*Our RB grades can and will change as more information comes in from Pro Day workouts, leaked Wonderlic test results, etc. We will update ratings as new info becomes available.

*We use the term “Power RB” to separate physically bigger, more between-the-tackles–capable RBs from our “speed RBs” group. “Speed RBs” are physically smaller, but much faster/quicker, and less likely to flourish between the tackles.

Is Javonte Williams better than Najee Harris…for that matter, is Williams the best back in the 2021 NFL Draft?


Williams will probably become the ‘smarts’ pick for best RB in the draft…the ones among us who like to run counterculture will gravitate here (and my lean is always looking for the alternative). Anything to fight the ‘system’ that is shoving the latest Alabama (Harris) and/or Clemson (Etienne) prospect down our throats as ‘the best’. One of the best alternatives to ‘the man’s’ top RB prospects is siding with Javonte Williams as the top RB prospect…it also makes you sound smart and edgy, going against the grain.

The majority of football people have no independent thought, so they will follow what their football overlords tell them – Najee Harris and Travis Etienne are in a battle for the #1 RB prospect of 2021 status for them…the loser is #2 best by default…then #3-10 are all ‘sleepers’ they all like for various reasons – but the RBs who really get the mainstream excited (because they are told to be) are Harris and Etienne.

Is Williams the best alternative to Harris-Etienne? Is he better than either or both? I think Williams is hands down better than Etienne, as many others will be for me. I think 2021 comes down to a Najee v. Javonte battle for top franchise RB from this draft (and I am waiting to see if Rhamondre Stevenson tries to crash this party).

But the paths by which Harris and Williams got to this point are so radically different that there is no way Williams will ever be ‘the system’s #1 guy’.

Harris was the top-rated high school RB prospect of his class…noted as one of the best RB prospects of all-time. Every top college offered Harris a scholarship. On the other hand, Williams was a mildly regarded high school linebacker for three years who was moved to RB by his coach for his senior year. Williams got one D1 offer…UNC, his dream college since he was five years old. He took it.

Harris played for the most prestigious team in all of college football and went to three National Title games…and won two National Championships. Harris was in the running for the Heisman Trophy in 2020.

Williams played in the Military Bowl in 2019. He played for a top basketball school in UNC, with the football team having a winning record the past two years and finishing #18 in the country for the 2020 season…with unranked finishes the rest of Williams’ time at UNC. Despite putting up comparable numbers per game as Harris in 2020 season, Williams was not among the top 10 vote getters for the Heisman (not sure he even got a vote).

Everyone knows who Najee Harris is, and have seen him play live at least once…if not 5-10+ times. Generic fans are just getting to hear of/know of the name Javonte Williams, but probably have never seen him in a full, live game…and they might know his teammate (Michael Carter), who some say is better than Williams. So how can the (some say) 2nd-best RB for North Carolina, a guy you might not have ever seen play live, be better than Najee Harris…when all of footballdom says otherwise?

That’s what we’re here to tackle, because Williams just might be better than Harris.

Harris not only has the ‘background’ advantages, but he has a lot of scouting advantages matching up…

Harris is nearly 6’2”/230+…Williams is around 5’10/220+.

Harris has freakishly long arms and is a great receiver out of the backfield. Williams is solid/capable as a receiver out of the backfield and has normal length arms (we estimate).

They’re both ‘big guy’/power RBs who were successful in 2020 season. Where is the Williams advantage? Is there one?

What if the Williams  advantage is – he is simply better at running the ball than Harris (or any other RB in this 2021 NFL Draft)?

We have to wait for the Combine to see, but what if Williams clocks in the low 4.4s for a 40-time and Harris is closer to/over 4.6? What if Harris clocks at or a little over 7.0+ three-cone while Williams clocks under 7.0, at 220+ pounds? If Williams substantially exceeds Harris in 40-time and three-cone – then all the background, history, etc., goes out the window.

I think Williams might just put up those kinds of speed/agility times and change the debate.

The best way I can describe the difference between Williams and Harris, as runners of the ball… Harris looks very professional, confident, and runs a little heavy and stoic…his tape never makes you go ‘ohhh’. Harris is just a solid assassin behind the best college O-Line and offense money can buy.  

However, watching Williams will elicit the ‘oooohhhs’ and ‘whoas’…whether it’s a feat of fancy footwork where he shifts direction in a blink (for his size) or he just runs over would-be tacklers. Williams runs with passion…and a raw, unbridled athleticism. And Williams is still figuring out the position…he had 2-3 seasons as ‘the man’ at running back going back to high school.

Speaking of ‘ooohhhs and aaahhhsss’: https://youtu.be/Kwv4Ek76rKg

Williams has all the gifts of a runner…size (without his shirt on, visually…he looks like one giant muscle with a head on top of it), power, acceleration, and incredibly nimble at his size. The size, and thus the power, are obvious…but Williams’ real gift is his feet, for his size. He has a burst, an acceleration that neither Harris…nor Etienne…nor anyone else in this draft have…but along with that burst, Williams is very shifty as well. He dances, bounces around with ease…either changing full direction, burning linebackers in pass coverage, or just subtle shifts from tacklers when running up the middle.

If I gave Williams an ‘A’ for acceleration/speed (for his size) and an ‘A’ for nimble/shiftiness…I’d say Harris is a B-/C in acceleration and a A-/B+ in shiftiness by comparison. If that’s true – Williams is a better runner of the ball than Harris.

Now, Harris has a bit more size, experience, and is the better receiver (though Williams is a solid receiver, just Najee has some nice receiver gifts)…so it draws them closer to each other as prospects to debate. But point being – Williams is firmly in the argument as ‘better’ than Harris.

When I was watching/studying Williams, I thought he reminded me of a better running version of Jonathan Taylor. Compact, fast, shifty… Taylor has more instincts and experience where Williams is more raw/unbridled but much tougher/more physical of a runner.

Williams is ‘legit’ on-field, as a prospect. Off the field, everything checks out for Williams – small town kid, humble, determined, and a little caught off guard by the sudden spotlight. His character and work ethic are fine. His on-field skills are great and only getting better. The battle of ‘best’ franchise back from this draft is going to be Harris v. Williams ahead (Pro Days and Combine to be the next part of the debate).

Javonte Williams, Through the Lens of Our RB Scouting Algorithm:

Per game numbers in 2020…

15.4 carries, 113.8 yds rushing (7.5 ypc), 1.8 rush TDs = Williams (minus a game v. an FCS opponent, he barely played)

19.3 carries, 112.8 yds rushing (5.8 ypc), 2.0 rush TDs = Harris

You gotta hand it to Najee on a certain level…he performed well at the highest level of competition. However, he also was surrounded by elite everything around him. Williams had to share some work with top 2021 NFL Draft RB prospect Michael Carter. 

The six toughest games of Williams’ career: 2019 South Carolina-Miami-Clemson-Temple(bowl) and 2020 Notre Dame-Miami…

14.3 carries, 96.0 yds rushing (6.7 ypc), 0.83 rush TDs per game. 

Williams’ numbers in all categories are good…but they might have been great had he not had to share with Carter, and I’ll mention again that Carter is a top five RB prospect for most (right now) in 2021…and some say he’s better than Williams (I don’t believe that AT ALL).

2021 Combine/Pro Day measurables projections…

5’10”/220+, 9.5” hands

4.45 +/- 40-time, 6.9+ three-cone, 20+ bench press, 10’6”+ broad jump

The Historical RB Prospects to Whom Javonte Williams Most Compares Within Our System:

Jonathan Taylor makes sense, but also note the lofty Nick Chubb grade/comp is from before Chubb tore his ACL and his grade was based on pre-ACL estimates of his speed-agility, etc. 

Williams has star features, but if my measurables projections are way off…he could fall into the solid ‘8’ range and be out of the Harris debate for the top spot. 

The main concern that keeps us from showing Williams as a higher/elite graded prospect is the experience level – Taylor, Chubb, Zeke, Najee have proven themselves over many years. Williams has not, as much, by comparison. 

RB Score










Speed Metric

Agility Metric

Power Metric













































Ohio State








*A score of 8.50+ is where we see a stronger correlation of RBs going on to become NFL good/great/elite. A score of 10.00+ is more rarefied air in our system, and indicates a greater probability of becoming an elite NFL RB.

All of the RB ratings are based on a 0-10 scale, but a player can score negative, or above a 10.0 in certain instances.

Overall rating/score = A combination of several on-field performance measures, including refinement for strength of opponents faced, mixed with all the physical measurement metrics—then compared/rated historically within our database and formulas. More of a traditional three-down search—runner, blocker, and receiver.

*RB-Re score = New/testing starting in 2015. Our new formula/rating that attempts to identify and quantify a prospect’s receiving skills even deeper than in our original formulas. RB prospects can now make it/thrive in the NFL strictly based on their receiving skills—it is an individual attribute sought out for the NFL, and no longer dismissed or overlooked. Our rating combines a study of their receiving numbers in college in relation to their offense and opponents, as well as profiling size-speed-agility along with hand-size measurables, etc.

*RB-Ru score = New/testing starting in 2015. Our new formula/rating that attempts to classify and quantify a RB prospect’s ability strictly as a runner of the ball. Our rating combines a study of their rushing numbers in college in relation to their offense and strength of opponents, as well as profiling size-speed-agility along with various size measurables, etc.

Raw Speed Metric = A combination of several speed and size measurements from the NFL Combine, judged along with physical size profile, and then compared/rated historically within our database and scouting formulas. This is a rating strictly for RBs of a similar/bigger size profile.

Agility Metric = A combination of several speed and agility measurements from the NFL Combine, judged along with physical size profile, and then compared/rated historically within our database and scouting formulas. This is a rating strictly for RBs of a similar/bigger size profile.

2021 NFL Draft Outlook:

You can find Williams in almost everyone’s top 5 RB prospect list for 2021…but usually #3-5 among them and with a #60-100 overall ranking as a prospect. His 40-time and three-cone are going to change the game. If they’re close to my estimates, he’ll be a top 50 pick. Williams would have to run 4.3s to get above Harris and Etienne in the national rankings – and even then, I’m not sure the national people will give in to discussing him as better than those top two names.

If I were an NFL GM, I’d have my eye on Williams for sure – especially if he falls past the 2nd-round. I’m not a huge believer in taking a running back in the top 100, but if I were to take one -- I’d be looking at Williams…kinda like with Jonathan Taylor, the more they fall in the draft the more itchy my trigger finger would get. 

But before I’d consider Williams as a draft pick, I have to see exactly what the measurables turn out to be. I will update all this once he completes the Combine/Pro Days.

NFL Outlook:   

Tricky projection…

Likely, Williams enters the NFL as the 3rd+ RB taken in the Draft, a 2nd-3rd-rounder and no expectations he’s ‘the franchise back’. He could be stuck into an RB-duo…or just sits behind like a Derrick Henry for a year or two+. Najee Harris won’t get such treatment, I suspect – Harris will be handed a starting job day one. 

So…will Williams be a star, be great for the NFL? It depends upon what team he lands with (and what those measurables turn out to be). If he has the measurables I project…and lands OK, he might pop as a rookie like Taylor-Dobbins-Gibson did…slow start, fast finish.