Fantasy managers mostly bypassed talented Detroit Lions WR Jameson Williams in 2023 preseason drafts because the former Alabama receiver, in his second NFL season, was set to miss the first six games serving a suspension for violating the league's gambling policy. Williams is rostered in only 16% of ESPN standard leagues.
However, on Friday, the NFL shortened the suspension to four games, and Williams becomes notably eligible to play in Week 5. Considering how productive Williams was in college and how the Lions made him the 12th pick in the 2022 draft, right after fellow wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, fantasy managers need to become interested quickly.
It seems unlikely the Lions will give Williams a full set of targets initially, as they face the Panthers and Buccaneers in Weeks 5 and 6 (the Lions beat the Packers Thursday to start Week 4), but there is upside here. Detroit's offense is clicking, and Williams, with elite skills including speed, fits right in. We should assume he has recovered from an ACL tear in college and a preseason hamstring injury by now.
While Olave (Saints) and Wilson (Jets) are weekly WR2 options for the rest of the season, though with lesser quarterbacks than Jared Goff, let's give Williams time to get to this level. Goff utilizes WR Amon-Ra St. Brown as a high-volume choice and has found targets for TE Sam LaPorta as well. The Detroit offense also features a pair of running backs in David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs. Williams might be special, but Josh Reynolds is competent. The Lions can be patient.
Still, fantasy managers should add Williams in standard leagues next week. He might be a top-30 WR for the rest of the season. His talent is immense. Goff is productive. The Lions are well-coached. Williams is essentially a rookie, so perhaps an early comp to Minnesota Vikings rookie Jordan Addison is sensible, but Addison is rostered in 85% of ESPN leagues. The Vikings have other options, similar to the Lions. Get Williams soon, but don't force him into active lineups right away.