Javonte Williams: 2022 Fantasy Outlook

Gabriel Christus

Javonte Williams: 2022 Fantasy Outlook

NFL

Javonte Williams: 2022 Fantasy Outlook

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Fantasy football is a game of luck, skill, and calculated risk. It’s the only game where your “gut” can be just as valuable as statistics and analysis. It’s those times when your gut and analysis agree that really excite you. A player that really excites the fantasy community right now is Javonte Williams, running back for the Denver Broncos. Drafted with the 35th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Williams came into the league with high expectations.

Currently, Williams plays alongside potential Hall of Fame running back Melvin Gordon, sharing their playtime and opportunities nearly down the middle. This past weekend, Gordon was forced to miss the Broncos’ week 13 matchup versus the Kansas City Chiefs due to injury, allowing Williams to take the lead for the first time this season. Williams responded with 178 total yards and a touchdown on 29 total touches, dodging defenders and breaking tackles all night long. That is considered elite production and elite usage, yet he had a very sustainable snap percentage, sitting at 78% with Mike Boone playing the remaining 22%.  

Looking towards the 2022 NFL season, there’s an extremely high probability that Gordon will no longer be on the Broncos roster. Gordon signed a two-year contract worth $16 million two years ago; setting him up to be a 29-year-old free agent in the coming offseason. It would be shocking if the Broncos decided to bring back the past-prime Gordon, as teams typically don’t draft running backs that early to be complementary backs; they draft them to be the focal point of the run game. Some examples of this are players like Jonathan Taylor, Najee Harris, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and Josh Jacobs.  

Now for the fun part.  

Javonte Williams is no stranger to making defenders look silly. In the 2020 NCAA football season, Williams forced missed tackles at the highest rate in seven years among all qualified college running backs. Now at the professional level, Williams has a 34% missed tackles forced rate, the highest rate since 2006! His 34% rate is higher than Nick Chubb’s rate of 31% in 2020 and higher than Marshawn Lynch’s rate of 31% in 2014. Statistically, Williams is already the best in the league at making defenders miss and plowing through tackles.

Another aspect of Williams’ game that is intriguing is his ability to catch the ball. In college, Williams’ was not asked to catch many passes, as he played alongside Michael Carter, another talented running back who specializes as a pass-catcher. Many questioned Williams’ ability to contribute as a pass-catcher, but he’s currently on pace for 47 receptions this season, all while sharing time with Gordon. In 2022, it is safe to believe that Williams has the chance to have over 50 receptions, making him a great option in PPR (points per reception) formats.  

The Denver Broncos have consistently provided valuable fantasy running backs throughout recent years. In 2017, CJ Anderson rushed for over 1,000 yards for the Broncos; in both 2018 and 2019, Phillip Lindsay rushed for over 1,000 yards; in 2020 Melvin Gordon rushed for 986 yards, and would have easily eclipsed 1,000 had he not sat out for two games.  The Broncos’ philosophy is to pound the football, and it is believed that Williams is far more talented and explosive than the three Broncos backs that were previously mentioned.  

In 2022 fantasy drafts, Javonte Williams should comfortably be taken within the top 24 picks, regardless of format. When Gordon is officially off the roster, Williams can be taken in the top 16, arguably in the top 12. He has the potential to have 1,400+ rushing yards, 50+ catches, 400+ receiving yards, and 12+ total touchdowns.  That would put him at 302 PPR fantasy points, which would have been good enough to be a top-six running back each of the last 4 years. 

Williams should be viewed as a top 12 back in 2022 and for years to come.  If you own him in dynasty leagues, do not trade him away for any price.  Still only 21 years of age, Williams will be a staple of fantasy teams over the next 4+ years.  

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