The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of many NFL organizations who could be looking at a running back in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. However, unlike the other franchises who are looking to add to their current quarterback depth chart, the Steelers possess the 24th overall pick.
The question isn’t whether a running back will be available at No. 24, but if there is a running back who is worthy of a first round pick. Last week I talked about quarterbacks, both top tier and mid tier signal callers, and now we dive into the running backs.
To start this off, I went with who, in my opinion, is one of the most intriguing running back prospects in the draft. No, not Najee Harris or Travis Etienne, but Javonte Williams of North Carolina. Williams might not have the pedigree of Harris or Etienne, but he certainly has some impressive film. On top of his toughness, Williams has more tread on his proverbial tires compared to the other top backs entering this year’s draft.
We all know the Steelers will want to add to their running back room, but will it be in the draft, or via Free Agency? As of right now, the Steelers could be poised to take a running back, but I don’t think they would have to, or should, take Williams in the first round.
Don’t listen to me, or anyone else, form your own opinion on Williams. I plan on doing this for other prospects as the draft approaches. If there is a specific player you’d like to see covered, simply let me know and I’ll be glad to put it together!
Let us know your thoughts on Fields in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.
North Carolina running back Javonte Williams enters the NFL as an ascending prospect that increased his production every year in college and became one of the most dynamic runners in the nation in 2020. A big, physical, and powerful runner, Williams complements his bruising style with compact elusiveness which leads to frequent broken tackles and production after contact. An every-down threat, Williams is very good in pass protection and as a receiver out of the backfield. Williams is capable of ripping off big chunks of yardage with his ability to see the field cleanly, string together moves, take smart angles, and accelerate. The biggest question mark for Williams as he takes his game to the professional ranks is how he will fare without the benefit of the scheme and playmakers in place around him at North Carolina. His traits suggest he will do just fine with the transition but it’s something to monitor. Williams has the upside to become a highly productive starting running back in the NFL that is the focal point of a rushing attack.
Ideal Role: Featured running back.
Scheme Fit: Williams is a fit for any scheme, but his skill set translates wonderfully to one-cut opportunities.
RB JAVONTE WILLIAMS
Weight: 220 lbs.
School: North Carolina
Excellent NFL size with a compact, muscular frame and thick lower half. Good overall athletic ability; has solid speed, isn’t a burner, but possesses good quickness, acceleration, and burst through the hole.
He isn’t as shifty as his teammate Michael Carter, but he does well enough in space. He has a good jump-cut and one-cut ability—he sticks his foot in the ground and uses good burst to hit holes when recognized. He has NFL athletic traits that translate well, and he has enough speed to turn the corner on field side runs.
I’m a sucker for contact balance, and Williams has plenty of it. Excellent contact balance and play strength—plays with rare physical toughness and physicality.
He runs through players. He packs a strong, stiff arm, plays well behind his pads, and breaks tackles at a rare rate. He does an insane job forcing defenders to have poor tackling angles, which maximizes his ability to break tackles. Yards after contact in 2020 must have been crazy.
A nimble receiver who can run running back routes well. He was used more as a receiver in his 2020 Junior season and didn’t disappoint. Can leak out of the backfield on choice routes selling both directions with shimmy shakes of the head and shoulders. He is adept at catching over the shoulder downfield if needed and in the flats on flare routes.
Lower body strength/balance: The most prevalent aspect of Williams’ game on tape is that he’s very hard to knock over. He has superior lower body strength and coordination that allows him to maintain balance through and speed through contact and to run right through defenders who don’t wrap him up with strength. This is his special trait and it has made him both fun to watch and one of the most productive backs in the country in 2020.
Acceleration: Williams’ impressive burst has helped him master the classic rushing skill of being “slow to the hole, quick through the hole” and it plays out many times on tape. When he has the open field in front of him, he can get to his top speed quickly and be tough to tackle running downhill into the secondary.
Blocking: Williams will have a little bit of technique work to do in the NFL, but there is a lot of tape that shows he can really get after it as a blocker. He not only wants to engage defenders, he wants to take them out of the play completely. I saw a few clips of him worthy of earning a pancake block in the stat column, he does a great job as a pass blocker as well as in the run game. His ability as a blocker is the best in this draft class, and can help him demand more reps in the NFL.
Top End Speed: This is more of a question mark than a weakness at this point, but it’s worth watching heading into his Pro Day. I believe he has a shot to run a sub 4.60 40 yard dash, but I’d like to see it confirmed before saying the speed is sufficient to break off long gains in the NFL.