Jamaal Williams had a decent first season with the Lions in 2021, but is he a legit fantasy sleeper for 2022?
In light of how the Detroit Lions have struggled to get consistent production from running backs over the last several years, Jamaal Williams’ first season with team last year (601 rushing yards, three touchdowns, 26 catches for 157 yards over 13 games) looks pretty solid.
Williams’ role in the Lions’ backfield is not going away in 2022, but it’s also dependent on the health of D’Andre Swift. There’s plenty of optimism, around Swift heading into his third season, and plenty of fantasy football buzz, but should said fantasy buzz extend to his backfield mate?
Ian Hartitz of Pro Football Focus has a set of early 2022 fantasy rankings out, since it’s never too early for that. In the footnotes of the running back list, he offered something unexpected
Jamaal Williams is a weekly candidate to rack up double-digit touches and could flirt with heightened scoring frequency should the Lions offense take even a minor step forward. He’s a prime late-late round pick for rosters lacking much of a floor at the position.
In his 13 games last season, Williams had double-digit touches 11 times. He topped 50 total yards nine times.
Is Jamaal Williams a legit fantasy sleeper for 2022?
Williams best weekly fantasy finish last season came in Week 1, as RB6 in standard scoring and RB2 in full PPR. For the season, he finished as RB41 in standard scoring and RB43 in full PPR.
The four-plus games Swift missed last season with a shoulder injury would’ve been a good sampling of Williams as the Lions’ lead back. But he missed two of those games himself. So let’s look at the game Swift left early (Week 12) and the two full games (Week 13 and Week 16) Williams played in with Swift out.
Week 12 vs. Chicago Bears: 15 carries for 65 yards, five catches (on five targets) for 18 yards; 13.3 PPR points (RB19); RB26–standard scoring
Week 13 vs. Minnesota Vikings: 17 carries for 71 yards, one catch (one target) for nine yards; 9.0 PPR points (RB27); RB24–standard scoring
Week 16 at Atlanta Falcons: 19 carries for 77 yards, zero catches (zero targets); 7.7 PPR points (RB37); RB30–standard scoring
Spurred by at least 15 carries in each game he played in 2021 with Swift entirely or mostly out, Williams topped 75 total yards in all three and delivered no less than flex-worthy fantasy production.
Hartitz’s current ranking of Willliams (RB45) pretty much matches his very early ADP on Fantasy Football Calculator (RB46 in 12-team full PPR).
Williams won’t be a driving force for fantasy league titles in 2022. But he is in the top-tier of handcuff backs, given Swift’s durability concerns, in RB4 territory with high floor/low ceiling standalone value.