While much of the focus is on the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft and rookie landing spots, fantasy football managers were treated to some news late Tuesday night that running back Melvin Gordon will return to the Denver Broncos on a one-year deal.
The sounds of wailing and torment you hear in the distance represent the agony and utter disappointment from Javonte Williams dynasty managers and those who planned drafting him early in 2022.
The deal makes sense for the Broncos from a real football sense. Gordon proved he can still be a very productive back in 2021 when he split the workload with Williams almost perfectly down the middle.
Gordon took 203 carries for 918 rushing yards and eight touchdowns while adding 28 receptions for 213 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns. He finished as the RB20 in PPR scoring and had seven weekly finishes inside the top-24.
Gordon’s fantasy outlook
Entering his age-29 season, Gordon provided consistent availability for fantasy managers during the 2021 season. He missed just one game due to injury, which resulted in Javonte Williams the week as the top overall running back in fantasy football.
But with Gordon returning to Denver, he’s going to have relevance in fantasy football. He’s still effective between the tackles and still has the capabilities to make an impact as a receiver out of the backfield. His 38 targets were good for a 7.4% target share, compared to Williams’ 53 targets and 10.2% target share.
Gordon’s role should mostly remain the same as a two-down back with middling receiving usage. The addition of Russell Wilson to the Broncos offense will do wonders for the entire unit, which should give Gordon more opportunities at the goal line.
For redraft purposes, Gordon should remain in that RB2 range with the floor of a flex play in typical fantasy leagues.
Impact on Javonte Williams
As a Williams manager myself, waking up to his news wasn’t exactly how I wanted to start my day. The 2021 second-round pick showed immense promise during his rookie campaign, which was highlighted by his insane RB1 finish against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 13.
Williams just turned 22 years old so from a dynasty perspective, we shouldn’t really be worried all that much. His timeline to be an elite fantasy asset does get pushed back potential another season, but the ceiling is still there for him to be a fantasy producer.
Despite seeing the 16th-most carries (203) among running backs, Williams was second in the NFL with 63 forced missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus. Jonathan Taylor led the league with 66 but did so on 332 carries.
The fact that Williams was able to provide a target share of 10% bodes well for his usage with Russell Wilson coming into town, but Gordon being back in the mix certainly caps his ceiling.
Williams was likely going to creep into the back end of the first round of fantasy football drafts by the time August rolled around, but now his ADP is likely to drop significantly.
The North Carolina product may still be able to provide top-24 production but as long as Gordon is still there, Williams’ upside is capped.
Projecting a workload
It was almost eerie how even the workload was between Gordon and Williams during the 2021 season.
They both took exactly 203 carries while Williams saw more targets than Gordon (53 to 38). However, Gordon led the way with red-zone and goal-line looks. He took 37 carries inside the 20-yard-line, which was 45% of the team’s carries in that area of the field. Williams wasn’t too far behind at 29 carries and a 36% share.
While Gordon also led the way with carries inside the 10-yard-line, 34 to 21, both players had nine carries each inside the five-yard line. Gordon scored four times inside the five compared to Williams’ two.
With a new play-caller in Nathaniel Hacket and quarterback in Russell Wilson, it’s hard to truly project the splits.
At this point with the information we have, we should expect more of the same with potentially a bigger bump in work for Williams considering his age and talent. But we’re probably looking at something close to a 50/50 split again, barring a change in how the coaching staff views the backfield.