ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Thursday afternoon, Broncos general manager George Paton dropped the most notable update on running back Javonte Williams’ injury status since the 22-year-old tore his ACL in October.

“We don’t have a date, but we feel good,” Paton said “We feel good that he’ll be back this season. We’re not entirely sure when.”

While the update is light on hard details—the Broncos still don’t have a proper timeline of when Williams will factor into the equation in the backfield.

“Javonte is doing really well in his rehab,” Paton said. “He’s progressing very well.”

Head coach Sean Payton said the Broncos have no need to select a running back during next week’s draft.

“I think that was one of the plusses with Samaje [Perine] being available in free agency,” Payton said. “We felt like there’s flexibility there.”

Like almost every other team in the NFL, the Broncos fill their holes in free agency and add the best player possible with each draft pick, regardless of their position.

“With free agency, we addressed enough needs where we can take the best players throughout the draft,” Paton said. “We do not need to reach.”

The team believes Samaje Perine can carry the load until Williams is back, a sign they may expect him back fairly quickly since the Broncos are short on proven production behind him on the depth chart. The most experienced back behind Perine is Tony Jones Jr., 25, who had 10 carries for the Seahawks last year and has 179 rushing yards in his career. In a pinch, Denver could probably reach out to veteran runner Latavius Murray, 33, and bring him back to Denver for a second season.

But just because the Broncos believe they’ve patched the hole at running back doesn’t mean they can’t add more… if a running back happens to be the best player available.

“If there’s a runner there—no matter what point of the draft—and he’s the best player on our board, we’ll take a running back, that’s for sure,” Paton said.

Sean Payton harkened back to a similar scenario that played out in 2017 when he was the head coach of the New Orleans Saints.

“We had Mark Ingram, and we had just signed Adrian Peterson,” Payton said. “We felt like with the top two guys, we were in a good position. Then [Alvin] Kamara fell. We traded back into it and drafted Alvin. Those are value decisions.”

A similar scenario could arise in Denver this year.

The Broncos’ first two picks are No. 67 and No. 68, which come early in the third round. That’s probably too late to pick Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs, who is the most Kamara-like running back in this year’s draft. Gibbs is likely to go off the board somewhere around the 40th pick.

But if Gibbs falls another dozen or more picks from that spot, history could repeat itself if the Broncos trade up to go get him.

“You just want to have flexibility. You want to have an open mind,” Paton said. “We talked last night about potential target players that we would go get. You just never want to be closed-minded. We’ve traded up where I’ve been, and we’ve traded back a lot.”

With Javonte Williams likely to return at some point this season, the separation for another running back has been relieved.

But there’s plenty of room on the roster if the Broncos see another valuable piece.

Click here to see 11 running backs the Broncos could draft next week.


Henry was born in Columbia Falls, Montana and graduated from Columbia Falls High School in 2015. He earned bachelor's degrees in journalism and economics from the University of Montana in 2019. After graduation, he joined DNVR. He spent three years covering the University of Colorado before moving to the Broncos beat ahead of the 2022 season. Henry joined DNVR as a remote staff writer in 2017, providing support to BSN's Broncos beat reporters. He interned at DNVR headquarters in the summer of 2018 and accepted a full-time position after graduating from UM. Follow Henry on Twitter - @HenryChisholm