The Denver Broncos enter the 2022 NFL season with high aspirations after trading for Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. The addition of the Super Bowl-winning QB has instilled more confidence the offense can perform at a high level. Featured heavily in this offense should be the RB duo of Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon. There was no closer RB committee in the NFL than the Broncos from 2021. We try to shed some light on the situation.
Fantasy football implications
First let’s just lay out the stats from 2021 since they were THAT close:
Javonte Williams: 43 receptions, 1,219 total yards, 7 total TDs
Melvin Gordon: 28 receptions, 1,131 total yards, 10 totals TDs
Gordon and Williams each had 203 carries, so that was a clean split. Williams slightly outscored Gordon overall but they were basically the same on a point-per-game basis, since Gordon played 16 games. Gordon also had more fumbles, which hurt him a bit. That could become a thing during 2022 since there’s no reason the Broncos should deny Williams more work if Gordon is coughing the ball up.
We should see Williams take another step in overtaking Gordon this season. The second-year back is clearly more talented and should see most of the passing-down work. The issue with looking back at 2021 is Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock were the Broncos’ QBs. Wilson is a totally different animal. He should be able to find WRs more consistently and not have to lean on checking down to Williams or Gordon as much. Still, Wilson’s addition makes the Broncos offense more dynamic, which should mean more possessions and plays in general.
Nathaniel Hackett, the new head coach, came over from the Packers and we saw how they used both RBs last season with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. We could see something similar in Denver. If that’s the case, there’s no reason both backs can’t be fantasy relevant again.
This decision depends on what league you’re in and how you value running backs. Williams makes a lot of sense in keeper formats. He may cost a bit but has long-term value assuming Gordon is on his way out after 2022. Williams also has much more upside in that he can take over the backfield from Gordon. The chances of Gordon overtaking Williams based on performance alone are slim. Fantasy managers would need to bank on an injury for Gordon to outscore Williams this season.
The other factor is ADP. If this ends up being a split again, Gordon is the more valuable back based on ADP. Williams is going within the top-10 RBs (9th among RBs and 17th overall) in fantasy drafts so far. This is due to the sentiment that he can take another step in Year 2 and leech more touches from Gordon than last season. Gordon is being drafted just inside the top-40 among RBs at 38th and 98th overall.
Williams has more upside but is a risky pick at that slot. If he falls a bit in your draft, jump on him if you already took a RB1 a round or two before. Williams makes sense as a RB2 but is being drafted more as an RB1 based on his ADP. The best case at Williams’ ADP is he makes good on that selection. Where he’s being drafted doesn’t allow for much upside. He’d need to really blow past his ADP and be a top-5 RB. Is it possible? Sure. But Gordon would really need to fall off. The thing with Williams is one injury to Gordon or a string of fumbles and top-10 RB feels like a lock.
Gordon makes sense as a late-round flier. At that spot, you’re taking Gordon in around the 7th-9th round. That means you should have AT LEAST a RB or two, ideally your starting RBs. So Gordon would be a FLEX/backup RB on your roster. If the split remains and Gordon sees goal line work, he has a great shot at returning ADP value. He’s also not a bad Zero RB target. If anything happens to Williams, Gordon has top-20 RB upside.