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Broncos trade up, select RB Javonte Williams with No. 35 pick in 2021 NFL Draft


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — With their second pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Broncos have added more explosive talent to their offense.

After trading up to the 35th-overall pick, General Manager George Paton and the Broncos selected North Carolina running back Javonte Williams. Denver sent their second-round (No. 40) and fourth-round (No. 114) picks to Atlanta in exchange for the 35th pick and a sixth-round pick (No. 218).

"We feel he's a three-down back. He's got incredible instincts, incredible contact balance," General Manager George Paton told's Phil Milani. "… He was one of our favorite players in the draft."

Paton said he believed a trade was necessary to acquire the running back.

"He would've been gone," Paton said. "We kind of had a good feel for the top of the round, and he was going to go quick."

Williams was the third running back taken in the draft.

"I definitely feel like I was the best running back in the draft," Williams said Friday. "Just having to sit there throughout the whole draft yesterday was hard for me, but I've always been overlooked my whole career."

The 5-foot-10, 212-pound player finished strong during his three seasons with the Tar Heels, forming one half of the nation's best running back tandem. In his final two seasons, Williams totaled 2,073 rushing yards and 28 all-purpose touchdowns.

In 2020, Williams turned in one of college football's best seasons by a running back as he racked up 22 touchdowns, which set a program record. After totaling 1,140 yards on a 7.3-yard per-carry average in his final season, Williams was named a second-team All-American and first-team All-ACC selection by the Associated Press.

Though he shows great vision and quickness, Williams impressed most with his ability to break tackles and maintain balance through contact. In his last game for the Tar Heels, Williams put those skills on display with a 236-yard, three-touchdown performance in which he averaged 10.3 yards per carry. Pro Football Focus' statistics showed Williams led the country in broken tackles with 75 on 157 carries.

"I feel like I'm a three-down back," Williams said. "I feel I'm very versatile. I feel like I can do everything at the running back position. I'm just ready to come in and compete with Melvin Gordon, [Mike] Boone, [Royce] Freeman and any other running backs in the room. Just pick something [up] from them and get better every day."

Williams joins a talented running back room that includes Gordon, Freeman, Boone, LeVante Bellamy, Jeremy Cox and Damarea Crockett.

Williams said Broncos Running Backs Coach Curtis Modkins attended his pro day, but that he didn't have much of an indication otherwise that he'd be headed to Denver.

"I didn't expect the Broncos to be the team that I went to," Williams said. "Just like throughout the process, they weren't a team that I talked to a lot."

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