Javonte Williams

Broncos RB Javonte Williams Suffers Torn ACL

The Broncos’ worst fears have been confirmed with respect to Javonte Williams. The second-year running back has suffered a torn ACL, and his season is over (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of NFL Network). His colleague Ian Rapoport adds that Williams also tore his LCL and posterior lateral corner, further lengthening his road to recovery. 

Williams injured his knee during last night’s loss to the Raiders, and it was immediately thought to be accompanied by a lengthy absence. He underwent an MRI earlier today, which has revealed the damage done to his second NFL campaign, and to the Broncos’ rushing attack.

One of the most highly-touted RB prospects in last year’s draft class, Williams put together a productive college career at North Carolina. That led to him hearing his name called in the second round, with the expectation that he would soon emerge as Denver’s undisputed lead back. He operated in a time share with veteran Melvin Gordon throughout the year, however, totaling 903 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

Despite the latter re-signing in the offseason, Williams was widely viewed as one of the top breakout candidates around the league. He saw a slight uptick in usage early in the 2022 season, with a snap share of 54%. In all, he totaled 204 scoreless yards on 47 carries, and was a factor in the passing game with 76 yards on 16 receptions. His loss will be felt on a Broncos offense which has been surprisingly inconsistent with quarterback Russell Wilson.

With Williams sidelined, Gordon could become the team’s every-down back. However, his well-documented fumbling issues have emerged once again this season, as he leads all running backs with four. Still, his consecutive 1,100-yard campaigns during his first two years in the Mile High City point to the production he is capable of. The next member on the team’s depth chart is Mike Boone, who saw a season-high 19 snaps in yesterday’s contest.

Williams will now begin the long recovery process, while the Broncos will look for short-term solutions to replace his production. The team is in better cap shape than most, so an addition from the pool of remaining free agents could be coming soon.

Javonte Williams, Randy Gregory To Undergo MRIs For Knee Injuries

OCTOBER 3: While further testing is still to be done, the Broncos fear that Williams’ injury will keep him sidelined for at least an extended period, if not the remainder of the season (video link via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport).

OCTOBER 2: As if losing a close game to a division-opponent wasn’t bad enough, the Broncos saw starters on both sides of the ball leave the game with knee injuries, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Running back Javonte Williams and pass rusher Randy Gregory will both get MRIs tomorrow morning, according to Jeff Legwold of ESPN, to determine the severity of their injuries. 

Unfortunately, it sounds like those with knowledge of the situation believe Williams injury to be a serious one, via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). If Williams is forced to miss extended time, it would be a devastating blow to Denver’s offense. While the second-year running back out of North Carolina has consistently split lead-rusher duties with veteran Melvin Gordon, Williams had been the more productive back so far through three games this season.

It also doesn’t help that, after his fourth fumble of the season (the most for an NFL running back so far this year), Gordon was squarely placed in the doghouse tonight. When Williams left the game, instead of Denver leaning on the other side of its two-headed rushing attack, it was third-string veteran Mike Boone that heard his name called. Gordon did eventually return to the game, but his two carries for the remainder of the game are either indicative of the team’s trust in him right now or simply a result of the team needing to pass the ball in order to get back into a game that got away from them late.

Denver will have to figure out where it stands with Gordon moving forward, if Williams is forced to miss multiple games. Boone has extremely limited starting experience from his time in Minnesota and, with Damarea Crockett already on injured reserve, practice squad running back Devine Ozigbo is currently the team’s only other option.

Gregory also left the game with a knee injury. He was able to walk off the field under his own power but, after being examined, was carted off the sideline into the locker room. Gregory is just the latest of several Broncos pass rushers dealing with injuries this season as Christopher Allen, Jonathon Cooper, and Aaron Patrick have all dealt with ailments this season.

The defense struggled to stop the Raiders and running back Josh Jacobs following Gregory’s departure. An extended absence from the field could leave Denver’s defense hurting. If Gregory can’t suit up, young backups Nik Bonitto and Baron Browning will work opposite Bradley Chubb to get to the quarterback.

The lack of optimism is not encouraging heading towards the week, but MRIs Monday morning will inform the Broncos of just how dire their situation is.

Broncos Notes: Offensive Line, Veteran CB Search, Javonte Williams

With OTAs and mandatory minicamp finished across the league, organizations and media members alike have had the chance to break down some of the elements of the offseason which have stood out the most to them. In the case of the Broncos, 9News’ Mike Klis has detailed some of his key observations.

Among those is the plethora of variances in the team’s offensive line combinations during practices. Klis notes that the most commonly-used unit comprised Garett Bolles and Dalton Risner on the left side, with Lloyd Cushenberry III at center and Quinn Meinerz and Calvin Anderson occupying right guard and right tackle, respectively.

There are a number of other options being plugged into various positions, though. Included among those is Netane Muti, who has seen work with the other starters while filling in at both guard positions, as well as Graham Glasgow, who recently returned to practice to compete for a starting role. Lastly, Klis lists Billy Turner as a veteran who is “expected to play” somewhere along the o-line. The 30-year-old came back to the Broncos on a one-year, $5MM deal this offseason, but is also the linemen most experienced in working with new HC Nathaniel Hackett. 

Here are a few other notes from that same Klis piece:

  • Cornerback had the potential to be an area of need, at least in terms of depth behind Patrick Surtain II, Ronald Darby and K’Waun Williams, at this point in the offseason. However, Klis cites the play of Michael Ojemudia during the spring as cause for optimism that the team’s best option for the No. 4 role may already be on the roster. The 2020 third-rounder is set to compete with Damarri Mathis, whom the Broncos drafted in the fourth round this year, for that spot. A number of veteran free agents could still “wind up on GM George Paton’s radar,” Klis notes, however.
  • To no surprise, running back Javonte Williams is expected to “bump up to the 1A role” in 2022. In his rookie season, the North Carolina alum produced over 1,200 scrimmage yards despite splitting carries with Melvin Gordon, who signed a one-year deal to stay in Denver. Given his the former’s efficiency, and the seven-year age gap between the two, Williams is the logical candidate to assume a larger workload going forward.

 

Broncos Re-Sign RB Melvin Gordon

Melvin Gordon is sticking around Denver. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the veteran running back is re-signing with the Broncos. It’s a one-year deal. Jordan Schultz was first with the news that the RB was re-signing with the organization.

Earlier this evening, Mike Klis of 9News in Denver reported (on Twitter) that the Broncos were “in discussions” about bringing back the veteran running back for another season. Ryan O’Halloran of The Denver Post was first to tweet that the two sides were discussing a new one-year deal. Per Klis (on Twitter), the deal is worth $2.5MM, with Gordon having the chance to earn up to $4MM.

As Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets, Broncos GM George Paton has kept an open dialogue with the veteran RB throughout the offseason, and new head coach Nathaniel Hackett has also shown interest in having a pair of trusted running backs on his roster. Now, the Broncos can roll forward with their successful 2021 tandem, with Gordon joining 2021 second-rounder Javonte Williams in Denver’s backfield.

Following five years with the Chargers, Gordon inked a two-year, $16MM deal with the Broncos in 2020. The 29-year-old couldn’t expect as much this time around; a report from earlier this offseason indicated that the RB could expect a one-year, $2.5MM deal. The veteran eventually changed agents, going from Fletcher Smith and Damarius Bilbo to Brian Murphy and Joe Panos of Athletes First, and the move apparently garnered him some extra cash.

Gordon stood as one of the best free agent RBs remaining on the market, especially since he’s posted more than 1,100 all-purpose yards in each of his last two seasons. He’s also scored exactly ten touchdowns in each of those Broncos campaigns. Gordon also generated interest from the Ravens before landing back in Denver.

Denver Emerging As Premier QB Destination

We wrote a bit earlier today on the Broncos being among multiple AFC teams who “have trade compensation lined up with the Packers,” in relation to quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Well, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Denver has emerged as a prime location for many of the league’s veteran quarterbacks looking for a potential change of scenery.

The Broncos recently hired former Packers’ offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to replace Vic Fangio, who failed to accomplish a winning season in three years with the Broncos. The former Green Bay staffer represents an obvious and strong connection for Rodgers. Should Rodgers decide to move on from the Packers, having a play-caller that he’s familiar with could add some allure to the Mile High City. Another intriguing aspect that could bring a star quarterback to Denver is the addition of former Vikings’ offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak as passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach. Kubiak just helped Kirk Cousins turn in one of his best seasons in Minnesota.

Hackett and company inherit an impressive roster posed to perform. The defense is comprised of veterans like outside linebacker Bradley Chubb, safety Justin Simmons, defensive end Shelby Harris, and cornerback Ronald Darby. There are a number of free agents that Denver would like to bring back like cornerbacks Bryce Callahan & Kyle Fuller, defensive back Kareem Jackson, inside linebacker Josey Jewell, and outside linebacker Malik Reed. Even if they fail to bring some of those names back, the Broncos saw impressive seasons last year for youngsters like cornerback Patrick Surtain II, linebacker Baron Browning, defensive end Dre’Mont Jones, and safety Caden Sterns. The list of defensive players above may not overwhelm you with stardom, but, together, the Broncos defense ranked third in the league in points allowed and eighth in the league in yards allowed.

In addition to a brand new offense and stacked defense, Denver boasts a nice array of young offensive weapons. An impressive receiving corps is led by veteran 26-year-old Courtland Sutton, young star Jerry Jeudy, and Tim Patrick, who has broken out a bit over the past two seasons. The Broncos also have two talented, young receiving tight ends in Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam. Any quarterback looking to join in on the fun would potentially have the benefit of a two-headed rushing attack that was 79 yards short of a combined 2,000-yard rushing season. Running back Javonte Williams enjoyed a healthy dose of carries in his rookie season, and there is mutual interest in bringing back Melvin Gordon.

Rodgers is obviously a name to keep an eye on as the decision on his future in Green Bay looms on the horizon. He has said that he will let the Packers know of his intentions before the franchise tag deadline so they can figure out how to deal with free agent wide receiver Davante Adams. In addition to Rodgers, though, keep an eye out for Denver to make moves on other quarterbacks searching for greener pastures. Russell Wilson has long been rumored to be interested in moving on from Seattle, and Deshaun Watson is still searching for a new home.

Whether Rodgers, Wilson, Watson, or some other under-the-radar name, look for the Broncos to make a move for a star quarterback. If they are able to find the right fit, the move could bring them into contention for what could easily turn into the toughest division in football.

Broncos Rule Out RB Melvin Gordon

After not participating in practice this week, running back Melvin Gordon has been downgraded to out on the injury report for this Sunday’s primetime game in Kansas City. The wear and tear of the season seems to be taking its toll on Gordon as we approach Week 13 of the NFL season.

In last week’s win over the Chargers, Gordon left the game early after injuring his hip. He returned and finished the game rushing 17 times for 83 yards. Denver wasted no time in addressing Gordon’s injury, holding him out of practice to help him recover. Over the course of the week, though, it became apparent that Gordon’s hip injury, partnered with a shoulder injury, was going to take a little more time to heal.

The Broncos will not be without help in the running game, as rookie second-round pick Javonte Williams is set to make his first career start. The North Carolina product has been essentially splitting carries with Gordon all year, carrying the ball 117 times to Gordon’s 135. He’s been about as productive with the opportunities he’s received as the seven-year veteran, as well, racking up 568 yards to Gordon’s 605 yards.

Williams’ success as a rookie gives Denver the flexibility to allow Gordon a week’s rest. They’ll try to get Gordon as healthy as possible as they prepare for a crucial last few weeks in the regular season. They sit one game back of the 1st place Chiefs and boast the same record as the Chargers and Raiders with four divisional games remaining on the schedule.

Broncos Sign Second-Round RB Javonte Williams

With Broncos rookies reporting Saturday, they will have their entire draft class ready for training camp. Second-round pick Javonte Williams signed his four-year rookie deal Friday, becoming the last of Denver’s 10 2021 draftees to sign.

New Broncos GM George Paton traded up in front of the Dolphins at No. 35 to draft Williams, who teamed with Jets fourth-rounder Michael Carter to form one of the nation’s top backfields. Williams entered the draft as Pro Football Focus’ No. 1-rated back; he went off the board third at the position, behind first-rounders Najee Harris and Travis Etienne. Williams doubles as the Broncos’ highest-drafted back since Knowshon Moreno in the 2009 first round.

Williams, who averaged 7.3 yards per carry in his third and final North Carolina season, scored 22 touchdowns in 2020. He amassed 1,445 scrimmage yards despite the COVID-19 pandemic capping the Tar Heels’ season at 11 games. His Denver arrival figures to signal Melvin Gordon will be a two-and-done back with the team — at best.

The Broncos, despite Phillip Lindsay‘s back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, gave Gordon a two-year deal worth $16MM in March 2020. Gordon played well in spurts but also fumbled four times and was arrested for DUI last year. That charge ultimately being dismissed kept Gordon’s guarantees intact, but his 2021 roster spot may not be locked in. Though Lindsay is now in Houston, the Broncos signed ex-Vikings backup Mike Boone this offseason. It would cost the Broncos $6.5MM in dead money to cut Gordon.

Poll: Which Rookie Running Back Will Finish With Most Rushing Yards?

Quarterbacks, per usual, dominated this year’s pre-draft coverage. The Falcons made Kyle Pitts the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history, and four wide receivers then went off the board in the top 20. Running backs, as they have done in a few drafts over the past decade, waited.

While two went in Round 1, the Jaguars’ Travis Etienne pick preceded a 60-pick stretch during which just one running back — the Broncos’ Javonte Williams choice — went off the board. The 2021 draft matches 2016 and 2003 for the fewest backs chosen in the top 80 (three) in the common draft era (1967-present), continuing a grim era for this once-storied position. But several of this year’s draftees have quick paths to key roles.

Linked to Najee Harris ahead of the draft, the Steelers took the Alabama standout at No. 24. Harris will join a Steelers team that ranked last in rushing in 2020. Although the Alabama product scored 30 touchdowns in his senior season and topped 1,200 rushing yards in two straight years, he will now play behind an offensive line that went through considerable turnover this offseason. The Steelers lost 17 Pro Bowls on their offensive line this year. They will replace Maurkice Pouncey and Alejandro Villanueva with far less experienced players, and David DeCastro‘s replacement (Trai Turner) struggled in 2020. Will Harris’ talent be enough to overcome significant O-line concerns in Pittsburgh?

Etienne joins a Jags team that just saw James Robinson set the rookie UDFA record for scrimmage yards (1,414) despite missing two games in 2020. Jacksonville also signed Carlos Hyde, who played for Urban Meyer at Ohio State. Etienne spent time at receiver during the Jags’ offseason program but should be expected to contribute heavily in the backfield. Like Harris, Etienne stayed in college for four years. He twice surpassed 1,600 rushing yards and totaled 78 college TDs — most of which coming alongside No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence — but will this unusual setup (for a first-round back, that is) translate to rookie-year production?

The Broncos traded up four spots for Williams in Round 2, Pro Football Focus’ top-rated back in this class, and chose the North Carolina product 36th overall. Williams teamed with Jets draftee Michael Carter to form one of the nation’s top backfield tandems. Williams compiled just one 1,000-yard season with the Tar Heels but led Division I-FBS with 75 broken tackles in 2020. The Broncos have Melvin Gordon signed through 2021, but the John Elway-era addition does not appear to be a lock to hold off Williams for the starting role.

The rest of the rookie field includes third-rounder Trey Sermon (49ers), Carter (fourth round, Jets) and a host of backs ticketed for early-career backup roles. While injuries certainly will hit the running back position, potentially forcing some of the later-round picks into the fray, Sermon and Carter have the best bets of seeing steady action among the mid- and late-round selections.

An Oklahoma and Ohio State product, Sermon also played four years. He averaged more than seven yards per carry in each of his past two, though he never topped 1,000 on the ground. Lead 49ers back Raheem Mostert is coming off an injury-marred season. The Jets added Tevin Coleman, who joined Mostert in missing most of last season, but do not have another back with much experience. This could allow Carter (two 1,000-yard years at North Carolina) early upward mobility, despite his 5-foot-8 frame.

Which rookie back will rush for the most yards in 2021? Who are the later-round candidates or UDFAs who can join these players as early contributors? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

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.

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.