Lions 1st-Round WR Prediction Raises Eyebrows on Jameson Williams’ Role

Jameson Williams

Getty ESPN's Matt Miller projected the Detroit Lions to select a wide receiver in the first round of his 2024 NFL mock draft.

While receiver Jameson Williams has displayed his talent, particularly his speed, in flashes during his NFL career, the Detroit Lions are still waiting for the second-year wideout to truly experience a breakout game.

Time for Williams to prove he can be a starting wide receiver for Detroit may be running out, according to ESPN’s Matt Miller.

In his new 2024 NFL mock draft on December 12, Miller predicted the Lions to select wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr.

While Miller didn’t mention Williams in his analysis of the potential pick, he appeared to project Thomas becoming a starter in Detroit’s offense.

“The Lions drafted a running back (Jahmyr Gibbs) and linebacker (Jack Campbell) in Round 1 back in April, but let’s get them back to adding premium positions with early picks with a talented wide receiver,” Miller wrote. “Thomas can play opposite Amon-Ra St. Brown as a 6-foot-4 red-zone target.

“He has 60 catches — with 15 scores — while averaging 18 yards per reception this season, and he’d be a physical mismatch for Jared Goff and the offense.”

Obviously, more than two wide receivers can be on the field at the same. A team drafting the best available (who the organization believes is the best available) player is also rarely a bad strategy.

But considering just two Lions wideouts have played at least 35% of the team’s offensive snaps this season, Miller slotting Thomas to Detroit in the first round should raise eyebrows.

Miller’s projection is a pretty clear indication of what he believes Williams’ future role will be with the Lions.

How Brian Thomas Jr. Could Fit With the Lions

The 2024 draft class is once again expected to be deep at receiver. Miller’s mock draft on December 12 predicted eight wide receivers to hear their names called during the first round of the 2024 NFL draft.

That would break the previous NFL record of seven receivers going off the board in the first round. The NFL set that record in the 2004 draft.

In Miller’s newest mock draft, Thomas was the seventh receiver taken at No. 26 overall.

There’s little doubt the Lions could use another significant contributor at wideout. Receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is on his way to new career highs this year. But tight end Sam LaPorta and running back Jahmyr Gibbs are second and third, respectively, for the Lions in receptions and targets.

Besides St. Brown, veteran Josh Reynolds is the only Lions receiver averaging more than 2.2 receptions per game this season.

Standing at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Thomas would bring a physical presence to the Lions receiving corps. His big-play ability will also likely attract a lot of NFL teams.

Thomas averaged 18 yards per catch on 60 receptions and scored 15 touchdowns during the 2023 season at LSU.

Jameson Williams Auditioning for a Bigger Role in 2024?

The Lions could use more big plays in their passing game. But the hope the past two seasons has been for Williams to be the guy to fill that need.

For a barrage of reasons, though, that hasn’t happened yet.

Because of a torn ACL in the 2022 college national championship game, Williams didn’t make his NFL debut until Week 13 last year. Then he missed the first four games this season because of a gambling-related suspension.

Trying to carve out a role on offense in the middle of a season is difficult. That’s especially the case for a young player. As a result, opportunities for Williams have been limited.

He’s played more than 50% of Detroit’s offensive snaps each of the past five games. But he averaged just 2 targets and 1.4 receptions during that stretch.

To Williams’ credit, though, he’s made the most of those chances. One of his catches went for a 32-yard touchdown in a comeback victory against the Chicago Bears. He also had a 19-yard touchdown run versus the New Orleans Saints.

Throughout this season, the Lions coaching staff has preached for fans to have patience with Williams. Head coach Dan Campbell again told the media on December 11 that the 22-year-old is improving.

But if the Lions drafted a receiver in the first round, that would say a lot more about what the team considers Williams’ future than any words could.

Miller’s prediction is hardly a premonition of what will happen in the first round for Detroit. But at the very least, how Williams performs to end this season could determine how the Lions view their receiver room this offseason.

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