Alabama's Jameson Williams is a great story, but let's not overhype him
As it relates to the Big Ten, Jameson Williams is by far the most intriguing storyline in Monday’s national championship game between Alabama and Georgia.
The Ohio State transfer has starred for Alabama, turning into Bryce Young’s No. 1 option. He is 5th in the country in receiving yards and 9th nationally in terms of yards per game. He’s had an unbelievable season for Alabama, and he’s a walking advertisement for the benefits of the transfer portal. He is a success story through and through.
But somewhere along the way, the NFL Draft hype has grown out of control. Obviously, that isn’t Williams’ fault. He deserves all the credit in the world for making a great decision and then taking advantage of his opportunity. But it’s still worth discussing.
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On Ryen Russillo’s podcast, ESPN analyst Todd McShay put Williams in his “elite class” with Aidan Hutchinson, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Evan Neal, Derek Stingley and Kyle Hamilton. Regardless of team need, he has Williams as the No. 6 player in the 2021 class. Mel Kiper, McShay’s ESPN counterpart, said that Williams could go No. 4 to the Jets.
I’m not sure if it is the “Alabama” on his jersey or what, but I’m wondering how all of a sudden, Williams is rated higher than former teammates Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, 2 guys that he couldn’t beat out the last 2 years at Ohio State. If Williams is going in the top 10, then where is Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the guy who beat out Williams in the spring, going when he’s draft eligible in 2023?
It isn’t as if Williams didn’t get an opportunity at Ohio State. He started all of last season, but he only had 9 catches in 8 games, which was 6th on the team. Even though he played 308 snaps last year, he was mostly invisible aside from this great play against Clemson in the College Football Playoff.
— JD Yonke (@YonkersCFB) January 2, 2021
When Ohio State needed Williams to step up against Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship Game because Olave and Smith-Njigba were out with COVID, Williams didn’t record a catch despite playing 41 snaps.
It wasn’t like Williams decided to leave right after the season, or when Olave surprisingly decided to return instead of entering the draft. No, Williams stayed through spring ball, which is when it became clear that Smith-Njigba had overtaken him for the No. 3 wide receiver role. Even worse, it became clear that early enrollees Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka were going to be tough to compete with, even as true freshmen. Harrison and Egbuka each had 7 catches in the spring game, while Williams had 2.
There’s obviously no shame in falling down the depth chart in what could be the most stacked position group of any team in the country. Smith-Njigba is the real deal. But 2 true freshmen, too? That feels kind of important when considering his draft stock.
It’s possible Williams could’ve been the No. 6 wideout at Ohio State, and now he’s one of the top 6 players in the NFL Draft? I can’t imagine Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and wide receivers coach Brian Hartline, 2 of the most respected coaches in their respective roles, missed that bad on a guy.
There’s no shame in transferring for a better opportunity. But at a position like wide receiver, in which 3 are pretty much always on the field? And several rotate in?
That’s why this is not comparable to Joe Burrow leaving Ohio State after losing out to Dwayne Haskins, before becoming the No. 1 pick 2 years later. Burrow was never going to play absent an injury, because only 1 QB plays at a time. Williams had a ton of chances at Ohio State.
I’d love to see what Olave, Wilson or Smith-Njigba could do as the featured wideout with a guy like Bryce Young at QB. Well, we did see what Smith-Njigba could do by himself, and he had 347 receiving yards in the Rose Bowl.
That’s not to take anything away from Williams and the season he’s had with Alabama. But he has the 40th-best PFF grade among FBS wideouts, tied with Nebraska’s Samori Toure.
I understand the potential is intriguing, but I don’t understand the logic of Williams going in the top 10, ahead of his former teammates who started for 2 straight years ahead of him.