Javonte Williams

Falcons Trade No. 35 To Broncos; Broncos Take Javonte Williams

The Falcons have traded their early second-round choice to the Broncos. With the No. 35 overall pick, the Broncos have selected UNC running back Javonte Williams.

Here’s the breakdown of the trade:

Broncos Receive

  • No. 35
  • No. 219

Falcons Receive

  • No. 40
  • No. 114

The Broncos needed backfield help after letting Phillip Lindsay walk in free agency, and Williams was widely considered the top running back left. Williams, Najee Harris, and Travis Etienne were universally regarded as the top three backs, with many teams having them ranked in different orders.

As Mike Garafolo of NFL Network tweets, there were strong rumors that the Dolphins wanted Williams at 36, so Denver wanted to leapfrog them to get their guy. Williams broke out as a sophomore in 2019 with 933 yards and five scores, but took his game to a new level this past season.

He was electric for UNC in 2020, rushing for 1,140 yards (7.3 YPC) and 19 touchdowns. He added 25 catches for 305 yards and another three touchdowns. He’ll immediately start pushing Melvin Gordon for touches.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Carolina RB Javonte Williams Could Be First-Round Pick

While Alabama’s Najee Harris and Clemson’s Travis Etienne have continually been mentioned as potential first-round picks, another running back could hear his name called during the first day of the draft. NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero writes that North Carolina’s Javonte Williams could end up sneaking into the first round of the upcoming draft.

“I love Javonte Williams,” an AFC executive told Pelissero. “I think he’s the best back in the draft.”

In an era where teams seem to reset their running back depth chart every few years, it’d be a bit of a surprise if three running backs end up getting selected in the first round; we’ve only seen two first-round running backs over the past two years (Josh Jacobs (No. 24, 2019) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (No. 32, 2020)). Still, Williams has the talent to warrant that lofty draft stock.

As Pelissero notes, Williams’ strength should be an asset in the NFL (with the reporter citing this giant run against Miami). The running back is more than a bruiser, however; his pro day numbers (including a 4.55-second 40 and a 36-inch vertical jump) showcase his athleticism. Williams also showed improved pass-catching ability throughout his collegiate career, culminating in a 2020 campaign where he hauled in 25 receptions.

So where could the running back land? Pelissero points to the Steelers are a potential landing spot. Pittsburgh has continually been mentioned as a suitor for Harris, but it’s uncertain if the running back will fall all the way to No. 24. If the top running back is off the board, the team could end up favoring Williams over someone like Etienne.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Doing Extensive Work On Draft’s Top RBs

The Dolphins’ running back depth chart may look different after the draft’s early rounds. They are doing considerable homework on this year’s top prospects.

Armed with the No. 18 overall pick and two second-round selections, the Dolphins have spent “significant” time talking to Najee Harris (Alabama), Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes. Members of Miami’s coaching staff and front office have also held multiple Zoom meetings with Travis Etienne (Clemson) and Javonte Williams (North Carolina).

In addition to virtual meetings with Harris, Jackson adds the Dolphins spent extensive time with the former Crimson Tide starter at the Senior Bowl. The prep the Dolphins are doing at this position has reached the point where it would surprise if they do not exit the second round with a starter-caliber back, Jackson adds.

The Dolphins hold the Nos. 36 and 50 picks in Round 2. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah does not expect a running back to go in the first round this year, but it would certainly be possible all three are gone by No. 50. Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay’s latest ESPN mock draft has all three gone by No. 36, potentially putting the Dolphins on the trade-up radar.

Miami was connected to running backs last year but elected to fill the position with veterans. Neither the Jordan Howard nor Matt Breida additions moved the needle much, with former seventh-round pick Myles Gaskin operating as the Fins’ top back for most of 2020. Gaskin and longtime Rams backup Malcolm Brown are now Miami’s top two backs. They figure to be joined by a rookie, perhaps a high-end talent, after the draft.

Etienne was considered perhaps last year’s top prospect, but the Clemson back made the rare (for running backs) decision to return for his senior season. His yards-per-carry figure dropped from 7.8 to 5.4 last year. Etienne, however, has two 1,600-yard seasons and 70 career rushing TDs on his resume. Harris dominated in the COVID-19-altered 2020 season, totaling 1,891 scrimmage yards and 30 TDs last season to help the Crimson Tide win another national title. One of two Tar Heels backs who will be drafted, Williams forced 76 missed tackles on just 127 carries. Dolphins backs’ 19 broken tackles ranked 30th in the NFL last season, per Pro Football Focus.

The Dolphins have not used a first- or second-round pick on a running back in 10 years (Daniel Thomas, Round 2), and teams like the Steelers and Bills are on the radar to draft a top back in the first round. GM Chris Grier has not been shy about trading or acquiring picks, so it will be interesting to see if the Dolphins move into better position to acquire one of the top backs next week.