Jamaal Williams just had a fantastic season for the Lions, but the data pointing to a regression next season is becoming hard to ignore.
There’s no denying the great season Jamaal Williams just had for the Detroit Lions. He was the franchise’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2013 (Reggie Bush), and he set the franchise single-season record for rushing touchdowns with 17.
But here are some indisputable facts regarding Williams’ 2022 campaign.
-He set his career-high for carries (262) by more than 100
-He had a career-low 12 receptions
-Of his 17 touchdowns, 10 were from one-yard out, three more were from two yards out and one was from beyond seven yards out
-From Week 14-Week 16, he averaged 2.3 yards per carry and went scoreless over the three games (that sound you just heard is the title hopes for his fantasy football managers going down the drain).
Williams is of course now a free agent. It’s fair to say he wants to be back, and the Lions want him back. Beyond what he did on the field this season, he is a clear team leader and important to the team’s culture.
But to call this year anything other than Williams’ career year is missing the forest for the trees. He’ll turn 28 in April, but he did not have more than 155 carries in a season before this year. So the “plenty of tread left on the tires” conversation favors him as he hits the free agent market.
Deeper data further assures Jamaal Williams will regress next season
Tej Seth of Sumer Sports recently unveiled a chart featuring “Rushing Yards Over Expected”leaders from this season. A minimum of 130 carries was required to qualify for the chart.
Yep there’s Williams, second-worst among qualifying backs with….let’s say -175 total rushing yards below expected. On a per-carry basis, with the minimum carries to qualify bumped down to 125, Williams sits fifth-worst (33 out of 37) at -0.65 rushing yards below expected. His EPA (Expected Points Added) per rush is not as bad (-0.05) and actually equal to Rushing Yards Over Expected leader Travis Etienne and some others. But that is probably rooted in Williams’ touchdown scoring, and presumably it would be quite ugly without it.
Over at Sports Info Solutions, among running backs with at least 125 carries this season, Williams landed with the fourth-worst broken-plus-missed tackles rate (eight percent) and seventh-worst in their “Rush Points Earned” metric (-4).
Surface numbers already say Williams will naturally have a drop-off next season, for whichever team he suits up for. Now there’s deeper analytic data to back it up more.
This is not necessarily a buyer-beware as Williams hits free agency. But expecting a full repeat of this season, or anything close to it, next season or ever over the rest of his career, is simply foolish.