Javonte Williams has spent his football career overlooked. But not by the Broncos.
They wasted no time identifying their man Friday night, traded up to the 35th pick and selecting the North Carolina bruiser.
In the third round, the Broncos began playing the cap shuffle game. They surrendered the 71st pick to the Gaints for the 76th overall and a fifth-rounder (164). Then move back again, giving the Saints No. 76 -- we hardly knew ya -- for the 98th and 105th and final selection of the third round.
With the 98th pick, the Broncos snared offensive guard Quinn Meinerz, a former Division III All-American, whose team did not play in 2020 because of COVID-10. Meinerz used the time at home to train like Paul Bunyan. He arrived at the Senior Bowl weighing 320 pounds, and showed out against star players from big schools. He opened eyes by placing with a broken right hand.
"I just had to club it up," said Meinerz, who can play center and guard and answers to the nickname "The Gut."
With the final pick of the third round the Broncos took Ohio State linebacker Baron Browning. He is 6-2, 246 and is known for his explosiveness . He was a five-star recruit out of high school, always slotted for the pros, but struggled with inconsistency in college. A solid junior season put him on the NFL map with a battery of tackles for losses.
As for Williams, he has been compared to Nick Chubb or a smaller version of Leonard Fournette. He runs downhill with evil intentions. It leaves him hard to tackle with his physical style. He rushed for 1,140 yards last season and 19 touchdowns, and forced 76 missed tackles, per Pro Football Focus. Williams shared time with the Tar Heels with Michael Carter, but stood out. He is a stout runner -- 5-foot-9, 212 pounds with 4.5 40 speed -- and relishes contact and is not afraid to use the stiff arm to create separation.
"We just think he is a special back, a three-down back, really good on first and second down, he can pass protect, he can the ball out of the backfield," Broncos GM George Paton said. "He's just an incredible teammate and incredible off-the-field."
He believes he should have heard his name called on Thursday night as two running backs went in front of him, Alabama's Najee Harris and Clemson's Travis Etienne.
"I definitely think I am the best running back in the draft. It was hard sitting there and watching that," Williams said. "But that's been my whole career, getting overlooked."
Williams will be expected to compete for playing time as reserve behind Melvin Gordon. The Broncos signed Mike Boone following the release of Phillip Lindsay, and have Royce Freeman on the roster. Boone can play special teams. Williams is considered an everydown back. He caught 25 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns last season. That versatility, Broncos GM George Paton said, drew Denver to him.
The Broncos sent the Falcons a fourth round pick and the 40th selection and received the 35th pick and a sixth-rounder, 219th overall.
As for Browning, coach Vic Fangio said he would compete for playing time at inside linebacker, but could play outside because he can rush the passer. Could he be a weapon in coverage? Perhaps. He runs a 4.5 40, and if nothing else should help bolster the maligned special teams coverage units.