Is history working against Jameson Williams becoming a star?

Jameson Williams is finally going to have a normal offseason, but is history working against him?

Going into his rookie season, Detroit Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams was working his way back from a torn ACL in his final college game. He did not make his NFL debut until Week 13. Heading into his second season, he was suspended (ultimately for four games) for violating the NFL's gambling policy.

Not an ideal start to his career, but moving toward his third season Williams is well lined up to start reaching his full potential. He'll have a normal, healthy offseason, with no off the field clouds, and the Lions have not replaced free agent departure Josh Reynolds.

The idea of the "third-year breakout" wide receiver, as it relates to fantasy football and in general, has somewhat diminished but it has never gone away. Williams is as easy to put on a list of breakout candidates list this year as any player, at any position.

But until he gets it done and emerges, to the chagrin of some Lions' fans who want to anoint him, Williams will be a question mark.

Is history working against Jameson Williams becoming a star?

Williams has shown flashes of potential and big play ability. But the bottom line is he has 31 receptions for 474 yards and six total touchdowns in 21 games (counting the playoffs).

Through a lense of fantasy/dynasty fantasy football, Jason Katz of Pro Football Network took a look at 140 wide receivers taken in the first three rounds of the draft from 2011-2021. 2011 is marked as the start of when the NFL became a passing league, and stopping at 2021 provided a meaningful sample in terms of rookie season production as a predictor of future performance.

Of those 140 receivers, 85 of them had less than 525 yards as a rookie. The fantasy-tilted benchmarks, for a season finish (full PPR? scoring), set by Katz are:

WR1: 16+ fantasy points per game
WR2: 14-16 fantasy points per game
WR3: 12-13 fantasy points per game

With those fantasy averages in mind, out of the aforementioned 85 wide receivers who had less than 525 receiving yards as a rookie from 2011-2021, according to Katz:

-71 never posted a WR3 season (83.5 percent "bust rate")
-61 never averaged 10 fantasy points per game in a season (71.7 percent "bust rate")

Katz revealed 17 receivers from the 2022 and 2023 draft classes who did not have at least 525 yards as a rookie. Seven are already easy to declare as busts, while Williams falls into the other 10 the jury is still out on. A 250-yard threshold stands as an important mark to separate those two groups, with Williams as an exception.

Katz acknowledged how there are outliers in every data set. It's possible Williams will be one in this conversation, and Katz also noted how Williams is the "most polarizing player on this list" while recommending him as a someone to sell in dynasty.

"History has shown that the reason a WR fails to reach 525 yards does not matter, including injuries. If he doesn’t get there, he’s extremely unlikely to give us even a single season of 12+ fantasy points per game."
"Even if we wanted to excuse Williams for his rookie year, there’s no defending his inability to produce as a sophomore. Does that mean his odds of breaking out are 0%? Of course not. We know outliers exist in any data set."
-Jason Katz, Pro Football Network

The jump the Lions and Lions' fans are expecting from Williams this year may very well happen, and maybe it becomes the launch point to a long, successful career from here on out. But fantasy angle or not, he'll have to defy a lot of fairly recent history.

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