The Watch List 2021: Week 13 Preview

Updated: January 10th 2021

Welcome to The Watch List for the 2021 NFL Draft season, a resource to help RSO owners identify the players from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the season as The Watch List will preview the prospects you should be watching each week so you know who will be fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

Nothing goes better together than Thanksgiving and football. The NFL games on Thursday always get the most attention but college football typically provides us with a good slate on both Friday and Saturday too. This year is no different. Friday’s noon matchup of Texas and Iowa State is likely to have Big 12 Championship implications. A PAC-12 intrastate rivalry between Oregon at Oregon State will cap off the night. If that weren’t enough football feasting for you, Saturday features the always-classic Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama.

The game I’m circling as my ultimate must-watch is Notre Dame visiting Chapel Hill to take on the Tar Heels. Notre Dame came in at #2 in the initial College Football Playoff ranking so there’s surely going to be some pressure to show the nation that the win over Clemson was no fluke. Both teams are coming off bye weeks so they’ll have plenty of time to prepare and hopefully that means everybody will be at full health (and test negative). It’ll be strength versus strength when the UNC offense is on the field. Carolina has the nation’s 10th best rushing attack by yards per game among teams who have played three or more games (233.5); Notre Dame’s defense is 5th best by the same metric (85.1). As of this writing, UNC has two backs on the top ten rushing leader list: Javonte Williams and Michael Carter. I wanted to take a closer look at their one-two punch because both are future NFL Draft picks.

Michael Carter, RB, North Carolina

The more experienced of North Carolina’s dynamic duo is Michael Carter. Carter, a 3-star who signed in 2017 spurning offers from Florida and Colorado, is a fourth year senior who has contributed all four seasons on campus. Carter is an all-purpose player who has had at least 108 offensive touches in each season, averaging 6.49 yards per. With 23 career scores, he’s no stranger to the end zone. Carter has also been the Tar Heels primary kick returner the last two years (22.4 yards per return). It should come as no surprise to longtime fans that Carter serves a Swiss Army knife role for his team: he tallied an incredible 3,3345 all-purpose yards as a high school senior. Carter is a bit undersized at 5080/199 and he has two previous significant injuries (knee and wrist).

Carter is off to a strong start in 2020. Through eight games he has a total of 1,036 yards from scrimmage (116 carries and 21 receptions). With 6 TDs he’s already on pace to beat his career-best mark of nine scores as a freshman. I decided to dive into Carter even deeper by watching his 2020 film against Virginia Tech and North Carolina State.

The combination of Carter’s low center of gravity and his tree trunk-like legs make him immune to arm tackle attempts. He easily bursts through contact at the line of scrimmage or from diving defenders. Carter shows patience before making his bounce-outside cut. On his last touch of the Virginia Tech game, shown below, you see his long speed which wasn’t often on display in either game. Against NC State, Carter had two great receptions on downfield routes: one wheel route and one option route. I only saw him throw a few blocks so I don’t think pass protection will be a trait he’s drafted for but I suspect he has the strength and base to hold up to the occasional rusher. I haven’t watched enough of Carter to pinpoint his pro stock yet but I would guess that right now he’s an early Day Three grade.

Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina

When I start researching a prospect I usually start in two places: their school media guide bio and their 247Sports recruiting profile. For Javonte Williams I started with his bio and after reading his high school athletic plaudits — four-time state champ in football, a state champion track athlete — I was sure that he must have been a 4-star recruit at least. Not so. 247Sports had him as a 3-star and ESPN didn’t even have him ranked. Luckily then, for us and for Williams, the former North Carolina coaching staff saw something in the local star and offered him. According to one report I read, it was a dream come true for Williams. Williams played a limited role in 2018 as a true freshman but took on a bigger share of the committee in 2019. He ended that campaign second to Carter in attempts and yards but still had a respectable 166-933-5 line, adding 176 receiving yards and a score on 17 receptions. The Tar Heels have played 32 games since Williams arrived at Chapel Hill and he’s played in every one of them.

My platonic ideal of a running back is somebody in the 5100/220 range with 4.50 speed (think: Cam Akers, Rashaad Penny). They are not always the most dynamic runners but they are often durable, multi-faceted and stick around in the NFL. Javonte Williams fits right into that framework so I was excited to dive into some extended film. I watched Williams against the same Hokies’ team that I saw Michael Carter dominate. I thought that would give me an interesting comparison of the two UNC backs. Williams is an even more patient runner than Carter and sees his running lanes well. Williams runs with a forward momentum that I relished thanks to his forward pad lean and his willingness to get lower than the defender. He was also deployed as a pass protector, a downfield receiver and a short yardage back against Virginia Tech. If you’re playing along at home that’s a bingo! Much of what I saw in that tape was also present in highlight reels from his games against Duke and Florida State. My favorite run of all the plays I watched was the below against Florida State where he takes the handoff going right and delivers an absolute thud to the safety as he turns upfield. Williams looks and feels like what I want in an NFL running back and I’d be happy to see my team take him on Day Two.


Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats:,,,,,,,,
  • Recruiting:,,,
  • Film: 2021 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis,
  • Draft info and mocks:,,,,,,
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info:,
  • Draft history:
  • Combine info:,,,
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos:
  • Odds & Gambling Stats:

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a certified park and recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

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