Will Tyrell Williams emerge as Lions top receiver target this summer?

Tyrell Williams #6, Detroit Lions (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Tyrell Williams #6, Detroit Lions (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions are in the midst of a rebuild. Yet, they have assembled a front office and coaching staff that believes they can be competitive now. But do they have the talent on their current roster to do so?

That’s a question the Lions will find an answer for this summer. And all eyes will be on the team’s weakest positional group, their wide receiver corps.

This offseason, no position experienced more turnover than wide receiver. Although quarterback could also be in the conversation now that Jared Goff is under center rather than Matthew Stafford, who was traded to the Los Angeles Ram earlier this year.

Names like Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., Danny Amendola, Mohamed Sanu, and Jamal Agnew are no longer in the Motor City. In their place, the Lions signed several veteran wideouts to one-year deals. Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman, Kalif Raymond, and Damion Ratley join a group this offseason that already included Quintez Cephus, Victor Bolden, Geronimo Allison, and Tom Kennedy.

The Lions also introduced several rookie receivers to the roster this offseason with USC’s Amon-Ra St. Brown being this year’s only drafted wideout by Detroit, taken in the fourth round. Sage Surratt, Javon McKinley, and Jonathan Adams round out the undrafted rookie free agent signings.

Out of this group, Tyrell Williams is the early favorite to assume the number one receiver role. That’s based on his success in the past and his familiarity with new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn.

Back in 2015, Williams went undrafted out of Western Oregon and signed with the San Diego Chargers. A year later, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound receiver posted a breakout season, racking up 69 receptions on a whopping 119 targets for 1,059 yards and seven touchdowns.

In 2017, Lynn took over as the Chargers head coach during their move to Los Angeles. And he helped Williams post a combined 84 catches for 1,381 yards and nine scores over the next two seasons.

Williams became a free agent in 2019 and inked a four-year, $44 million deal to join the Oakland Raiders. And he started his first season in Oakland with a bang, scoring a touchdown in each of the team’s first four games.

A heel injury (plantar fasciitis) slowed Williams as the season progressed and he ended up starting only 12 games for the Raiders and recording 42 receptions for 651 yards and six touchdowns, the third most catches on the team.

While 2020 was lining up to be a promising year for Williams, a shoulder injury (torn labrum) ended his season before it even began. And the Raiders surprisingly opted to release the 29-year old receiver earlier this offseason halfway through his four-year deal.

Despite his recent injury history, Tyrell Williams reuniting with Lynn in Detroit is the Lions’ biggest hope for production from the receiver position. Here’s what Williams told DetroitLions.com last week following the team’s final minicamp practice.

"“I feel like I am established in this league. It’s my seventh year and I’ve had good years. BP (Perriman) has been around for the same amount of time and has played really well when he’s gotten his opportunities. Kalif has been in the league and played in the playoffs … Everyone has a really good opportunity because it is open and everyone is trying to prove themselves.”"

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While the competition for snaps at the receiver position will take place in Allen Park this summer, it feels like Tyrell Williams has already been penciled in for the number one role and it’s his to lose. Williams has the tools and a history that should give fans a glimmer of hope that he can emerge as Jared Goff’s top receiving target out of this group as long as he can remain healthy.