Jameson Williams Fantasy Outlook 2022: Should you draft Lions’ WR amid injury concerns?

This year’s NFL draft class features a wealth of offensive talent, including a strong group of rookie wide receivers. Most fantasy football owners are less familiar with these wideouts, but covet them on draft day for their upside and breakout potential. Detroit’s Jameson Williams is one such WR, but he is a unique case with a left ACL injury slowing him down early in the season.

As a result, Williams’ rank and ADP are lower than most other highly acclaimed rookie WRs in his class, but that might be all the more reason to target him later in your drafts. Let’s break down Williams’ fantasy outlook for 2022.

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Jameson Williams injury update: How long will Lions rookie WR be out?

Detroit was optimistic about Williams’ recovery from his left cruciate ligament tear, which he suffered during a 40-yard catch in Alabama’s National Championship game loss to Georgia. From the time the injury struck, doctors have expressed that Williams will maintain his 4.39 pace and continue to create a consistent separation from defenders.

Surgeons have calmed the nerves of Lions fans, with reports throughout the spring and summer claiming he is ahead of schedule. Lions GM Brad Holmes, who was “just in love with the rookie wideout,” said Williams will miss at least Week 1 and that Detroit will be wary of their coveted first-round pick.

“We’re going to be very smart with him,” said Holmes. “He’s in a good place right now. It won’t be week 1.”

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Obviously, it’s not entirely clear when Williams will return, but he expects to miss at least the first few games. If Detroit is extra careful with him, he could be put on the PUP list and miss the first four games.

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Jameson Williams Fantasy Ranking and ADP

It’s easy to see why many fantasy owners are keen to design the Ohio State speedster-turned-Alabama. A dynamic deep ball threat, Williams can take the top of any defense with his sub-4.40 speed and world-class tracking ability. He reminds many analysts of a larger version of former Chiefs and current Dolphins burner Tyreek Hill, a comp always ready to intrigue.

Detroit rose in the NFL draft and took Williams 12th overall, making him one of the record six recipients drafted in the top 18 first-round picks. Here’s what the Lions liked: 75 catches, 1,572 yards, 20.1 yards per catch and 15 touchdowns in 15 games. Not too shabby, especially for a team that already has a solid young offensive core of wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown, running back D’Andre Swift and tight end TJ Hockenson.

The injury and atmosphere of mystery surrounding William’s schedule has caused his ADP to drop to 155, making him the 65th receiver from most fantasy boards. This is dart throwing territory, so we can’t blame you for the hideout if you’ve got the bench space and aren’t happy with your WR depth. If you have IR spots, even better. If you’re playing in a league of goalkeepers, improve it by at least 40 places.

AUCTION VALUES 2022 (Standard & PPR):
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However, there are many red flags at Williams, with the ACL obviously being of paramount importance to Lions fans and Fantasy owners alike. Even with positive rehab reports, you never know when it comes to knee problems with big speedsters. Hopefully for the Lions – and for Fantasy owners – Williams won’t become the next Kenny Golladay: a brilliantly talented wide receiver plagued by lower body injuries.

What Golladay possesses and Williams lacks (when he’s on the field): NFL strength and physicality. At Ohio State, Williams rarely saw snaps because he often struggled through downfield contact. It wasn’t until he moved to Alabama that we saw him blossom as a downfield threat, but he still relied almost entirely on speed rather than toughness.

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Jameson Williams’ fantasy outlook for 2022

At 6-2, 190 pounds, Williams clearly needs to build size to be an effective NFL receiver. If he can’t win 50/50 balls or catch by contact, he’ll have a brutal start to his career on an underperforming passing offense.

Which brings us to another big issue: his quarterback. Jared Goff is well past his prime as a long-ball passer, greatly reducing Williams’ short-term appeal as a dynamic downfield playmaker.

Just look at Goff’s yards per attempt, net yards per attempt, yards per completion, and total yards, which have been steadily declining for each of the last three seasons:

Year YES NY/A J/C y/g
2018 8.4 7.5 12.9 293.0
2019 7.4 6.9 11.8 289.9
2020 7.2 6.6 10.7 263.5
2021 6.6 5.6 9.8 231.8

It’s crystal clear that Goff can no longer throw the deep ball. His 6.6 yards per pass threw ranked 27th in last season’s NFL and his 5.6 net yards per pass ranked 26th. PFF ranked him 30th among QBs last season, behind only Taylor Heinicke and Sam Darnold. His 60.8 on 20-yard passes was the second worst. He just doesn’t have the arm strength or depth accuracy anymore, so Williams will be just as affected as Cam Newton’s late-career wideouts.

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Goff’s atrophied deep ball obviously poses a massive impediment to Williams’ near-term success as a pro. When the tall, skinny wideout has to contend in the ditches with bigger, stronger defenders or rely on curl and cross routes, his potential becomes strong be limited. Unless he can grow tall enough or physically enough to stand out, he could very easily struggle to find targets under DJ Chark, Hockenson and even Swift and backup RB Jamaal Williams.

As tempting as Williams’ playing ability is, he’s hardly a top-150 player on the fringes. In Dynasty, he’s a no-brainer for a recovery team able to shoulder raw talent recovering from a serious injury. In perennial goalkeeping leagues, Williams still has a ton of value.

A cheaper investment in Williams’ ADP line-up: Kansas City’s Mecole Hardman, another speedster dealing with a recent injury (groin). Hardman was already returning to training as his injury was believed to be more of a bind than a serious liability. There are many other upside receivers that seem to be better pickups in WR60-WR65 territory as well.

We also have more near-term confidence in Cowboys rookie Jalen Tolbert as well as veteran Jamison Crowder on his first stint in Buffalo. Both could benefit greatly from solid roles in elite passing offensives. Williams could one day be a great producer and highlight-reel playmaker — but that day likely won’t come less than a year after ACL surgery and with Goff at the helm.

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