviz (@RotoViz), who ranked Williams as his #1 "Zero RB" target in drafts this summer, highlighted how Williams has "stardom written all over him" due to his exceptional agility for his size, his deceptive explosiveness, and the fact that he was the only early-round RB from this draft class who finished his final season in college at 20 years of age -- which RotoViz showed us is another strong indicator of success in the NFL in this article by Blair Andrews (@AmItheRealBlair).
You can find the rest of Shawn's article at RotoViz here.
Entering the 2021 Season
Despite his elite prospect profile and all of the hype coming out of the draft, Javonte Williams entered the 2021 season in a timeshare at best with Melvin Gordon, who recently just finished the 2020 season as the RB14 in PPR leagues.
This did not dissuade season-long drafters from aggressively targeting the rookie over the veteran however, as Williams ADP closed out the Best Ball season at 62.5 (RB23) and Gordon's finished up at 110.5 (RB35).
The consensus expectation across the industry was that Javonte would seize control over this backfield as the season progresses, and that he would showcase his elite upside and league winning potential later in the year when the games count the most.
The biggest question then becomes: when will Javonte Williams take over the Broncos backfield and emerge as the elite fantasy asset that we all expect him to eventually become?
And my answer to that question is that it may be starting to happen already.
Week 1: Silver Lining
In their week 1 win over the New York Giants (and in Javonte Williams first career NFL game) the Denver Broncos split their backfield work very evenly. Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon each played 33 snaps.
|Week 1||Javonte Williams||Melvin Gordon|
|Yards After Contact||37||29|
|Missed Tackles Forced||4||1|
|Pass Block Reps||4||3|
|PFF Rush Grade||66.5||83.8|
|PFF Rec Grade||54.9||58.9|
|PFF Pass Block Grade||79.4||48.8|
Just looking at the box score, Melvin Gordon objectively had the better game than the rookie. On the same workload, he had twice as many rushing yards and three times as many receptions, while grading out significantly better on the ground and slightly better through the air.
However, when looking under the hood, things weren't so far apart and a few promising indicators for Williams begin to emerge.
First off, 70 of Gordon's yards came on one long TD run where he was completely untouched by the Giants defense. Without that run, the rest of Gordon's rushing stat line was actually less efficient than Williams'.
Now I'm not saying that we should take away that run from Gordon -- all yards are certainly earned -- but there is also plenty of luck involved in taking a handoff 70 yards to the house.
In my opinion, Javonte Williams earned yards much more impressively by gaining more yards after contact (37 to 29) and forcing more missed tackles (4 to 1) than Gordon.
Secondly, and more importantly in my opinion, is Javonte Williams being trusted immediately in the passing game and delivering (at least as a pass blocker). Williams ran almost as many routes as Gordon (and basically matched his poor grade) and blocked for one more snap (where, in a small sample, he dominated Gordon in PFF grade ). While the results weren't amazing, the usage and trust from the coaching staff for the 21 year old certainly were.
Week 2: Making a Statement
If week 1 was about finding the silver lining in Javonte Williams' first career game as a pro, week 2 became about how Javonte Williams made a statement that he has arrived as clearly the better running back on this roster, the future of the Denver Broncos, and a budding superstar in the NFL.
|Week 2||Javonte Williams||Melvin Gordon|
|Yards After Contact||45||25|
|Missed Tackles Forced||7||2|
|Pass Block Reps||3||3|
|PFF Rush Grade||76.4||47.1|
|PFF Rec Grade||68.6||65.4|
|PFF Pass Block Grade||78.6||77.2|
Holy smokes. Playing roughly two thirds the snaps of Gordon in this one (for some reason getting much less receiving work compared to week 1), Javonte showed us who the alpha is in the Denver backfield.
Despite each receiving 13 carries, Williams doubled Gordon's yardage total, out-gained him by 20 yards after contact, forced 7 missed tackles to Gordon's two, and eviscerated him in PFF run grade for the game.
For context, Javonte Williams' 7 missed tackles forced were the 3rd highest total on the week behind only Dalvin Cook (10) and Nick Chubb (8). Dalvin Cook and Nick Chubb!! The 7 missed tackles forced were also 1 more than Christian McCaffrey (6), who had twice as many touches as Javonte Williams last week.
Williams also showed (again on limited snaps) that he is an effective pass blocker, and he also improved marginally as a receiver week-over-week and is at least on the same level as Melvin Gordon. Pass blocking is tremendously important for a running back to evolve into a three-down workhorse and so far Williams has shown us he can handle it.
Going Forward: Budding Superstar
Javonte Williams' elite prospect profile combined with his coaching staff's trust in him and his promising professional debut really have to get you excited about his outlook for the future.
Some may view it a little bit concerning that he is still splitting work with the dust-ball that is Melvin Gordon, and some may even view the 41-28 snap imbalance in week 2 as a step backwards for the rookie.
But I actually think it's the opposite. I think that Javonte just made a statement in week two, showing us that he is ready for the NFL. I think that he demonstrated to us, on limited touches, that he is clearly and unequivocally a superior running back than Melvin Gordon, and that he has arrived as a dominant, tackle breaking machine in the NFL.
I think that it's entirely possible that week 3 will become the the Javonte Williams show. And if not then, then shortly after week 3. And if not shortly after week 3, then the entire Denver coaching staff should be fired.
Go get Javonte Williams on your rosters right now in seasonal leagues and in dynasty before it's too late. The window to buy Javonte Williams is about to slam shut, and this might be your last chance to acquire him without maxing out your credit cards or taking out a mortgage on your house.
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