Friday, January 28, 2022

2022 NFL Draft: Alabama’s Jameson Williams declares after breakout junior season with Crimson Tide

Alabama receiver Jameson Williams announced Thursday that he is declaring for the 2022 NFL Draft after a standout junior season with the Crimson Tide. Williams led his team with 1,572 yards receiving and 15 receiving touchdowns as he hauled in 79 passes after transferring in following two seasons at Ohio State.

Williams suffered a reported ACL tear early in the second quarter of Alabama’s 33-18 loss to Georgia in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday. However, the dynamic 6-foot-2 speedster is expected to undergo surgery soon and make a full recovery. He remains a projected first-round pick, according to CBS Sports draft analysts Ryan Wilson and Josh Edwards. 

It took transferring to Alabama for Williams, a former four-star prospect, to break out on the national stage. He caught just 15 passes over two seasons for the Buckeyes in 2019 and 2020 while ceding the spotlight to other star receivers such as Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, both of whom project as first-round picks themselves. 

Williams quickly broke out upon transferring to the Tide, as he made four catches for 126 yards and a touchdown in the season-opening win over Miami. Williams later posted back-to-back games with three touchdown grabs vs. New Mexico State and Arkansas, and had two more games (vs. Texas A&M and LSU) with 10 receptions as he became the favorite perimeter target of Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Bryce Young.

Evan Neal, Alabama’s best offensive lineman and potential No. 1 pick, also declared for the draft earlier on Thursday. 

Where Williams projects in the NFL

Williams ranks No. 8 overall in the CBS Sports NFL Draft Position Rankings and is considered the No. 2 receiver in the class. He is sandwiched between Wilson and Olave, his former teammates at Ohio State, in the top three of the receiver rankings.

But his stock has clearly cooled amid the knee injury. Ryan Wilson projected Williams to go No. 18 to the Saints in a Monday mock draft. Josh Edwards projected the same in a mock updated Thursday. 

“Williams suffered an injury in the national championship game, and it would be naive to think that will have zero impact on his draft stock,” Edwards wrote. “As Ryan Wilson pointed out, Jeffery Simmons was regarded as a top-10-caliber player, suffered an injury and fell into the 20s. I could see a similar path being true for Williams.”

Chris Trapasso did not have Williams as a first-rounder as of Thursday, which showcases the diverging opinions on where he’ll be selected.

Replacing Williams at Alabama

Williams and John Metchie accounted for 56.3% of Alabama’s yards receiving entering the national title game. Metchie, a junior, could also declare for the draft, which would leave Young without his top two targets from this season. Of course, the Crimson Tide are well-versed at replacing gobs of departing production. 

If Metchie also departs, slot receiver Slade Bolden would be the Crimson Tide’s top returning pass-catcher if he returns. Among the most likely breakout candidates on the perimeter would be Traeshon Holden and Ja’Corey Brooks, both of whom stepped up and played key roles after Williams exited in the national championship game.

Holden was a sophomore this season who ended the year with 21 catches for 239 yards and a touchdown. Brooks was a true freshman this season, and the former five-star prospect made 15 catches during his debut campaign with 10 of those coming in the team’s two CFP games. Fellow Class of 2021 signees Agiye Hall, JoJo Earle and Christian Leary are in line for bigger roles next season as well.

There is no shortage of receiver talent on the roster, and as Williams showed this season, the transfer portal is an option for Alabama if they feel compelled to lure in a promising veteran to help out.

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