The New England Patriots are facing a number of questions this offseason. How will they fill the spots vacated on their offensive staff? What will Joe Judge and Matt Patricia’s roles be on that new look staff? How will they approach J.C. Jackson’s pending free agency? What moves will they make to improve their aging defense?
That list is a good start, but a sneaky important question that needs to be answered is this: What can New England do to help Mac Jones make the ever important second year jump?
Well, how about adding an all-world deep threat?
Mac Jones certainly had receivers he could trust in 2021, but the distinction between a trusted receiver and one that can transform an entire offense is an important one to make. Jakobi Meyers and Hunter Henry developed into a formidable duo for Jones down the stretch last season, accounting for almost half of the teams first down receptions, but neither player was what could be considered dynamic.
New England needs someone who can do more. Not just a slot receiver or a red zone threat, but a wide receiver who can strike from anywhere at any time. This is that man.
Name: Jameson Williams
Position: Wide Receiver
School: Alabama (Junior)
Opening day age: 21
2021 stats: 15 games, 79 receptions, 1,572 yards, 15 touchdowns
Size: 6’1”, 179lbs
Expected round: 1st
2022 #Patriots Draft Target Thread— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) February 8, 2022
WR Jameson Williams
(6’2” - 190lbs)
College footballs most explosive wide receiver, Williams is coming off an ACL and in the midst of a long recovery. Could New England be the team to roll the dice? pic.twitter.com/073lK14umT
Strengths: Jameson Williams is the premier deep threat in the 2022 draft class. Williams averaged 47.6 yards per touchdown reception in 2021, notching 15 total receiving touchdowns in his lone season at Alabama. There are a couple of reasons why he’s such a special vertical route runner, but I’d be lying if I said most of it didn’t have to do with his all-world speed.
Jameson Williams IS speed. Clocked in at over 23mph during a practice early in 2021, and straight up runs away from people once he has the ball in his hands. The #Patriots haven’t had a guy like this since #81. pic.twitter.com/Nu57VjL4Gl— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) February 8, 2022
What gets lost in watching Williams be utilized as a burner, is the suddenness and twitch that he plays with. On vertical routes he can break down a defender without losing long speed. On intermediate routes his ability to beat press off the line helps him neutralize a defender’s leverage and play a step ahead. In the red zone, he’s effective with his body and can out-reach/jump most corners that he faces. He’s got tools to be successful at all levels and in all phases of the game.
His body control and ability to adjust from different angles is wild as well. Strong hands, good leverage, quick adjustment. Beautiful. pic.twitter.com/oeyxgLhOJX— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) February 8, 2022
Though he is by far the most talented receiver in this class, it shouldn’t be forgotten how valuable Jameson Williams is on special teams. His speed makes him a dangerous return man when needed, and despite being Alabama’s most valuable player throughout the 2021 season, he gunned down punts like he was a freshman walk-on. As a transfer from Ohio State to Alabama, contributing on special teams is in his blood and would be on the table at the next level.
Oh yeah, just like his old pal Chris Olave, he covers punts.— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) February 8, 2022
Pretty damn good at it too. Someone get William and Nicholas on the phone. pic.twitter.com/GTvbca0n6l
Weaknesses: Jameson Williams tore his ACL in the College Football Playoff National Championship game on January 10, 2022. He will be just about 14 weeks out of surgery by the time the draft rolls around in April. According to Williams himself, he’s ahead of schedule but the initial prognosis was seven months, which would have made him available right around the start of training camp. Williams will go in the first round, so even if he was medically cleared for training camp it would be hard to see a team allow him to be a full go without easing him back into on-field work. It’s possible and maybe even likely, that he will be ready for week one, but not a guarantee.
If we’re nitpicking, Williams’ frame is less than ideal and his breakout season came on the heels of two disappointing ones at Ohio State. Not the end of the world, not ideal.
What would be his role? If Jameson Williams were to find his way onto the Patriots roster he would immediately become its most talented offensive player. He’s the kind of player that offenses are built around and New England would be able to place him directly into the role that Nelson Agholor occupied in 2021, except this time with more targets and a much more responsibility.
Does he have positional versatility? The ideal role for Williams is as a classic X-receiver. If drafted as high as everyone expects, he’d occupy that role and take up the majority of any reps that come with that spot. That doesn’t mean he can’t do other things if asked. He spent time in the slot last year for Alabama and excelled in between the 20’s as a got-to-have-it option for young Alabama quarterback Bryce Young.
Who’s his competition? There is no competition for Jameson Williams on the Patriots roster. He’d be a Day 1 starter.
Why the Patriots? New England — despite their constant need for wide receivers — has done a good job at finding players to serve as short and intermediate options for their quarterbacks. The slot has been covered for a long time, with Jakobi Meyers being the most recent player to excel in that role for New England. Kendrick Bourne is the latest Z receiver to serve in a gadget role and get the team yards after catch. Williams would serve to round out a formidable duo that covers the teams bases on all three levels.
Why not the Patriots? With the lack of certainty that comes with ACL injury, would anyone be truly surprised to see Williams slip in this draft? Players have been much more successful in returning from knee injuries in recent years, but the wealth of talent in this year’s class may lead to a fall for Williams.
Verdict: The Patriots can’t afford to pass on Williams if he falls to them. Perhaps more than any other player in the 2022 draft, he could change the fabric of who the New England Patriots are. It’s a yes from me.