ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Once Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes and the front office identified their top prospects ahead of last weekend’s NFL draft, they began gauging the possibility of trading up to acquire a second high pick on Day 1.
But not just for anyone, it had to be for a “game-changer,” Holmes said.
With the No. 2 overall selection Thursday, the Lions drafted Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. Then Holmes got aggressive and traded up 20 spots, from No. 32, to take Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams with the 12th pick.
“This guy’s gritty. He’s a dog. He loves football. He just fit what we’re about,” said Holmes, who acquired the pick from the Minnesota Vikings. “Once the conviction and the buy-in kept rising, then I started saying, ‘OK, alright, maybe being that he’s one of those guys that we had graded similarly, very evenly up at the top, let’s go get him.’”
Williams said he was watching the draft from the green room when he learned the Lions were trading up to get him.
„A Detroit number called me but it hung up, then it called me back,“ Williams said of the draft call.
Throughout the draft process, Holmes said there was a talented group of receivers that he had grown fond of, but Williams stood out, even though he is recovering from a torn left ACL suffered in January.
In his introductory news conference, Williams said he anticipates being fully healthy in time for training camp.
When 100%, Detroit sees Williams as an outside deep threat who will open up opportunities for the Lions’ other skill players with his ability to stretch the field. Six wideouts were taken within the first 20 picks, and three had gone off the board before the Lions moved up to get Williams.
“When we saw how it was unfolding and we saw there was a chance to possibly acquire Jameson, we were pretty set on going up and getting him,” Holmes said. “And again, it wasn’t going up to get a wide receiver, it was going up to get him. That’s not saying anything about the quarterbacks or anything like that, it was just the fact that Jameson was available. We felt good about going up to get him.”
The move was a surprise to many fans and draft experts, but the Lions are trying to put a group of explosive offensive weapons around quarterback Jared Goff in 2022. After a 3-13-1 finish, Detroit needed the most help at receiver after recording just two pass plays of 50-plus yards last season, which was tied for the league’s third-fewest, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
The Lions re-signed Josh Reynolds and added DJ Chark Jr. in the offseason to complement Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson and breakout rookie receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. So, they have the opportunity to bring Williams along slowly as he recovers from the knee injury.
“We have to do our part to make sure he’s set up for success. We need to develop him,” Holmes said. “He’s got to get healthy. But we do think we’ve got the right resources and structure in place.”
The value of the wide receiver position in today’s NFL was on display over the weekend, and Williams was arguably the most talented of the bunch before suffering his injury. His 1,572 receiving yards in 2021 were fifth in the FBS as well as the third-most in a season in Alabama history.
He believes he can make a similar impact in Detroit.
“I think it does translate, and yeah, I think I can be a big-play threat in the NFL,” Williams said. “At the end of the day, it’s football, and it’s about how you play it really.”