Broncos’ split of running-back work could disappoint fantasy owners

Sep 9, 2022, 4:25 PM
DENVER, COLORADO - DECEMBER 12: Javonte Williams #33 of the Denver Broncos is congratulated on his ...
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Predictability and a focus on one running back are boons for fantasy-football players trying to determine their lineups.

But they’re nightmares for defensive coordinators trying to plan for an opposing attack.

And the Broncos — understandably so — don’t care one iota about your fantasy team.

So, expect a platoon when it comes to the running back position. Expect plenty of work for for both Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon. And expect the Broncos to ride the wave when one part of the duo heats up.

“It’s going to be different for every game, I imagine,” Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said.

So … 50/50? 60/40?

Good luck being able to predict that. That will likely be impossible to pin down on a week-to-week basis, because, as Hackett said Friday …

“I’ve always been a true believer you always kind of want to roll with the hot hand,” he said. “One guy gets going, you want to be sure you keep feeding that person.”

Hackett has experience with both running-back-by-committee and bell-cow arrangements. When Leonard Fournette rampaged through the NFL as a rookie in 2017 with the Jaguars, Hackett rode the first-round pick accordingly.

But when Hackett didn’t have Fournette, he spread the workload in both Jacksonville and Buffalo. Green Bay’s similar philosophy in the last three years — even though Hackett didn’t call the plays — offers a hint of what to expect.

And by the end of the season, it could look much like last year, when Williams and Gordon had the same total of carries: 203 apiece. Williams had 15 more receptions than Gordon’s tally of 28. So, in the end, that meant Williams had — on average — 0.9 more total touches per game, a 14.5-to-13.6 edge.

There was enough room for each of them to amass over 1,100 yards from scrimmage. And each had at least 7 touchdowns: 7 for Williams and 10 for Gordon.

“But I think they’re going to be great complements to each other,” Hackett said.

Added offensive coordinator Justin Outten: “I’m excited to see both of those guys on the field, and let their play come to life. Each guy has a little bit different variation to them, characteristic to them. Both guys work extremely hard. Both guys study their tail off in the meetings. Very proud of how those guys have come along.”

And if they’re both hot?

“You’ve got to keep feeding them,” Hackett said. “And wide receivers too — if one guy gets going, you’ve got to get him the ball, and if anybody gets hot, you have to continually feed them.”

If the Broncos have too many sets of sizzling hands, one football won’t be enough. That would be an enviable problem to have — and also one that has rarely been an issue in the previous six seasons.

And there’s a good chance they won’t know who will have those hot hands until they get into the game. At that moment, Hackett can adjust his play-calling accordingly.

But fantasy owners won’t have that luxury.

It’s yet another example of how the demands of reality and fantasy rarely intersect.



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Broncos’ split of running-back work could disappoint fantasy owners