Most experts and analysts would agree that when breaking down the 2021 NFL Draft class, two running backs are head and shoulders above the rest: Alabama’s Najee Harris and Clemson’s Travis Etienne.
As you may know, Travis Etienne was my clear-cut #1 running back heading into the 2020 offseason. That I will admit. But then he returned to school, and as the NFL season progressed, it became clear that there was a different type of running back needed to complement Miami’s backfield.
Najee Harris is definitely that.
And I think we can all agree Harris is the best back in this class, especially for Miami. But he will cost a first-round pick, and the Dolphins would almost have to pull the trigger with pick #18. I’m okay with that. But I think many people forget that this RB class is far more than Harris and Etienne.
For example, there’s UNC’s Michael Carter and Ohio State’s Trey Sermon. Chuba Hubbard and Kenneth Gainwell too. But the back that I believe is RB3 and could have the most significant impact on the Dolphins’ offense (at the best value) is North Carolina running back Javonte Williams.
Let’s take a closer look at the Tar Heels star running back.
Tale of the Tape
Birthplace: Wallace, North Carolina
2020 Stats: 157 carries, 1,140 yards, 22 total touchdowns
Projected: 2nd Round
Games Watched: Virginia, Florida State, Miami, Duke.
The Dolphins' run game took a significant step in 2020, led by the emergence of second-year RB Myles Gaskin. Gaskin brought a little bit of the lightning in 2020, rushing for 584 yards and three touchdowns on 142 carries (4.1 YPC).
I am a fan, and as I’ve stated countless times before, Eric Studesville is too.
But now the team needs to find the thunder.
Someone capable of carrying the workload, but most importantly complimenting Myles Gaskin or Salvon Ahmed. Enter Javonte Williams, the punishing running back from North Carolina that scored 22 total touchdowns in 2020— breaking the Tar Heels’ single-season record.
Normally I'd say scout at least 3-4 games of every prospect before grading them, but with Javonte Williams I really only needed one play pic.twitter.com/BGmheg7thg— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) February 27, 2021
Now, in no way am I saying Williams is on the same tier as Harris and Etienne. But I’m not necessarily saying he’s not or that he can’t be.
In 2020, Williams was Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded running back of all-time. Sure, we all know PFF is not perfect, but that is quite the feat for any player to achieve in a single-season.
PFF has charted college players since 2016. Javonte Williams all-time percentiles*— Kevin Cole (@KevinColePFF) February 24, 2021
Rushing grade: 100
Forced missed tackle rate: 100
Receiving grade: 93
Rushing grade: 92
Forced missed tackle rate: 97
Receiving grade: 99
*Among 1,033 50+ carry & 10+ target seasons
Williams was also an ACC second-team All-pro and named to not one but two PFF all-star teams. In three years at North Carolina, Williams amassed 2,836 yards and 33 total touchdowns from scrimmage.
He can do it all.
But what is it that makes Williams so special?
The first and the most obvious thing to love about Javonte Williams when watching the film is how physical of a runner is.
Williams is a violent runner who can run through, or over defenders—which is one thing that the Dolphins' run game has severely lacked the last several seasons. Or since Jay Ajayi took the world by storm in 2016, won a Super Bowl with the Eagles , and then his leg fell off like the kickstand to your favorite bike.
Below is an example of Javonte Williams running through the Miami Hurricanes defense. I’m only telling you this because if you’re a fan of the Hurricanes, now is your chance to skip ahead.
(P.S. I could’ve posted more clips from this game, but I am a gentleman. If you want to watch Javonte Williams and Michael Carter—an RB Brian Flores spoke very highly of at the Senior Bowl have their way with Miami—click HERE)
I think the biggest thing here, besides the fact that Manny Diaz’s defense was unable to tackle anyone in this game. Is that Williams isn’t just a bruiser. In fact, he showed off a little bit of everything in this run.
An elegant hurdle and a sexy spin move!
Someone mentioned J.K Dobbins (who was my RB1 in 2020 after Etienne returned), and I can’t unsee it. Maybe, deep within my surface, I’m still hoping the Dolphins can land a back like Dobbins. But to me, if you’re a 5’10, 220-pound running back (dishing out punishing truck sticks and stiff arms) with the last name Williams—there’s only one running back that should come to mind.
The greatest running back in Miami Dolphins’ history, IMHO.
Javonte isn’t Ricky. But he does share more than just the name and size of the legendary Dolphins’ RB.
In this next video, Williams should be stopped in the backfield for a loss (two or three times) but manages to beat three defenders in a variety of different ways.
First, Williams hits the Okie Doke on a defender in open space, sending him flying like Kevin Bacon in Hollow Man. Next, he manages to bulldoze through a would-be defender, and lastly, he plays the slippery when wet card.
In the second play, Williams is a bully, which we only condone on the football field.
I apologize for not having this article finished sooner. This offseason has been hectic with two kids, but I’m following in Sutton’s footsteps, and that man has an entire basketball team. #NoExcuses
This last video shows how explosive Williams can be. Sure, the hole is massive (and not realistic unless the dolphins draft Penei Sewell) on the big run up the middle. But he explodes through the hole like Woody and Buzz strapped to the rocket, trying to catch the moving vehicle at the end of Toy Story. He then hits the truck stick and sends a defensive back’s towel FLYING!
He also shows off that vision and his ability to cut on a dime.
the article should be up tomorrow, but in conclusion, yes, javonte williams is #good.& yes, he might be the best option when you factor in what it could cost for harris/etienne.— josh houtz (@houtz) February 23, 2021
(p.s. that giant hole he runs through is what it would look like if the #dolphins drafted sewell j/k) pic.twitter.com/mdBvell1hs
Dat boi #good.
With the 36th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins select:
Javonte Williams, RB North Carolina
In the end, any of this year’s top running backs would be a welcomed addition to Miami’s backfield. Heck, the Dolphins have already been linked to Free Agency’s “Belle of the Ball” in Aaron Jones. (Maybe, I should’ve waited to write this article?!?!)
But while guys like Etienne and Harris may be the prospects most talked about, fans should not forget the touchdown machine from North Carolina, Javonte Williams.
I’m not trying to say Williams will be a better NFL back than Harris or Etienne. I wouldn’t make that bet. But when you’re the Miami Dolphins with four top-50 draft picks, there’s an approach I would take to the first two days of this year’s draft. Most of those roads lead back to Javonte Williams, to me.
And let’s not forget Javonte Williams is only 20-years-old (He will be 21 before the draft). Two years younger than both Harris and Etienne. Could you imagine if the Dolphins draft Sewell, Waddle/Bateman/Moore, and Williams?!?!
There are plenty of options in this year's draft But for me, the more I think about how the Dolphins have addressed the position in the past—-and what this team needs— Javonte Williams at the top of the second round, makes the most sense to me.
Javonte Williams + Myles Gaskin = $$$
Run Javonte Run
Should the Dolphins draft Javonte Williams at #36?
This poll is closed
no, draft najee harris
no, draft travis etienne
aaron jones or bust!