Javonte Williams: The Prototype, or All Hype?
The debut of the Warrior Scale to arbitrarily and subjectively measure grit.
There were plenty of running backs that decided to opt-out of the 2020 college football season. Kenneth Gainwell was one of those who sat out the season to prepare for the NFL. Some guys decided to play and ended up tanking their draft stock. Chuba Hubbard played this year and fell out of the consensus top 3. Najee Harris and Travis Etienne did nothing but solidify why people love them. In my opinion, however, nobody has raised their draft stock more in this Covid year like Javonte Williams RB from North Carolina. Let's dive in and see if he can be the prototypical running back, or if it's all hype being blown up on the Twitter echo chamber.
Profile and College Stats
Javonte Williams checks in at a good size for a running back. The North Carolina Tar Heels have him listed at 5'10 220 lbs. That's a great size for a running back. For reference, Josh Jacobs, David Montgomery, and James Robinson are all listed as the same size. I do not have any concerns about his size at the next level. To me, he is the prototypical size for an NFL running back. He will also be 21 years old for the 2021 NFL season, which will put him at 1 and 2 years younger than Travis Etienne and Najee Harris at the time of the draft. You know, for those of you who care about age. So let's take a look at his college profile. Williams was a 3-star recruit out of the state of North Carolina. He wasn't a highly recruited running back so there aren't many details about his athleticism or speed coming out of high school. There's no doubt his size is perfect for the NFL, but not a highly recruited kid, let's look at his stats year by year and see what we can gather.
His freshman year was nothing special. He appeared in a total of 10 games for the Tar Heels, compiling 43 carries for 224 yards and 5 touchdowns. A respectable 5.2 yards a carry. He also added 8 receptions for 58 yards. North Carolina finished the season 2-9 so there wasn't much optimism surrounding the whole program. William's finished behind Antonio Williams (91-504-5), Michael Carter (84-597-2), and Jordon Brown (81-347-3).
This is the year that Javonte came into his own. He appeared in 13 games for Mack Brown and the Heels and carried the rock 166 times for 933 yards and again 5 touchdowns. Receiving wise he caught 17 passes for 176 yards adding another touchdown. Michael Carter finished with a few more carries (177-1003-3) and receptions (21-154-2), but Javonte almost paced him and was more efficient through the air.
The breakout officially happened this year. Williams ran 157 times for 1140 yards and 19(!!!) touchdowns. Through the air, Javonte had 25 receptions for 305 yards and another 3 TDs. He bumped his ypc to 7.3 and ypr to 12.2. He again split the backfield with Michael Carter (156-1245-9) but was a little better through the air (25-267-2). In total, throughout the last 2 seasons, Williams and Carter established a nice little thunder and lightning punch for Mack Brown and North Carolina.
Stats look nice for a running back, but what does the film say? Using the Draft Breakdown film database found on the Fantasy Football Astronaut's Youtube page, I have broken down one of Javonte's games. We will take a look at North Carolina versus Wake Forest. Williams finished the game against Wake forest with 13 rushing attempts for 101 yards and 1 touchdown. A solid day's work I would say. Not much gained through the air, however.
Ability to Work Through Contact
This run just shows what makes Javonte Williams a nice running back, he rarely goes down on first contact. The play begins with him following his blockers to the outside, then #22 crashes down hard to make a play around the 25 yard line. A nice subtle jab and then cut back inside destroyed the angle the defender had and Williams fights through the arm tackle while also stiff arming #5. After breaking those two tackles, he cuts it upfield to finish off a nice 16 yard run on the sideline.
Vision in Tight Spaces
The very next play his number is called again. This time I think it showed his best skill set. He can operate in a phone booth and make people miss. To me, he seems patient and able to move in a tight area. He can make people miss with his subtle moves and can break arm tackles. He can keep his feet moving and pumping.
As you can see from the above clip, he is not afraid of physical contact. He identifies the pressure, moves across and squares up, delivers the hit, and drives his feet. I think this is one of his stronger suits and gives him the opportunity to be a 3 down back in the NFL.
PHYSICAL. BRUTAL. BRUISER. This is the trait I love the most about Javonte Williams.
The man is a warrior. He will lower his shoulder, initiate contact, and people will remember him. Ray Garvin comped him to Marion Barber and I love it. Growing up a Cowboys fan, I watched Marion the Barbarian play recklessly. I see the same kind of physical brutality in Javonte Williams.
As I mentioned earlier, I like bigger more physical running backs. That's not to say that I despise other running backs that get it done in different ways, but running backs that aren't afraid to the dirty work hold a special place in my heart. That being said, I will be taking a page out of the baseball scouting department playbook and developing a purely subjective rating based on five main areas: rushing, receiving, blocking, physicality, and athleticism. This will be graded on a 20-80 scale (like in baseball) where 50 is league average. At the end, all five attribute scores will be averaged and this will give a final Warrior Score. This is just a way I like to keep my thoughts organized and they are purely subjective. Take them with a grain of salt and do your own homework and study the tape. I am just giving some insight into my method.
Rushing - Javonte Williams is an excellent runner with the ball. He rarely goes down on first contact and it is going to take more than an arm tackle to bring him down. He has nice contact balance and a nose for the endzone. He will occasionally make a play out of nothing. I grade his rushing ability at a 65.
Receiving - Williams displays nice hands out of the backfield. Games I have watched they've sent him out to the flats for dump offs and the occasional angle route. He shows the ability to use his hands to catch instead of waiting for the ball to hit his chest. Nothing too spectacular, but enough to get the job done. Graded at a 55 for me.
Blocking - Williams shows the tenacity and ability to be a good blocker. He does not shy away from contact and has the propensity to initiate the contact and deliver the blow. He has a good feel for pressure and where he needs to be in pass pro. I think this is his best ability, I give him a 65 in passing. I think NFL teams will love this.
Physicality - Again, Williams loves to use his size to bully opponents. He lowers his shoulder and continues to churn those legs for extra yardage. I think this is what allowed him to rack up 19 touchdowns this season. Give this guy a gold star on the physicality portion, 70.
Athleticism - This is an aspect that worries me about Javonte. Watching him play, he shows that he has enough juice to eliminate pursuit angles and he has enough fluidity to make guys miss. Will this be enough at the next level? I have concerns, but I think Javonte will be just fine. He grades at a 50 for me.
All in all, I think Williams is a good prospect. My NFL comp would be a ceiling of Chris Carson with better receiving ability and a floor of a more fluid Zack Moss. If he winds up in Atlanta or Pittsburgh, I will be ecstatic. He grades out on the Warrior Scale at a 61. He will be a fine NFL and fantasy asset. I think I would give him low RB1-High RB2 upside.
He's the first guy I have studied from the class of 2021, but I can already tell you he is my guy this year. I like his size, no worries on that. He produced in college with another good running back prospect. Watching him play I see the physicality and the attributes that could make him appealing to NFL franchises. I think Javonte is worth a top 4-5 pick in a 1QB league and a mid to late 1st in a super flex league. I have questions about his athleticism and I do think he lacks the breakaway speed to make him a homerun hitter. If you end up with Javonte on your roster, I think you will be happy with the production.