One of the bigger fantasy conundrums heading into the 2022 NFL season was trying to figure out if second-year running back Javonte Williams would get enough of the workload in Denver to be a true RB1. After rushing for 903 yards and adding another 316 receiving yards as a rookie last season, fantasy managers were hopeful the former Tar Heel was ready to explode into a big-time contributor. However, he wasn’t being drafted in the first round because the Broncos still had veteran Melvin Gordon in the fold, and it was apparent this would be somewhat of a committee. But now that Williams looks to be missing significant time with a knee injury he suffered in Sunday’s loss to the Raiders, the question is this: Will Gordon now emerge as a serious fantasy weapon?
The 29-year-old Gordon outrushed Williams in the Broncos’ season opener, getting 12 carries for 58 yards in Seattle. His numbers have dropped each week since then, however: 10 carries for 47 yards in Week 2, 12 carries for 26 yards in Week 3 (adding a season-best five catches for 29 yards) and then just three carries for eight yards Sunday, plus a critical fumble that Gordon apparently didn’t want to talk about.
Fifth-year pro Mike Boone had three carries for 20 yards in Sunday’s game, so he’ll presumably see more action in Williams’s absence. Also with a lack of depth behind Boone, it's likely the Broncos opt to bring in a free agent RB or bring up Devine Ozigbo up from the practice squad. But despite Gordon’s recent struggles, this is an opportunity for him to take center stage in Denver. The 6-1, 215-pounder rushed for 918 yards and eight TDs last season. He’s only got one score this season, but history says he will add to that number as the season progresses. From 2016-21, Gordon has averaged 11 total touchdowns per season, scoring a total of 53 rushing touchdowns and 14 receiving touchdowns in that span. His best seasons were 2017 and ‘18, when he averaged 1,478 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns.
Even in his limited role thus far in 2022, Gordon has fumbled four times. Fans are fed up, but the team doesn’t have much choice but to keep Gordon busy. Back in April, Gordon signed a one-year contract with the Broncos. If he can take advantage of this opportunity created by the Williams injury, it could lead to a nice payday after the season. With that motivation, don’t be surprised to see Gordon step up his game.
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