Williams is working his way back from tearing his ACL, PCL, and LCL in October. There have been reports that he could be ready for Week 1 and also speculation that he will start the year on the PUP. You should watch his participation in camp very closely. If Williams is 100% for the start of the season, we'd expect him to lead a committee with Samaje Perine and be a solid No. 2 running back. Because questions about his knee will likely linger into camp, we would be more comfortable waiting until Round 6 to draft him. Williams could be a sneaky Dynasty buy, especially for teams who aren't invested in winning in 2023. While it could be a tough season, we would expect him to be 100% by the end of the year and he won't even turn 24 until next April.
Williams is working his way back from a nasty multi-ligament right knee injury suffered on Oct. 2. But his rehab has gone smoothly. Williams avoided the PUP list to open camp and even took a few carries in the preseason. He's clearly on track to play Week 1.
Williams will be working in a new offense under HC Sean Payton, who has a long history of deploying committee backfields. The Broncos hit the free-agent market to add Samaje Perine, who could siphon a good bit of work from Williams.
There’s a lot of risk with Williams heading into 2023, but there's enough upside to make him an intriguing RB3 target in fantasy drafts.
What We Learned Last YearA right knee injury ended Williams’ 2022 season in the third quarter of Week 4. He was diagnosed with a torn ACL, torn LCL, and torn posterolateral corner.Williams split backfield work with RB Melvin Gordon in three healthy games, carrying 37 times for 176 yards (4.8 YPC) and 0 TDs and catching 15 of 21 targets for 77 yards.Williams ranked 17th among RBs in PPR points and 31st in non-PPR through Week 3.That followed a RB17 finish in PPR points and RB18 in non-PPR as a rookie in 2021.Among 52 RBs with 90+ carries in 2021, Williams ranked:21st in Pro Football Focus rushing grade5th in PFF’s Elusive Rating12th in NFL Next Gen Stats’ Rush Yards Over Expected Per AttemptWilliams was also an effective receiver as a rookie, posting a 43-316-3 line on an 81.1% catch rate and 7.3 yards per catch. He ranked 25th among 49 qualifying RBs in PFF’s receiving grades.He was the 35th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft after a super impressive 2020 junior season at North Carolina. Williams averaged a huge 7.3 yards per carry and scored 19 times on 157 attempts. His 0.48 broken tackles per attempt marked the best rate ever charted by Pro Football Focus.What to Expect in 2023The big story here is Williams’ recovery from that multi-ligament knee injury.A 2018 study on multi-ligament knee injuries to NFL players found a 55.6% return to play rate. The return to prior performance level was just 18.5%.It’s worth noting that Ravens RB J.K. Dobbins tore his ACL and LCL (and suffered meniscus damage) on August 28, 2021. He missed the entire 2021 campaign and the first two weeks of 2022. That means he was sidelined for 13 months. He also required another surgery on that knee in October and missed another six games.There have been no reported setbacks with Williams’ rehab. He resumed jogging in February.Williams was a “limited” participant in May OTAs, according to Payton.Williams avoided the PUP list to open training camp.And he even played in Denver's second preseason game.Denver lost Melvin Gordon and Latavius Murray from last year’s backfield but added Samaje Perine on a 2-year, $7.5 million deal.Payton has a long history of deploying committee backfields. He had at least 2 RBs average 9+ touches per game in 14 of his 15 seasons as Saints HC.Denver’s offensive line ranked 15th in Pro Football Focus’ run-blocking grades and 20th in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards last year. The unit projects to be better in 2023 after the Broncos spent big money to add RT Mike McGlinchey and LG Ben Powers in free agency. LT Garrett Bolles will also be back after missing the final 12 games of last season with a broken leg.
Williams appeared to be on the verge of a breakout last season, but a Week 4 torn ACL derailed his campaign. The 2021 second-round pick accrued 60-plus scrimmage yards in three consecutive games to open the season and was third among RBs in targets (21) during the span. This after he impressed with 1,219 yards and seven TDs in a timeshare with Melvin Gordon as a rookie in 2021. Williams is still only 23 years old and his future appears bright (especially if he slides into an Alvin Kamara-like role under new coach Sean Payton), but it's possible he'll miss time and see a dip in short-term effectiveness as he gets back to full health. We'll need to monitor Williams' recovery this summer, but he'll nonetheless be a very risky early-round fantasy investment.