One of the few weaknesses of the 2022 NFL Draft is that it appears to lack a true “headliner”, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.
It’s possible that Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams could have been that player. He had a fantastic breakout performance in 2021 after transferring from Ohio State to Alabama, racking up 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns on 79 receptions (19.9 per catch). Williams might just have one year of production, but what a year it was.
Of course, the evaluation of Williams is complicated by the torn ACL he suffered during the National Championship game against Georgia. A torn ACL in January makes Williams’ participation in his rookie off-season program, training camp, and preseason in doubt. Not to mention the potential for long-term risk.
The New York Giants have had one of the worst scoring offenses in the NFL last year and they could certainly use an all-around receiver like Williams. Could his injury make him a potential steal? Or is the risk too much for the Giants’ appetite?
Prospect: Jameson Williams (1)
Games Watched: vs. Miami (2021), vs. Texas A&M (2021), vs. Georgia (2021), vs. Cincinnati (2022)
Red Flags: ACL (January, 2022)
Games Played: 15
Yards (YPC): 23 (7.7 per carry)
Yards (YPC): 1,572 (19.9 per catch)
Kick Returns: 10
Yards: 352 (35.2 per return)
Total Touchdowns: 17 (15 receiving, 2 returning)
Best: Athleticism, route running, ball skills, catch radius, run after catch
Worst: Blocking, health
Projection: A starting wide receiver with scheme versatility.
Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams has an excellent combination of length, athleticism, route running, ball skills, and run after catch ability to play the position at the NFL level.
Williams has a relatively slender, but long, 6-foot 1 1⁄2 , 179-pound frame. But while Williams lacks the mass traditionally associated with NFL wide receivers, that doesn’t hamper his game as a receiver. Williams has experience at the “X” and Flanker positions, as well as a slot receiver, and proved to be both reliable and dangerous from all alignments.
Williams has an efficient release against off coverage, easily getting into his routes with no wasted motion. He uses a combination of quick, crisp footwork and efficient hand usage to clear tight man coverage without disruption. Williams is a smart receiver who understands offensive concepts, coverages, and how to set defenders up so he can uncover downfield. He easily finds voids in zone coverage and can uncover almost at will against man coverage.
Williams is a very savvy route runner who uses every phase of his route to manipulate defenders. He does a good job of varying his stride length and tempo, pressing his stem vertically, or throwing in fakes as the situation requires. Williams has the ability to sink his hips and make very sharp cuts on quick routes, as well as the long speed to run away from the defense.
Williams possesses very good ball skills down the field. He does a great job of locating the ball in the air, tracking it, and making quick adjustments before flashing his hands late. Williams has terrific body control allowing him to maximize his catch radius as well as contort to make circus catches. He does a good job of securing the ball going to the ground and is very competitive at the catch point.
That competitiveness extends to run-after-catch situations as well. Williams routinely fights through multiple blockers and packs surprising play strength in his frame to break tackles. He shows great vision and contact balance as a runner and is a big play threat any time he touches the ball.
Williams also offers upside as a kick returner, averaging 35.2 yards per return on 10 returns, as well as a pair of touchdowns.
While Williams is a competitive and tough runner, he doesn’t show those traits as a blocker. He appears uninterested in blocking, has poor technique, and doesn’t show any of the same play strength he does as a receiver or runner.
Williams suffered an ACL tear in the 2022 National Championship Game. Teams will need to fully investigate the injury and Williams’ recovery when assessing his draft stock. They will need to decide how much the injury will impact the early part of his career and whether there are any long-term concerns with his recovery.
Overall Grade: 8.4
Jameson Williams projects as a starting wide receiver at the NFL level with position and schematic versatility.
Williams has a diverse enough skill set to excel in any offensive scheme in which he’s likely to play, and can line up all over an NFL offensive formation. He can play out of an X, slot, or Flanker alignment, as well as in an offense based in West Coast, Air Coryell, or Spread concepts (or any combination thereof).
The only real weakness in Williams’ game is his almost complete disinterest as a blocker. That one score played havoc on his overall grade, but there is a good argument that a healthy Williams is the best receiver in this draft class.
Of course, “health” is the big question with Williams. He shows enough polish that missing his rookie off-season and training camp probably won’t interfere with his development much. However, concerns over re-injury, the long-term health of his knee, and any athletic impact will need to be answered.
Teams might want to look back to his time at Ohio State and ask why he struggled to distinguish himself before transferring to Alabama. However, his season at Alabama should answer any questions regarding his ability on the field. Assuming Williams recovers well and there are no concerns from his time at Ohio State, there’s a good argument that Williams is the top receiver in this draft class.