The fantasy football community is all in on Javonte Williams which has pushed him up draft boards into the late second round on Underdog. There are definitely reasons to be excited but as the Broncos have opened training camp there are some worrying signs about how much of a workload they are going to put on the second year back. This has led to some valid concerns in the fantasy community on whether or not Williams is worth the high cost in drafts.
You will see smart people on both sides of the Javonte argument so it is worth digging deeper on the potential range of outcomes to better understand the risk and reward of drafting him at his current ADP.
Reasons to Draft Javonte Williams
There are very few backs that have a higher ceiling than Javonte Williams. If things break right for him this year I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a top 3 pick going into next season. It is hard not to get excited about what a player of Williams’ talent could do in a more progressive offense that just received one of the biggest QB upgrades in recent memory.
With Russell Wilson in town, the Denver offense should be more efficient, explosive, and valuable for fantasy. Williams is an ascending player who showed just how talented he is by posting the best broken tackle rate among all RBs last season. He is a good pass catcher and is capable of handling a huge workload if Melvin Gordon were to miss time.
Williams may have one of the widest gaps between his median projection and ceiling outcome. This may scare some drafters off but I would argue that is exactly the type of player we want to be drafting, especially in best ball.
Javonte Williams Fantasy Upside Case
If something unfortunate were to happen to Melvin Gordon I think it is realistic that Javonte Williams would have overall RB1 upside. However, we can’t predict injuries so let’s stick to scenarios where both players are available for the majority of the season.
The coaching staff has made it clear this will continue to be a committee situation. Last season was a literal 50/50 split (both players had exactly 203 carries) and it doesn’t seem like that is going to be significantly different in 2022. What could be different is the pace at which the Broncos play. They ranked 26th in the league in plays per game last season but there has been an emphasis this offseason on playing faster, something which Russell Wilson is a driving force behind. More plays means more touches to go around so even if Javonte is just the lead in a 60/40 split he could still see a meaningful increase in touches vs last year.
The touches we should care most about are in the passing game and in the red zone. Williams saw 15 more targets than Gordon last season and I expect that gap to widen with Javonte entering year 2 after proving himself in that role last year. The bigger question is red zone work. Last season Gordon handled 37 carries inside the 20 while Williams had 29. If those carries swing significantly in Javonte’s favor he could easily be a double digit touchdown guy with 12-15 in his range of outcomes.
If we put all that together and Williams handles 60% of the rushing work while seeing a greater portion of the targets and red zone touches I believe he could finish around the RB5 even with Gordon healthy. Add in the contingent value in a scenario where Gordon misses significant time and Javonte’s ADP doesn’t look so crazy after all.
Reasons to Avoid Javonte Williams
There is really only one reason… and his name is Melvin Gordon. After testing free agency this offseason Gordon returned to the team on a one year deal. Denver didn’t make a big financial commitment to Gordon but it is clear the team trusts him and plans for him to have a meaningful role in the offense.
As I outlined in the upside case, the big question in this backfield is exactly how the touches will shake out, particularly the high value ones. There is a strong case to be made that Gordon offers better value in drafts due to his 10th round ADP, projectable volume, and contingent value in the event of a Williams injury.
I wouldn’t fault someone in any individual draft for passing on Williams and getting their exposure to the Denver backfield from Gordon, but across a portfolio of teams I would classify Williams as a must draft player due to his league winning upside.
Javonte Williams Fantasy Downside Case
This may be the easiest downside case I write all offseason because I truly believe last season’s production is the floor for Javonte. He handled 246 touches and produced just over 1,200 total yards and 7 touchdowns. This was good for RB17 in cumulative points and RB25 in points per game.
If Denver spreads the ball around and Javonte doesn’t see a meaningful increase in goal line work he could just repeat his stat line from last year. This would be a disappointment relative to his ADP as the RB12 but shouldn’t be catastrophic for fantasy managers.