Prospect Profile: RB Michael Carter and RB Javonte Williams
Jake Pittman - 2/12/2021
Dual Scouting Report: UNC RB Michael Carter and RB Javonte Williams
Michael Carter and Javonte Williams are the dynamic tandem of running backs from North Carolina University. Carter stands at 5’8" 199 pounds while his counterpart Williams comes in at 5’10" 210 pounds. These two players made North Carolina’s rushing attack a true force to be reckoned with this season. Carter rushed for 1,245 yards and 9 TDs and Williams added on 1,140 yards and 19 TDs while splitting the workload almost exactly evenly with 156 carries and 157 carries respectively. The duo proved all-season that they were the best backfield in college football, but they made a defining statement when they combined for a record 544 yards and 5 TDs against the University of Miami. These two teammates led all other NFL prospects in yards after contact per attempt with Williams leading the way with 4.59 and Carter not far behind with 4.47. Both players ended up deciding to opt out of the Orange Bowl game against Texas A&M to prepare for the 2021 draft, where they are both ranked by most draft analysts as Top 10 RB prospects.
I don’t know if I have had this much fun watching a tandem backfield since watching RBs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson tear up the field for Alabama in 2009-2010 or RBs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones put on a show for Arkansas in 2006-2007. What you notice from these two guys right off the bat is that they break tackles. Carter and Williams were incredible at getting through defenders after contact. The first guy to hit them almost never brings them to the ground. Carter does have slightly better footwork though. He uses his ability to make defenders shift off-balance before cutting away with tremendous agility. Williams on the other hand relies on his own balance and vision. Williams seems to always have his feet underneath him and has incredibly powerful legs that never stop churning. Both players are very fast and I would expect both running in the low 4.4 second 40-yard dash, with a slight edge to Carter. They both can run past defenders in the second level and break off huge chunk plays using their straight-line speed.
These players understand how to read a blocking scheme with their eyes. They can evaluate the first level of blocks in an instant, put their feet in the ground, and focus on how to break through the second level. I think that Williams shows a little better vision in this regard, but Carter can make up for this split second slower decision, with faster acceleration towards the outside of the field. Against Miami, both players showed this incredible vision, balance and acceleration. Williams consistently showed why the coaches trust him to carry the ball in important moments as he made great decisions in lightning speed. He showed off his balance and strength by powering through defenders and somehow staying on his feet in many difficult situations. Carter showed off his star-power and electric playmaking ability as he weaved through the Miami defense making defenders fall down all around him consistently. Carter, even when it seems like the defender has an angle on him, always seems to beat his guy to the edge.
I currently have these 2 players as my #3 and #4 running backs in this year’s draft class and it is an incredibly tight race. I currently have Javonte Williams one slot higher because of his balance, strength, ability to be an every down back and a goal line back plus, even with his larger frame he is pretty much just as fast as Carter. That being said, don’t let it take you away from the fact that Carter is just ever so slightly behind him. Carter has better footwork, better efficiency numbers throughout college, better agility and he is shown a little more promise in the passing game a very natural receiver. I believe they are both going to thrive at the next level, and in the right landing spots they can provide significant fantasy value in their rookie seasons.
Carter’s tape is absolutely electric. He makes incredible plays that make you sometimes wish he could touch the ball every play. For fantasy fans this sounds a lot like Green Bay Packer’s RB Aaron Jones. While Jones is slightly bigger than Carter at 5’9" 207 pounds, they both display many of the same traits that make them such effective runners and receivers. Jones has outstanding footwork and a knack for making defenders look bad when trying to bring him to the ground. They are also two of the most efficient runners in their respective leagues, posting incredible yard per carry and yards after contact numbers. Just like Jones, Carter will more than likely find himself in a backfield where he will have to compete for touches, but hopefully, also like Jones, he can prove to the coaching staff why he deserves to get the bulk of the work.
While watching Williams, he reminded me of one of my favorite prospects that I have scouted in recent years, and that is Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery. They both have outstanding balance and a center of gravity that makes them very difficult to bring to the ground. While Montgomery seemed to struggle in his first year in Chicago, I think a lot of those struggles were because of poor O-Line and QB play. In his second year with the franchise, Montgomery showed many of the traits that made scouts and fantasy fans alike fall in love with his potential at the next level. Montgomery and Williams are very similar from a frame standpoint as they are the same height, while Montgomery is slightly bulkier at 216 pounds compared to Williams 210 pounds. Even so, while training with an NFL strength staff, Williams can certainly put on a few more pounds of lean muscle if he even needs to. Williams is faster than Montgomery, which adds an element to his game that could prove him to be incredibly effective at the next level. If Williams lands in a place like Chicago was a year ago, it could also take him a while to acclimate to the speed of play in the NFL just like Montgomery, but with time he could certainly adjust in the same way that Montgomery has.
Most Likely Landing Spots:
The 3 teams that I think would be good fits for Carter’s skillsets are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Seattle Seahawks, and Buffalo Bills.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are fresh off a Super Bowl victory after Brady again proved again that father time has nothing on the greatest athlete of all time. Even so, the Buccaneers rushing attack was nothing spectacular in this past season. RB Ronald Jones has yet to show much real promise as the future of the position for the team, and even though RB Leonard Fournette proved to be a key contributor during the team’s Super Bowl run, I don’t think he is their long-term answer at the position. Bruce Arians loves a versatile running back like Carter and he would fit very well into their scheme as Brady ages and begins looking for check downs more and more often. Carter would bring an extra gear into this offense that would make them one of the most difficult to defend rosters in the entire league.
The Seattle Seahawks tried to "Let Russ Cook" this season, and while QB Russell Wilson is one of the best QBs of our generation, Pete Carroll has clearly stated that he wants to get back to running the football at an elite level next season. Current Seahawks running back Chris Carson is an outstanding player and provides a really good rushing prowess to this offense, but he has been prone to injuries. A player like Carter could help take some of the wear and tear off of Carson’s body and provide another dynamic to the Seahawks already potent offense.
The Buffalo Bills have a roster that looks like it is going to be a contender for years to come. QB Josh Allen and WR Stefon Diggs are absolute stars in this league and the offense was churning out yards and scores all year long even without much of a rushing attack outside of Allen. Carter’s explosiveness, pass catching and big play ability would add a new aspect to this offense that may help them reach the next level. Just thinking about Allen and Carter the read option makes me fall more in love with this fit.
If Carter fell to any of these spots it may take him a little time to reach the top of the depth chart, but even as a complementary back or primarily 3rd down player, Carter could contribute even in his first season in the league.
The 3 teams I think would be good fits for Williams skillset are the New York Jets, the Arizona Cardinals and the Miami Dolphins.
The New York Jets are in desperate need of offensive weapons. The Jets offense struggled in every aspect of the game last season and they have an enormous amount of needs. Javonte Williams could certainly provide a boost to the run-game that has been lackluster with likes of Frank Gore and company. Williams refined running ability would bring a dynamic to the Jets offense that they desperately need.
The Arizona Cardinals don’t need to find a replacement at running back incredibly bad with Chase Edmonds showing a lot of promise as the eventual replacement for Kenyan Drake, but in Edmonds only start last season he had his lowest yards per carry numbers of any game last season. This may lead the Cardinals front office to bring in another back that is more of a prototypical NFL runner. Williams is one of those guys. He is a well-rounded back who has shown throughout his college career that he can punch the ball in from the goal line. If the Cardinals fear that Edmonds may not be able to carry the load on his own, someone like Williams could certainly come in and compete for the role.
The Miami Dolphins are one of the youngest teams in the league and have also acquired a significant amount of draft capital from the Texans. RBs Myles Gaskins and Salvon Ahmed have shown some promise, but the coaching staff and front office may want to bring another RB into the room to compete with those guys. Williams could offer them solid option as a smart, well-rounded back and a consistent goal line option.
If Williams fell to the Jets he would have a great shot at earning the starting role from day one. This would make him a very interesting fantasy option as a rookie. With the concerns about the offense he could also become an outstanding draft value. If he were to land in the other two spots it may take him a little while to break into a large enough role to be fantasy relevant.
The dynamic North Carolina backfield that put a show on for college football fans around the nation is poised to make a splash at the next level as well. The fast and shifty Michael Carter projects to find a role as a 3rd down back early in his career, but has more than enough potential to become the focal point of an NFL running game in the near future. The well-rounded and refined Javonte Williams projects to be a solid running option for an NFL franchise for years to come after he fights his way to the top of an NFL depth chart.
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