With the surprise re-signing of Pro Bowler Aaron Jones and the promise of A.J. Dillon, the Green Bay Packers are set atop the running back depth chart. However, given the violence of the position, a quality third option is practically a necessity.
North Carolina’s Javonte Williams is our No. 3-ranked running back.
A native of Wallace, N.C., Javonte Williams dreamed of playing football for North Carolina. Every Christmas, he asked Santa for one of Carolina’s famous powder-blue uniforms. Eventually, he blossomed into a star linebacker at Wallace-Rose High School.
Recruiters, however, were so unimpressed that he contemplated quitting the game he loved.
“It was real hard on me just not knowing what I was going to do after high school,” Williams told the Winston Salem Journal. “My whole high school career, I was just dreaming of playing college football. But when I thought the opportunity was going to be taken away, it just started wearing me down.”
That makes Wallace-Rose coach Kevin Motsinger the unsung hero of Williams’ path to draft. For his senior year, Motsinger had Williams switch to running back. In his final high school game, the state championship at UNC’s Kenan Stadium, Williams rushed for 224 yards with then-Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora and staff in attendance. A day later, he was offered the coveted scholarship – by his dream school, no less.
Williams runs with the violence of a linebacker. He led the nation with 75 missed tackles forced – a remarkable achievement considering he tied for 20th in the nation in rushing attempts – and averaged a ridiculous 4.59 yards after contact, according to Pro Football Focus. He had 0.48 missed tackles per carry. Among backs with at least 100 carries, Oklahoma’s Rhamondre Stevenson was a distant second with 0.36.
“I think the thing I’ve seen him improve the most is explosive power,” coach Mack Brown said. “I mean, he gets from here to there and he’s so powerful and he runs so low to the ground, and he’s got such big, strong thighs that he makes a lot of people miss tackles every game. And some of them that try to tackle him, he just punishes them.”
Working in tandem with fellow draft prospect Michael Carter, Williams rushed for 933 yards in 2019 and 1,140 yards in 2020. During that final season, he rushed for 19 touchdowns and averaged 7.3 yards per carry, plus added 25 receptions for 305 yards and three more scores.
“Pookie” Williams isn’t just a hard-nosed, violent runner. He is a man of intelligence and faith. He was the high school valedictorian with a 4.6 GPA.
“Death, taxes and Javonte’s going to be in class,” Carter said of the three certainties in life. “He’s going to be everywhere on time. He’s going to be early because his last name means a lot to him.”
Measureables: 5-foot-9 3/4, 220 pounds.
Stats and accolades: In three seasons, Williams rushed for 2,287 yards and 29 touchdowns with a 6.3-yard average. He had 366 career carries and 416 touches. By contrast, Alabama’s Najee Harris had 638 rushes and 718 touches, and Clemson’s Travis Etienne had 686 rushes and 788 touches. In 2020, he was a second-team All-American and a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award, which goes to the nation’s top runner.
NFL Draft Bible says: Leading the NCAA in broken tackles by a landslide, Williams might have the best contact balance from a prospect at the running back position in a number of years. His short, squatty build allows him to stay low and level through some very physical contact. Combine his leg power with his flexibility, and it seems like defenses can’t get this guy down without forcing him to trip. He is a scheme-diverse player that can handle a three-down workload immediately at the next level.
About This Series
Packer Central is introducing you to the top prospects, both on and off the field, in this year’s NFL Draft. The series is starting with the top five at each position, then will add additional players as the draft approaches, with a focus on positions of need.