2021 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: Javonte Williams (Fantasy Football)
The 2021 NFL Draft kicks off on April 29, and rookie draft season is just around the corner…that means rookie content! The Fantasy Footballers staff has been grinding the tape, researching these rookies, and writing up tons of rookie profiles to supplement the 2021 UDK+, which features the brand new Dynasty Pass.
To this point, the heavy hitters like Travis Etienne and Najee Harris have been covered in detail, but there’s a third running back who’s rising up draft boards. His name – Javonte Williams out of North Carolina. If you’re looking for some fun college tape to watch, put on a few minutes of Williams’ film, and it’s obvious why he could be the next fantasy football rockstar as a rookie. I’ll break down his college production profile, his measurables, and athletic testing numbers and then take a look at his strengths and weaknesses on tape. Let’s get to it!
Editors Note: This article is part of our Rookie Profile series going on until the 2021 NFL Draft. For more on each rookie, check out Andy, Mike, and Jason’s exclusive rookie rankings and production profiles found only in the Dynasty Pass, part of the brand-new UDK+ for 2021.
College Production Profile
Javonte Williams may have had the biggest jump in production and tape from 2019 to 2020 of any back in this class. After totaling just 11 total TD over his first two seasons in Chapel Hill, Williams broke the 1,000-yard rushing threshold and found the end zone 19 (!!) times on the ground last year while adding an extra three through the air. His 19 rushing TD was tied for third in the FBS while his 1,140 rushing yards ranked sixth in the nation.
Williams posted some of the best numbers in the country last season, but his production profile is primarily limited to that one season. Javonte Williams shared time with Michael Carter in the North Carolina backfield, so we haven’t really seen him handle a full workload on a season-long basis. In fact, the Tar Heel back only carried the rock 14.2 times per game last year, and while there’s nothing in his profile that says he can’t handle a workhorse role in the NFL, we just haven’t seen it.
*Measurements taken from UNC’s Pro Day on March 29
At 5’10” and 212 pounds, Williams is built like a prototypical running back. He’s got a compact build that helps make him difficult to tackle, yet he’s got enough wiggle to make defenders miss. With 4.55 speed, Williams is fast enough to succeed in the NFL, but he’s not going to run away from defenders, and that definitely shows up on tape.
What really stands out from Williams’ athletic testing numbers is his 6.93 second 3-cone time. According to these numbers from the 2018-2020 NFL Combine, 54.7% of backs test out faster than 7.10 seconds in this drill, which is designed to look at a player’s ability to change direction quickly. However, if looking at the wide receiver position, 55.7% of wideouts test better than a 7.00 3-cone time. In other words, Williams’ 3-cone time is as good as most wide receivers. To put this in perspective, Williams’ time would have ranked 12th best of all positions at the 2020 NFL Combine, well ahead of Jonathan Taylor (7.01), James Robinson (7.03), and A.J. Dillon (7.19). All in all, Williams’ athletic testing measurements don’t jump off the page, but they’re solid enough to suggest that he’s a good enough athlete to win in the NFL.
What’s On Tape
Games viewed: South Carolina (2019), Miami (2019), Wake Forest (2020), Virginia (2020), Virginia Tech (2020), Notre Dame (2020), Miami (2020)
1. Javonte Williams doesn’t go down on first contact.
Arguably the best running back in the 2021 class at shedding off would-be tacklers, Williams’ tackle-breaking ability is elite. Last season, Williams broke 75 tackles, the most in college football at the running back position while finishing 4th in yards after contact. What’s so impressive about these stats is that they’re not per carry numbers. As we’ve touched on with his production profile above, Williams was splitting carries with Michael Carter. If we break down these numbers on a per-touch basis, he blows the other backs in this class out of the water.
2. Contact balance. Contact balance. Contact balance.
Williams makes arm tacklers look silly without really needing to change his speed or his stride, but what’s most impressive about Williams’ contact balance ability is that he knows how to contort his body to take contact from anywhere. What I mean by that is that this running back knows how to create leverage with his upper and lower body based on if the contact is coming from either side or in front of him in order to allow him to pick up yards after contact. This may be partially due to his roots as a high school linebacker, which also bodes well for his football IQ and ability to identify the hole and get upfield.
3. Javonte Williams can catch the football out of the backfield.
I think Williams needs to clean up his route running a little bit if he plans to succeed as a true three-down back at the NFL level, but he can catch the football naturally with his hands in stride. Assuming his pass protection can hold up in the pros, Williams should be able to earn a few targets per game, which would, in theory, elevate his ceiling in fantasy football.
What’s Not On Tape
Javonte Williams won’t outrun a defender to take it to the house.
Like we discussed above when looking at his athletic testing numbers, Williams doesn’t have the top-end speed of a Travis Etienne (4.40 40-yard dash). As a result, he does tend to get caught from behind when he likely would have otherwise taken a long run to the house. At the next level, where the defenders are even more athletic, this could prevent him from hitting the home run ball.
2021 Fantasy Outlook
I genuinely went back through Williams’ film to try to identify more weaknesses, but I couldn’t. Javonte Williams profiles as one of, if not the, best running backs in the 2021 class because he can do it all. At just 20 years old, Williams is younger than Travis Etienne and Najee Harris and is a virtual lock to go in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. As a result, he’s quickly trending towards being considered a top-three rookie draft pick in dynasty formats.
In 2021 redraft leagues, Williams’ outlook is strong considering he’ll likely get a chance to compete for a starting job in his rookie season. Because he’ll likely go early in the NFL Draft, Williams should find himself on a team where filling the running back depth chart is a priority. He profiles as a true three-down back who can make some noise in year one, assuming he lands in the right system. If he can lock down a starting gig out of the gate, look for Williams’ best ball and redraft ADP to settle in somewhere around the 4th round of drafts.