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Each week in Cutting Through the Noise, we will be taking an objective look at one of the most polarizing players in Dynasty Fantasy Football as decided by the Footballguys Dynasty Discord. We will be using the Footballguys consensus rankings to gauge where the player is currently valued. After all the points are presented, I will give my conclusion based on my findings.
This week’s most polarizing player comes from Sean Doe.
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Running back (4) - Overall (8)
Javonte Williams totaled 2836 yards from scrimmage in his three seasons at North Carolina. In his third season, he accumulated 22 total touchdowns while splitting a backfield nearly exactly in half with Michael Carter. Williams tallied 157 carries and 25 receptions while Carter tallied 156 carries and 25 receptions. Williams far surpassed Carter in touchdowns which lead to promise entering the draft.
In 2021 Williams was drafted 35th overall to the Denver Broncos, while Carter was not drafted until the fourth round. Williams was the third back taken, only behind Najee Harris and Travis Etienne. When he was drafted Melvin Gordon was in the final year of his contract with the Broncos. Even at age 28, Gordon was coming off another 1,000-yard season. The expectation was for Williams to take over as the lead back as the year went on. Despite expectations, Williams never reached a 60% snap share with Gordon active.
In Week 1 of 2022, Williams once again failed to reach a 60% snap share with Gordon active. They split the goal line duties in half, resulting in each of them fumbling at the 1-yard line. Williams' split usage with Gordon has made him one of the most polarizing players in Dynasty Fantasy Football.
As a rookie, Javonte Williams rushed for 903 yards paired with 316 yards receiving. He ranked 10th in yards after contact and 11th in yards after contact per attempt. He was the league's best back in terms of broken tackles with 31; just one spot ahead of fellow rookie Najee Harris and two spots ahead of All-Pro Jonathan Taylor. Williams ranked 28th in yards before contact per attempt, while Melvin Gordon ranked 22nd. In short, Williams and Gordon were creating production for themselves.
While the Week 1 usage was concerning, Williams received 12 targets as opposed to Gordon’s 2. He also received the first goal line opportunity. To be frank, both rushing attempts we suboptimal decisions at less than 1 yard to run out of shotgun. Fumbles are random and only become an ongoing problem for a select few players. Had Williams not fumbled on the first opportunity we may have never seen Gordon get the exact same carry with the exact same result later in the game.
Javonte Williams is ranked as the 4th overall running back behind Jonathan Taylor, Najee Harris, and DeAndre Swift. He is ranked just ahead of Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler, Saquon Barkley, and Joe Mixon, to name a few. Of the top 10 backs in Footballguys consensus dynasty rankings, Williams and Breece Hall are the only ones we project to see anywhere near 50% of their backfield snaps throughout the season.
While Williams may seem young, he is actually in the prime of his career in terms of dynasty running back value. Running backs rarely see increased value heading into their second contract. Williams is spending a significant portion of his prime years splitting work with Gordon. Even if we assume Gordon is gone next season, we will be entering year 3 still hoping to see work-horse usage from Williams.
One might point out that Gordon only has one year on his contract. While the statement is true, Gordon had zero years left on his contract with the team before coming back as a free agent for $2 million. While that is relatively cheap considering what some backups made across the league this offseason, it’s more than they would’ve spent giving Williams 20% more of the offense and letting Mike Boone take the relief work. Case in point, we received reports that this backfield was Williams’ all offseason, even according to Gordon, but that is not the picture that was painted on Monday night.
In a perfect world, we would like more than a 50% snap share for a top-five dynasty running back. Nick Chubb’s snap share with Kareem Hunt has suppressed his value for years. The glaring difference between what we have seen with Chubb’s value and what we are seeing with William’s value is that Williams is catching passes. The NFL has been transitioning to a two-back league for years, and at some point, we need to start valuing running backs for their efficiency metrics over their opportunity share. If we start valuing backs based on quality over quantity, then Williams is the poster child for the movement.
Independently of what Williams has done thus far in his career is simply his age. Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Leonard Fournette, Joe Mixon, and Derrick Henry are all past the running back age cliff and will not increase in value. Saquon Barkley’s value is an interesting question, but he is still unlikely to rival Williams’ value again. In short, no, Williams does not get the workload that we would prefer for a top-five dynasty back, but yes, Williams is worth his value as the fourth running back off the board.
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