With two weeks left in the regular season, NFL.com’s Nick Shook evaluated the league’s leading rushers, selecting the top 10 who have exceeded expectations in 2021.
"In this piece I'm taking a look at the players who excel at overcoming adverse circumstances to pick up the tough yards -- the yards over expectation," Shook wrote. "We'll be using Next Gen Stats' rushing yards over expected metric to determine who is the best."
Broncos running back Javonte Williams rounds out the list at No. 10, joining a bevy of talented rushers who excel at picking up yards after contact. Williams is the only rookie back to make the cut.
"Williams was in a tight race with both Dalvin Cook and Elijah Mitchell for the final spot on this list, but after plenty of hand-wringing and number-crunching, he gets the nod because of a few key statistical differences," Shook wrote. "Williams is averaging slightly fewer rush yards over expected per carry than Mitchell (+0.50 to +0.53), and he has fewer total rush yards over expected than Cook (+88 to +93), but he's significantly outperformed them in one key category. Williams has gained seven first downs over expected this season, which is seven more than Mitchell and six more than Cook. He's also gaining RYOE on 36 percent of his attempts, slightly better than Mitchell's and Cook's marks."
Williams also outpaced most of the league's running backs in another area.
"And he's not just a between-the-tackles bully -- Williams has gained +5 first downs over expected on rushes outside the tackles, which is tied with Tony Pollard for the fifth-best mark in the league among RBs," Shook wrote. "Just wait until be he becomes a true feature back in Denver."
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After injuries at the inside linebacker position propelled him up the depth chart, inside linebacker Jonas Griffith is taking advantage of every opportunity.
Acquired via a trade with the 49ers in August, Griffith was intended to primarily be a contributor on special teams for Denver. But injuries to starting ILBs Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson allowed Griffith to take on a larger role on Denver's defense, and as Kenny Young recovers from a concussion, Griffith has started alongside Baron Browning. With that opportunity, Griffith has capitalized on the moment.
Griffith has played well in back-to-back starts in Weeks 15 and 16, racking up 22 total tackles, three tackles for loss and two QB hits. His performance puts him at the top of his position over those two weeks, according to Pro Football Focus.
Jonas earned a 90.1 coverage grade since Week 14, the highest grade among all linebackers. His 87.0 overall PFF grade since Week 14 is tied for the third-highest among all linebackers.