2022 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: Jameson Williams (Fantasy Football)
Alabama has produced some truly elite fantasy WRs over the last several seasons. Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Amari Cooper, Jaylen Waddle, and DeVonta Smith come to mind, among others. Could Jameson Williams be the next WR to join the list of Bama wideouts to crack our starting rosters in fantasy? Let’s take a look at his college production profile, measurables and then check out what’s on his tape as we turn our attention to the 2022 NFL Draft and Williams’ fantasy outlook.
Editors Note: This article is part of our Rookie Profile series going on until the 2022 NFL Draft. For more on each rookie, check out Andy, Mike, and Jason’s exclusive rookie rankings and production profiles found only in the Dynasty Pass, part of the UDK+ for 2022.
College Production Profile
|Games||Targets||Receptions||Catch Rate||Receiving Yards||Yards/Rec||Rec TDs|
Williams’ production profile clearly leaves a lot to be desired. In general, the analytics community tends to value early production in college. Clearly, 2019 and 2020 didn’t do much to instill much confidence in Williams as a potential NFL superstar, but oh baby, did he turn in on in 2021. Of course, the context in these situations is extremely important to understand a player’s path to the NFL Draft.
Coming out of high school as a state champion in track, Williams was labeled as a 4-star recruit by 247Sports. In fact, he set the Missouri state record for the 300-meter hurdles. We’ll talk about Williams’ speed in more detail in his film breakdown soon, but there’s no question, speed is a critical part of his game. Williams committed to Ohio State after high school, where he played in 2019 and 2020. While in Columbus, Williams was buried on the depth chart behind the likes of Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. He caught a combined 15 balls in his first two collegiate seasons, but maybe that doesn’t tell the whole story. Olave and Wilson are both projected to be 1st Round selections in April’s NFL Draft. From an analytics standpoint, this lack of early production is a big knock-on Williams’ profile, but the fact that he went on to produce massive numbers as Alabama’s top option probably speaks more to the competition for playing time at OSU rather than lack of talent for Williams. Even so, his 2019 and 2020 seasons can’t be ignored.
Prior to the 2021 season, Williams transferred to Alabama. Let’s just say, that was probably the smartest decision of Williams’ young career – it earned him millions of dollars. Last year, Williams broke out to the tune of 1,500 receiving yards and 17 total scores (two rushing TDs in addition to his 15 receiving scores). Playing alongside John Metchie, Williams secured 31% of Bama’s receiving TDs and 31% of their receiving yards, both very strong marks. That said, his 31% dominator rating ranks well below the likes of Drake London (51%) and Treylon Burks (48%).
All in all, Williams’ production profile has some major warts. He only produced one year in college, but that season was incredibly strong playing against SEC defensive backs. It’s difficult to say what Williams could have done at Ohio State had he not needed to transfer, but I think it’s safe to say his production profile is lacking compared to other WR prospects in this class. At the same time, his 2021 season and projected 1st Round NFL Draft capital leave the light on for Williams to turn into a successful NFL WR.
Given Jameson Williams’ ACL injury in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, he won’t be running at the NFL Combine, and he’s unlikely to run at Alabama’s Pro Day on March 30, either. That could be a knock for Williams’ overall NFL Draft stock as his speed is certainly his best attribute. If he was healthy right now, there’s a chance Williams could have tested as the fastest WR in the 2022 class. That said, the NFL Combine could provide some early indications of Williams’ early recovery after his January ACL surgery. The medical check-in Indianapolis will be the most important part of Williams’ Combine experience.
That said, several NFL Mock Draft resources around the industry project Williams to be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft in April. According to GrindingTheMocks.com, which sources mock drafts from across the industry, Williams has an average mock position as the WR4 off the board, somewhere in the range of the 20-32nd overall pick range, but that wasn’t always the case for Williams. As you’ll see in the graphic below, Williams wasn’t even on the NFL Draft radar a year ago. As we discussed above in his college production profile, Williams is a one-hit-wonder in college. Simply put, his 2021 season earned him a ton of money.
What’s on Tape
Games Viewed: Texas A&M (2021), LSU (2021), Florida (2021), Arkansas (2021), Georgia (2021), Clemson (2020)
*Note: Given Williams’ lack of playing time in 2019 and 2020 at Ohio State, I chose to focus on his 2021 tape.
1. Williams is your classic speed receiver who wins down the field consistently.
Williams’ 2021 tape is a highlight reel. It’s filled with big play after big play with several long TD receptions, like the one in this clip above. He’s got game-breaking speed and the ability to help his offense get down the field in a hurry. If he lands in an NFL offense with an aggressive down-the-field passer, his game could shine at the next level.
2. Yards after the catch…lots of them.
If a defensive back takes a poor angle to the football to make a tackle, it’s over. Williams consistently pops on tape with an ability to pull away from defensive backs. It’s difficult for defensive backs to bring him down in the open space given the mismatch in his speed and acceleration. He runs away from defenders over and over again on tape, but, it’s not just the big plays that I’m talking about. Alabama used Williams in a variety of ways – not just as a deep threat. He was used on slants, screens, jet sweeps, etc. Williams’ 9.1 yards after the catch per reception ranked 15th among all college wideouts in 2021. It’s also notable that Williams contributed a bit in the return game for Alabama, which certainly makes sense given how explosive he is with the ball in his hands.
3. Yes, he’s fast, but part of what helps Williams win in the final third of the field is his ability to accelerate off the line of scrimmage, decelerate to throw off the defensive back, then re-accelerate to put the nail in the coffin.
There are some wide receivers with Williams’ speed who are just fast in a straight line – that is not the case for J Will. Yes, Williams’ speed is his calling card, but that’s not all he brings to the table. This example from the Texas A&M game shows how well Williams uses a double move to get the corner to bite then accelerate to create separation. I also love this clip of Williams from the Georgia game where he’s subtle in his change of speed, decelerating for a few steps to get the DB to slow down a bit before bursting away to create a window for his QB to deliver the ball. This sort of stuff is all over Williams’ 2021 tape. Simply thinking of him as a straight-line fast receiver is inaccurate.
What’s Not on Tape
1. Williams wasn’t put in many positions to have to make contested catches.
Is this a negative on Williams, or a positive? I honestly don’t know. Williams was so fast in 2021 that on his tape, there are many plays where he’s a good 3-5 yards (or more) past the DB on his deep receptions. It’s not that he can’t win in contested catch situations – we just don’t know. Per PFF, Williams only had 4 contested catches last season. There’s a reason it didn’t show up on tape much, if at all.
2. Williams probably isn’t going to profile as your ‘move the chains’ possession receiver at the next level.
If you’re looking for a WR who can reliably pick up the tough 8-12 yards you need to pick up the first down, that’s not likely to be Williams’ game. This isn’t to say that he couldn’t further develop his game to truly be a threat in all three levels of the field, but when you watch him play, the vast majority of his receptions are down the field or on crossers over the middle of the field where he can use his speed to run away from a corner.
2022 Fantasy Outlook
Of course, we can’t talk about Jameson Williams’ 2022 outlook without referencing his left knee ACL injury in the National Championship game against Georgia. We know that research across the board shows that skill position players, in general, perform better in their second season after surgery. As a result of this injury combined with the fact that rookie WR hit rates are generally low for redraft leagues, it’s more likely than not that we don’t hear from Williams much in his rookie season, especially early in the year. Depending on landing spot and competition for playing time and/or targets, Williams has the potential to emerge over the back half of the year, making him a possible late-round target in best-ball formats or a waiver wire pick up later in the season.
From a dynasty perspective, it appears Williams will have the 1st Round NFL Draft capital to support his profile, but his collegiate production profile is lacking relative to other top names in this class. In Andy, Mike, and Jason’s early rookie rankings, the guys have Williams behind the likes of Drake London and Treylon Burks. In rookie drafts for dynasty leagues, Williams looks pegged for a back of the first/early 2nd round pick in this year’s class, especially when you throw in some of the top RBs and QBs. Regardless of fantasy format, it’s certainly easier to see a path for Williams in 2023 and beyond rather than in 2022.