'Little bit of mayhem': What the Broncos got in RB Javonte Williams

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In the months leading up to the NFL draft, an AFC running backs coach called watching video of North Carolina's Javonte Williams' a "little bit of mayhem."

He would watch the running back score one touchdown after another, with defenders scattered in his wake like loose change on the sidewalk. And then watch it again.

In the end, that coach's team didn't select Williams, but the Denver Broncos did -- trading up to pick him 35th overall. And Broncos general manager George Paton clearly saw that power-speed/broken tackles combination.

"He's probably the most physical runner in the last couple of years," Paton said. "The thing that makes him unique is the contact balance. He is hard to tackle whether it's in space, in line or in traffic. He has a unique ability to break tackles, and he's elusive in space."

There's often a divide-by-two attitude when it comes to broken tackles in college, at least to NFL evaluators. But even the most cynical scout can see the potential of Williams.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Williams recorded 723 of his 1,123 rushing yards last season after first contact, the second-most among FBS rushers (Iowa State's Breece Hall was first with 820). Williams' 51 broken tackles led the nation.

Many of those tasked with grading NFL prospects often pointed to Williams' 160-yard, three-touchdown effort against NC State in October or his 236-yard, three-touchdown effort against Miami to close out the season as Exhibits A and A+ for why Williams will succeed. A look at the game video showed 17 broken tackles in the NC State game alone.

"I want to compete all the time," Williams said. "It's the linebacker in me, too. It's mainly me wanting to compete and win my one-on-one battles. If I see someone in front of me, I want to go through them or make them miss in some sort of way."

At 5-foot-9, 5/8-inches and 212 pounds, Williams doesn't have double-take-worthy measurements. He said he played linebacker for much of his time at Wallace-Rose Hill High School in Teachey, North Carolina, about 90 miles southeast of Raleigh, because of his height. But when a new coach arrived for his senior year, Williams changed positions and helped power the team to a state championship with 2,271 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns.

With the ball in his hands, Williams shows exceptional lower body power, winning collisions with leverage and balance. And pity the defender who arrives with his shoulder pads above Williams', because it doesn't end well.

"I definitely feel like I am the best running back in the draft," Williams said. "Having to sit through the entire first round [last Thursday] was hard for me. I've always been overlooked throughout my career. It's something else for me to go even harder for."

North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell said during this past season he would "snap [his] head around" after a handoff to Williams, knowing "he's going to put somebody on the ground every single time."

The Broncos would like some sort of two-man operation at running back this season. The run game never materialized last season because Phillip Lindsay missed five games due to injuries, Melvin Gordon missed a game after a DUI arrest last October and the offense couldn't overcome its own turnovers.

The Broncos, who rescinded a restricted free-agent tender to Lindsay before he signed with the Houston Texans, signed Mike Boone and his 71 career carries over three seasons in free agency. Gordon finished with 986 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns during his first season with the Broncos. It doesn't figure to take Williams long to be in the mix as Paton used the phrase "every-down back," hours after selecting him.

"Last year's [combination at running back] never really had a chance to develop," Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. "Phillip missed a bunch of time early for a couple of different situations. Melvin missed a game in there. There were very few games where both of them were fully healthy."

Said Williams: "As far as how my game translates, I am a three-down back. I feel like I'm very versatile. I feel like I can do everything at the running back position, and I'm just ready to come in and compete with running backs Melvin Gordon, [Mike] Boone, [Royce] Freeman and any other running back in the room."