Jameson Williams was drafted by the Detroit Lions with 12th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. The fastest receiver -- at least according to the film -- heads to a team in dire need of speed.
And speed has been a part of Williams' entire life. Born into a track-star family (both of his parents ran track and his mother was recruited to UCLA by gold-medal Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee), Jameson Williams attended Cardinal Ritter College Prep High School where he excelled in football and -- surprise! -- track. In fact, he won multiple state titles in the 300-meter hurdles and broke a state record previously held by Ezekiel Elliott in the process. On the gridiron, Williams posted 1,062 yards and 15 touchdowns on just 36 receptions with three kickoff returns for scores as a junior, then followed that up with 68 catches for 1,626 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior.
He received his first offer from a college in 2017 (as a 16-year-old) from Kentucky with over 15 big-time college programs following. Rated a four-star prospect from 247Sports, Williams chose to attend Ohio State beginning in 2019. But for two years he was stuck on the depth chart behind several receivers including Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. With Buckeyes receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba expected to pass him on the depth chart to play in the slot, Williams opted to transfer before the 2021 season to Alabama. With the Tide, Williams instantly served as a top receiver and was named a Biletnikoff Award finalist. His season ended in the worst possible way: tearing his left ACL in the National Championship.
Williams told NFL Media in late March he was "ahead of schedule" in his rehabilitation and hopes to be ready for training camp. He insisted he's "going to make sure everything is 100 before I come back."
Age as of Week 1: 21 | Height: 6-1 1/2 | Weight: 179 | 40-time: n/a
Comparable body-type to: Will Fuller
We're breaking down everything you need to know about Williams from a Fantasy manager perspective, including Dynasty outlook, measurables, scouting report, key stats and an NFL comparison.
And if you want to dive into the advanced analytics side of things, SportsLine's Jacob Gibbs has you covered here.
The thought of Williams catching deep balls from Jared Goff isn't particularly exciting. Goff ranked 36th last year in adjusted completion rate on passes of 20-plus yards, attempting such passes on 9.1% of his throws. Maybe Williams' arrival changes that, or maybe Fantasy managers have to hope for another quarterback with a big, strong arm to settle into Detroit. But what Williams will do is force safeties to play back, opening up targets underneath for T.J. Hockenson, Amon-Ra St. Brown and certainly D'Andre Swift. Swift will especially benefit as a rusher on those play-neutral downs that could be runs or throws. We might not see the best from Williams until 2023, but once he's running at full speed and locked into a stronger-armed passer, he could be amazing.
Long-term Fantasy managers will basically overlook Williams' torn ACL, but they'll have a hard time overlooking the Lions' current quarterback situation and the general feeling of taking a receiver on the Lions. Williams is fast with plenty of potential, but he's not on the level of Calvin Johnson, and there's no one slated to throw him the ball on the level of Matthew Stafford ... or even Bryce Young, his college quarterback. Anyone who takes Williams in Dynasty leagues must bank on him contributing in a major way starting next year, when the Lions offense improves its passing game. It shouldn't be enough to slip Williams out of the top five overall (or top six in Superflex/two-QB), but he's no longer a lock to be the first receiver taken in rookie-only drafts.
- Tall and slender build. He certainly might be able to add bulk to his body without diminishing traits.
- Long, lanky arms with nearly 76-inch wingspan.
- Specialized in lining up wide but did pull up across the formation and was used in motion.
- Fooled cornerbacks with effective footwork off the snap. Well-practiced stutter-steps, hop- and jab-steps, head-fakes and cut-backs got him the leverage he needed to earn space.
- Ran every route in the book but was constantly open versus zone coverage because defenders feared his speed. He made money on slants and outs, and was of course featured on deep go routes.
- Quarter-turn cuts in his routes were smooth thanks to loose hips.
- Legit deep-ball game breaker with good acceleration and very good speed. Routinely blew past cornerbacks. Feasted on bombs -- 11 of his 15 touchdowns in 2021 were on passes traveling 15-plus Air Yards.
- Ate up space quickly versus zone coverage and then knew when to attack a cornerback's blind spot and break off his route.
- Speed also afforded teammates the chance to make plays -- receivers were wide open at shorter distances for easy pickups and his quarterback frequently found ample room to run for first downs.
- Mastered subtle trait of waiting until the last second to move hands into position to catch a ball so as to not "tell" receivers when the ball is coming.
- Extended for off-target throws when needed, including a handful of terrific adjustments to low, wrong-shoulder throws.
- Consistently followed his blockers on shorter and intermediate plays for max gains.
- Was not scared of contact -- was a willing battler for footballs in close quarters and actually leaned into tacklers at the end of plays.
- Incredible, albeit fairly inexperienced, kick-returner. Had two touchdowns on 10 returns with a 35.2-yard average. Also registered a tackle as a gunner in the SEC title game. He told reporters he asked to play on special teams.
- Only one year of dominant football -- played behind plenty of receivers at Ohio State (including Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave) before transferring to Alabama.
- Tore his ACL in January during the National Championship game. Believes he'll be ready for training camp but obvious potential risks related to the injury. ACL is the only documented injury he's missed games with dating back to high school.
- Lean build with thin legs.
- Though he wasn't scared of contact, he was not a physical player nor had much play-strength to break tackles routinely (though he tried). Occasionally got rag-dolled on blocking attempts. Rarely used a stiff-arm.
- Route-running has room for improvement. He rounded his cuts on deep posts and digs. Struggled to ditch tighter coverage on full-comeback turns toward the quarterback, which led to incompletions. Coaching can help him improve his technique and nuance. Would love to see more double-moves.
- Was inconsistent judging deep passes. Would sometimes haul it in perfectly, would sometimes unnecessarily slow down. This might be a potential problem if he were to play with an inaccurate downfield QB.
- Awareness is a question mark. Wasn't consistently tuned into where his quarterback was and did not improvisationally find space to get open. Also stepped out of bounds when running down the sideline on way to the end zone against New Mexico State.
- Only six drops over 115 targets, but strangely had a number of targets fall incomplete just past the reach of his hands. A handful of targets did bounce off his hands, arms or chest.
- Caught a number of deep passes on his hip or in his breadbasket. Fear is that those completions will turn into knocked-away incompletions in the pros.
- Below-average run-blocking technique with usually negative results. Long arms rarely helped him lock on to defenders. Frequently couldn't block for longer than one or two seconds.
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Advanced stats to know
- 12 missed tackles forced in 2021 (ranked 50th among qualifying receivers per Pro Football Focus)
- 3.14 yards per route run (ranked 12th among receivers with at least 50 catches)
- only four contested catches in 2021 (234th)
- 9.3 yards after catch per reception in 2021 (4th-best in nation)
- drop rate: 7.1% (172nd)
- career 19.6 yards per catch average
- caught 22 of 45 targets (49% catch rate) on passes of 15-plus Air Yards for 976 yards and 11 touchdowns. Those plays accounted for 28% of his receptions, 62% of his yardage and 73% of his touchdowns in 2021.
- returned 10 kicks in 2021, averaged 35.2 yards per return
Williams is a game-breaking, ball-in-space receiver who can be especially effective when schemed up. He also has room to improve physically and functionally. Thinking about his best traits and his size, I think of Robby Anderson a lot. That's not a back-handed compliment -- Anderson made his career catching long throws, but he didn't have many (any?) great quarterbacks throwing to him. The same thing could end up happening to Williams, but he could also have a much better career statistically if he has a capable quarterback throwing to him.