Javonte Williams Is A Potential League-Winner
Every NFL season, fantasy football players are searching for potential league-winners—players with immense upside with reasonable draft cost. League-winners are often running backs because players are able to find strong production at this position in the later rounds. These are running backs who provide top-12 production, such as James Robinson (2020), Austin Ekeler (2019), and James Conner (2018). Each of these running backs finished in the top 12 in half-PPR points per game during these seasons. You were also able to draft them past pick 150 in most leagues. Finding a player like this is huge for your chances at a championship. This year, look no further than Denver Broncos rookie running back Javonte Williams.
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Javonte Williams's Profile
Williams has adequate size at 5-foot-10, 212-pounds with 4.57 speed. He’s a physical runner who excels at breaking tackles and can also play a role in the passing game. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein compared Williams to Kareem Hunt coming out of the draft, referring to the former UNC star as a “big, broad bully back” who has the receiving and pass-protection skills to become a three-down back in short order. Williams also has a strong track record in college with two productive seasons, including this past year where he ran for 1,140 yards on 157 carries (7.3 YPC) with 19 touchdowns, as well as 25 receptions for 305 yards and three touchdowns.
Don’t Worry About Melvin Gordon
Instead of worrying about Melvin Gordon, we should be grateful for his presence because that is suppressing Williams’s draft cost. Gordon is coming off a decent season where he rushed for 986 yards on 215 carries (4.6 YPC) with nine touchdowns. He also caught 32-of-44 targets for 158 yards and one touchdown, finishing as RB20 in half-PPR points per game (includes RBs with at least 10 games played). If we dive in deeper, we’ll see that Gordon’s season wasn’t that special.
Pro Football Focus gave Gordon a 72.5 overall grade, which ranked 32nd among running backs. According to PlayerProfiler.com, Gordon ranked 85th with 0.77 fantasy points per opportunity as well as 27th in true yards per carry. Gordon was only able to finish as a mid-tier RB2 despite a 62.9% opportunity share, which ranked 16th among running backs. This is a player who will be entering his age-28 season and clearly does not fit into the team’s future plans—the Broncos traded up to select Williams, dealing the 40th overall pick and a fourth-rounder to the Falcons move up to pick 35.
Broncos beat writer Ryan O’Halloran believes that Williams is slated to be the Broncos starting running back as soon as Week 1, explaining that the team did not trade up to select the former UNC star if they did not have big plans for him. O’Halloran expects Gordon to be used on passing downs. It’s always a good sign when you hear something like this from a beat writer who is plugged into the team. We don’t need to worry about Gordon.
Untapped Upside in the Broncos' Offense
The Broncos have invested a ton of draft capital in this offense, featuring wide receivers like Courtland Sutton (second round), Jerry Jeudy (first round), and K.J. Hamler (second round) as well as tight end Noah Fant (first round). The problem is that this offense has been held back by Drew Lock, who completed only 57.3% of his passes with a 6.6 yards per attempt last season. The team added Teddy Bridgewater, who is a much more reliable and accurate passer, completing 69.1% of his passes in 2020. He can really allow these playmakers to flourish. This is worth noting because if Williams does immediately step in as the lead back, he’ll have several scoring opportunities playing in this high-octane offense. If the Broncos somehow end up trading for Aaron Rodgers, you can send Williams’s stock to the moon.
Favorable Game Scripts
According to Football Outsiders, the Broncos' defense ranked 13th in total Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) last season. They’ve improved their secondary this offseason, adding cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby in free agency while using their first-rounder on another one in Patrick Surtain II. Add in the fact that they’re coached by a bright defensive mind in Vic Fangio and you likely have one of the best defenses in football. This means that the Broncos will often play in close games, which puts Williams in a position to succeed due to the positive or neutral game script. In fact, the Broncos played in games with a final scoring margin of 10 points or less in 11 of their 16 games last season. It’s unlikely that Williams will get scripted out of too many games this season.
Williams is currently being drafted at RB26 with a 62.7 overall ADP in Underdog fantasy leagues. Take advantage of this buying opportunity with other fantasy players concerned about Gordon. The Broncos are high on Williams and the signs are pointing towards the rookie making an immediate impact. This is a team on the rise who could be better than expected, especially if Bridgewater wins the job, which seems likely at this point. Williams has an excellent chance at finishing as an RB2 and you’re getting him at an RB3 price.