Running back Javonte Williams had a stellar rookie season, shining as a dual-threat offensive weapon for the Broncos and showcasing his enormous potential in shared duties with Melvin Gordon III.
In his lone start of the year, Williams exploded for 102 rushing yards, 76 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown, so it's no surprise that people expect big things from the North Carolina product in the future.
One of those people is NFL.com analyst and former NFL rushing leader/Pro Bowl RB Maurice Jones-Drew, who voiced his support following Williams' rookie campaign, declaring him the "NFL's next great running back."
"This year's rookie class provided another crop of talented rushers, including the Steelers' Najee Harris, Jets' Michael Carter, Patriots' Rhamondre Stevenson and 49ers' Elijah Mitchell, to name a few," Jones-Drew wrote. "But one back really stood out to me, a bruiser with the promise to achieve big things in the coming years: Javonte Williams."
Jones-Drew, who said he was a fan of Williams ahead of the draft, wrote that he has only become more impressed with his play following his rookie season.
"In my estimation, he offered great acceleration, physicality and the natural ability to catch the ball out of the backfield," Jones-Drew wrote. "Williams put all of that on display this season, even though he split time with accomplished veteran Melvin Gordon."
Jones-Drew was especially impressed by Williams' propensity for breaking tackles and pushing for yards after contact.
"[A] PFF stat that speaks to Williams' beastliness as a ball carrier: His 64 forced missed tackles on run plays were second in the entire league, behind only Taylor's 67 -- and the Colts star had 129 more carries," Jones-Drew wrote. "That's a testament to Williams' good vision, speed, power and sheer determination to gain the extra yard."
According to Jones-Drew, Williams' bright future with the Broncos will do more for the offense than simply bolster the run game — it could open the whole field up for Denver.
"Williams is the type of player who can set the tone for the offense -- no matter who ends up becoming Denver's next head coach -- and more importantly, force defenses to respect the Broncos' run game," Jones-Drew wrote. "With a full helping of carries, I envision this guy blowing past 1,300 yards. This will take pressure off next year's quarterback (whomever that may be) and allow great pass catchers like Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and Noah Fant to feast down the field."
Whatever the future holds, Jones-Drew expects to see a huge career for Williams going forward.
"There's a lot to like about Williams' game, but there's also a lot that we didn't get to see in 2021," Jones-Drew wrote. "Don't be surprised when Williams becomes the next great player at the position as his role expands next year and beyond."
Below the Fold
Following the end of the 2021 NFL regular season, ESPN's Jeremy Fowler evaluated the teams that missed the postseason, looking at the positives and negatives of each roster.
While Fowler addresses the offense as a necessary offseason priority for the Broncos, mentioning both the head coach and quarterback positions, he also believes that this Denver offense is in a different spot than it had been in previous years.
"Fixing the offense is paramount, as moving the ball consistently has been an issue since Peyton Manning retired," Fowler wrote. "The only difference is this Denver team is well-stocked with talent. The Broncos have everything they need on offense, save the franchise quarterback."
The good news, according to Fowler, is that the Broncos have the cap space to address any needs in free agency, and they have a young core of playmakers as the foundation of both their offense and defense — the average age of Denver's starters is 26.4.
Fowler also notes that Denver's stout defense is primed for a postseason run in the near future.
"Save a few depth adds along the front seven or at safety (Kareem Jackson, 33, is a free agent), the defense is ready to win now," Fowler wrote.