When the Detroit Lions traded up to the 12th-overall pick last Thursday, there was plenty of intrigue regarding the quarterback position.
As it turned out, the Lions moved up to supply their existing QB, Jared Goff, with more assistance. Detroit’s trade with Minnesota during the 2022 NFL Draft allowed general manager Brad Holmes to spend the selection on Alabama receiver Jameson Williams, a player Holmes coveted not only because of his position, but for what he brings to the table as a playmaker.
“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, via ESPN. “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.”
It also didn’t hurt that drafting Williams — who is still returning from an ACL tear suffered in January — should make the going a little easier for Goff.
“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.”
Goff didn’t enjoy a memorable season in 2021, but it didn’t come as much of a surprise when considering how bare the cupboard was in Detroit when Goff arrived. 2021 fourth-round pick Amon-Ra St. Brown ended up being the Lions’ best receiving option, and tight end T.J. Hockenson was again reliable, but that was about it.
After spending the second-overall pick on Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson, the Lions were in position to take an offensive weapon — if the fit was right. Williams satisfied those requirements.
“This guy’s gritty. He’s a dog. He loves football,” Holmes said. “He just fit what we’re about. 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 has demonstrated an ability to persevere through adversity, at least to a degree, during his college career. He was stuck behind fellow first-rounders Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave at Ohio State and decided to transfer to Alabama, where he became a star alongside John Metchie III. In one season, Williams went from afterthought to first-round pick.
Now he’s in the midst of attempting to clear another hurdle. Williams hasn’t suffered any setbacks in his rehab from an ACL injury suffered in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, and the Lions felt good enough about his progress to spend a top-15 pick on him.
The round mattered to Holmes, who watched the receiver market explode beyond most everyone’s wildest imaginations this offseason. With that development came greater importance on keeping a receiver under team control for a fifth year.
“Those guys that are going in the second round (or later), there is a big-picture viewpoint with their contracts,” Holmes said, via The Detroit News. “Those guys are really players, then after year three or whatever it is, those guys want to get paid. Their contracts, those contracts are swelling at an alarming amount.
“I would say it’s good to have that fifth-year option on a guy like that, when you look at the totality of it. With Jameson, specifically, he was a guy where there was total buy-in, total conviction. I was just in love with him. I said, ‘Look, this is a guy that we want to get and I think he can be a game-changer for us.'”
Essentially, it’s a difference between Detroit moving up to take a player in which Holmes very obviously believes, or ending up in the same seat as the Titans, who traded A.J. Brown to Philadelphia in part because the looming financial necessities were simply too much to bear.
If Williams lives up to Holmes’ expectations, he’ll be glad he traded up and secured a fifth-year option for the Alabama star. Goff would likely be glad if this became reality as well.
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