The Cardinals enter the 2021 NFL Draft with limited running back depth following the departure of previous starter Kenyan Drake in free agency. Chase Edmonds is slated to take on a larger role, but he has not been a bell-cow back for more than a couple of games at a time in the NFL before.
Arizona could look to take one of the top backs in the first round with Pick 16 or a trade down. But, if the team decides to fill another need, like cornerback or wide receiver, there could still be viable options in Round 2.
Javonte Williams, the 2020 All-American second-team honoree from North Carolina, is a projected second-round pick by Si.com's NFL Draft Bible. He paired with a strong receiving running back Michael Carter at UNC and thrived in that tandem.
Williams was simply hard to bring down last season. The 5-foot-10, 220-pound bull broke 76 tackles on 157 rushing attempts, per Pro Football Focus.
NFL.com's Lance Zierlein likened Williams' game to Kareem Hunt, calling him a "big, broad bully back who runs with an exciting blend of animosity and feel as a future every-down starter in the league."
Williams ranked third in the FBS in rushing touchdowns with 19, and ran for 7.3 yards per carry. He had the second-most 15-yard runs with 27 last year, just behind his teammate Carter, per PFF.
For someone of his speed and size, his elusiveness and quickness stand out, and he can be a power back while providing more upside than only being a downhill runner. He ran a 4.55 40-yard dash at his Pro Day with a 4.09 20-yard shuttle and cone drill at 6.93.
Williams said during his Pro Day press conference that he has worked hard to improve his pass protection in college, and that it is now a strength.
He has yet to show much prowess as a receiver, though, catching 25 passes last year. Zierlein noted that while Williams' route-running is solid, his hands are subpar. Edmonds' strong ability as a pass-catcher could help negate this, although to reach the full potential of that possible tandem, Williams would need to improve that area of his game.
The Cardinals have just four running backs on the roster, and Edmonds is the only one with a carry in the NFL. Other options could be to go with potential first-round picks Najee Harris of Alabama or Travis Etienne of Clemson earlier, or see if one falls similar to Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins last year.
The Cardinals do not have a third- or fourth-round pick due to trades for receiver DeAndre Hopkins and center Rodney Hudson, so unless they trade into one of those rounds, the Cardinals' last attempt to grab a non-late-round back is that second round selection.
Williams has the physical traits and rushing style to be a potentially ideal fit with Edmonds behind quarterback Kyler Murray in Arizona. The Cardinals sent running backs coach James Saxon to watch his Pro Day, per CBS Sports, but Williams said that he would not disclose teams with which he has had conversations.