In Week 15 against the Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams finally saw increased playing time play off in broadly noticeable numbers. The four catches, 47 yards, seven targets and career-best 68 percent snap rate were one thing, but he showed he can be more than a sheer vertical threat.
So a natural follow-up was to consider if Williams was a viable fantasy football waiver wire add heading into Week 16. In terms of being a reliable plug-and-play lineup option against the Minnesota Vikings, in semifinal week in most fantasy leagues, I couldn't get there.
But as early fantasy breakout candidates for 2024 go, Williams is penciled onto many lists now (including mine). But....
Pro Football Focus points to great matchup to tab Jameson Williams as fantasy sleeper for Week 16
As part of his "Three WR/CB Matchups to target and avoid" in fantasy for Week 16, Nic Bodiford of Pro Football Focus had Williams vs. Vikings' cornerback Byron Murphy Jr as a matchup to target.
"Williams ascended to the No. 2 wide receiver role in Week 15, logging 26 receiving snaps, the second-most among Detroit wide receivers, and now faces a winnable quasi-shadow matchup against cornerback Byron Murphy Williams earned a season-best 76.5 PFF offense grade in his expanded Week 15 role. Murphy’s 58.2 PFF coverage grade ranks sixth among Minnesota's six 2023 cornerbacks. Williams is a high-ceiling WR3 against the Vikings."
"Among 69 NFL cornerbacks with at least 330 coverage snaps, Murphy ranks 45th or worse in targeted rate (15.2%), catch rate allowed (66.7%), forced incompletion rate (8.3%), yards allowed per coverage snap (1.30) and explosive pass plays allowed rate (2.7%). Only six NFL cornerbacks have allowed more explosive pass plays than Murphy’s 15.
Bodiford mentioned Akayleb Evans as someone who might cover Williams, before concluding it would be more likely be Murphy.
Now, Murphy is out for Sunday's game with a knee injury. So will Evans and his 108.1 passer rating allowed (according to Pro Football Reference) cover Williams? Who's next on the depth chart?
Minnesota could turn to 2022 second-round pick Andrew Booth, who has played 73 defensive snaps all season. Rookie Mekhi Blackmon has played 39 defensive snaps over the two games since their bye week, after starting the two games before the bye. If Williams' prospective matchup against Murphy was good, then Murphy's absence makes it better as the Vikings have to move down their cornerback depth chart.
So the upside angle for Williams looks pretty good now. For those fantasy managers who may be so inclined looking toward Sunday's games, Williams is available in 22 percent of Yahoo! leagues and 12.1 percent of ESPN leagues as of early Friday evening.