Yes, the headline reads like a hot take due to names such as Najee Harris and Travis Etienne taking up the spotlight. However, when we dive into the film, North Carolina’s Javonte Williams displays incredible natural ability as a runner, and ultimately, that’s why I have him as my top running back in the 2021 NFL Draft.
In the NFL, the best running backs are those who can consistently break tackles and create yards after contact. This, is where Williams thrives as at UNC he broke tackles at and unprecedented rate. In his final collegiate season, Pro Football Focus credited him with 75 broken tackles, the most in the country. This ability consistently pops off the film as he runs with great power but always maintains incredible balance. This run against Miami really sums it up well.
Javonte Williams has some of the best contact balance I’ve ever seen. He loves physicality. He played LB til his senior year of HS, avg 16 tackles a game. pic.twitter.com/eQzyqAB7bu
— Maliik (@NFLMaliik) February 18, 2021
That ability to hurdle a defender, side step the next tackle and then explode into the safety? RARE. It’s plays like these that will translate to the NFL as Williams has no problem playing physical at all times. As a runner, he just gets “it”.
In addition to his innate ability as a runner, he is incredible in pass protection, allowing just two pressures on the season in 64 pass blocking snaps. This, along with his ability as a pass catcher, make him a three down back in the NFL. While this is a video of him run blocking, it shows the physicality and selflessness he plays with.
Javonte Williams is a phenomenal blocker for a RB pic.twitter.com/ZTOPKbhzOy
— The Wire Fantasy Football Podcast (@TheWireFFB) February 19, 2021
While he does not have the raw speed of Travis Etienne or the strength of Najee Harris, Williams is a better tackle breaker and a more creative runner then both. This is not meant to slander either Harris or Etienne, as I believe they are both incredibly talented players in their own right.
The biggest (only?) worry I have about Williams game is how he will translate to an offense that is not as loaded as his was in Chapel Hill. However, I do not think that this will be a major issue for Williams especially if he goes to a team with a smart play caller.
I don’t believe Javonte Williams will be the first running back off the board in April, but he should be. If I was a team like Buffalo towards the end of the first round or Miami at the start of the second, I would be all over him. Williams will become a high level starting running back in the NFL, it’s just a matter of where.