At this point in the offseason, all signs are pointing to Javonte Williams being the featured back for the Denver Broncos in 2022.
And why not?
Williams was an absolute wrecking ball as a rookie last year. The Broncos back rushed 203 times for 903 yards and four touchdowns. As the backup to Melvin Gordon, Williams still enjoyed great production and a 4.4 yard per carry average.
It wasn’t just that Williams was running free, though, he created holes when there were none. He ran through would-be tacklers and left them in his dust. In all, “Pookie” had 31 broken tackles by him self, which was more than 19 NFL teams. And his 31% broken tackle percentage was the most since Marshawn “Beastmode” Lynch in 2014:
Javonte Williams forced a missed tackle on 31% of his attempts this season 😤
That’s the most by a RB since Marshawn Lynch in 2014 🤯 pic.twitter.com/IRtXHOtMIV
— PFF (@PFF) February 20, 2022
Incoming head coach Nathaniel Hackett knows how valuable solid running backs can be. In Green Bay, he had both AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones, with the two combining for 1,602 yards and 9 touchdowns last year.
So, how does Hackett want to deal with the position this year, and how many backs does he need?
“That’s a great question,” Hackett said in late March when asked about running backs. “I think with any running back, you always want to have as many as you can. You want a big stable. You want to have a guy that you can feed and make sure he gets a lot. He’s still a young player, and he’s still learning. You want to make sure you can split it as much as you can. I think last year, we had a great—actually, a lot of the places that I’ve been, there’s always been kind of two guys because you always want to try to split the load as much as you can.
“At the same time, he’s a great player,” Hackett said of Williams. “We’ll just have to see how the whole thing goes.”
Behind Williams, there’s Mike Boone and Damarea Crockett in the running back stable. Boone was signed from Minnesota, a player George Paton knew from his time there, and looks to factor more as a special teams guy than a running back. He could become that backup back, but his best season was back in 2019 with 49 rushes for 273 yards and 3 TDs.
And even if they think Boone could be the backup to Williams, the Broncos will likely look to add to that room.
We look at three possibilities at the position:
A Williams and Williams duo for Denver? It could happen.
Darrel Williams, you may remember, has spent the last four years in Kansas City with the Chiefs. He’s been a backup, getting only a handful of handoffs for his first three seasons. But last year, Williams was called on to start seven games and he performed well. He enjoyed 144 carries for 558 yards and 6 touchdowns, with a 3.9 YPC. He’s also an excellent receiver, with 47 receptions for 452 yards and two more scores through the air last year.
Signing him would be an added bonus because he’d be doing damage against the Chiefs this year. And, Spotrac puts his “market value” at $2.2 million per year, a cap-friendly number the Broncos could afford.
Remember Lindsay? Of course you do. The former CU star and Broncos standout bounced around Houston and Miami last year, getting only a few chances to run the ball. Could the Broncos bring him back to be the “lightning” to Javonte’s “thunder?” It’s a possibility, but they’d have to feel good about him going back to the player that slashed defenses with a reckless abandon as a rookie and sophomore, where he averaged 4.8 yards per carry for Denver.
Lindsay seems like a long shot, too, because he’s of a smaller build and Hackett employed two bigger backs last year. But, Broncos fans can hope.
Speaking of bigger backs, Carlos Hyde is that body type at 6′ and 229 pounds.
Hyde will turn 32 years old during the regular season, making him the oldest option on this list. And after the age of 30, running backs usually start to break down.
However, as a backup for the Seahawks and Jaguars the last two years, he’s been a dependable ball-carrier, totally 609 yards with 4 touchdowns in those two seasons. He’s also a decent receiver out of the backfield and would be able to be signed for around $1 million per year, which would certainly seem to be worth the risk.
There are a ton of other running backs still available, too.
David Johnson, formerly of the Texans, is one. But, he’s also over 30 years old and his production really declined last year.
Sony Michel is available, but he’s probably looking to be a starter. Just like Melvin Gordon. And both of them will probably command north of $5M per year, which may be too rich for the Broncos’ blood.
The list continues with former Denver back Davontae Booker, who seems like a long shot. And then there are former superstars like Latavius Murray and Le’Veon Bell, but don’t hold your breath on those guys.