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Chiefs Draft Profile: Alabama WR Jameson Williams is a playmaker

Now more than ever, the Alabama wideout would be a good fit in Kansas City.

Syndication: Tuscaloosa News Gary Cosby Jr. / USA TODAY NETWORK

As the Kansas City Chiefs prepare for the 2022 NFL Draft in Las Vegas from April 28-30, we’re taking a look at some of the players the team could be targeting with their nine 12 draft picks: Round 1 (29 and 30), Round 2 (50 and 62), Round 3 (94 and 103), Round 4 (121 and 135) and Round 7 (233, 243, 251 and 259).


The short and long-term makeover of the Chiefs’ wide receiver room is fully underway after Tyreek Hill was traded to the Miami Dolphins last Wednesday.

Despite adding veteran pass-catchers Juju Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling to the team’s offense, there is still room to add explosiveness to the receiver group. The extra first, second and fourth-round draft choices the team acquired in the Hill trade could certainly help make that happen.

So let’s examine one of the most dynamic players in the 2022 draft class: Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams.

Background

Williams turned 21 over the weekend; as a rookie, he will be a very young player. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, he played for Cardinal Ritter College Prep School. He began his collegiate career at Ohio State before transferring to join Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide in 2021.

Coming in at 6 foot 2 and 179 pounds, Williams has very long arms and legs. Moving into a starting role in 2021, he lined him up at almost every spot you can imagine, totaling 79 receptions for 1,572 yards — a whopping 19.9 yards per catch — along with 15 touchdowns.

Williams tore an ACL during the national championship game just a few months ago, so he has not participated in any pre-draft physical testing.

Film evaluation

The conversation around Williams’ playmaking ability always begins with long speed — and rightfully so. The smooth strides he uses to accelerate and separate from fast corners downfield are rare.

His ability to stress defenses downfield is elite — and would immediately pose problems for NFL defenses. Of course, there are few quarterbacks as well-equipped to take advantage of this than Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes.

In addition, Williams’ athleticism enables him to frequently run away from coverage on full-speed routes along the horizontal plane. Based on recent history, the Chiefs’ offense could very often position a player like Williams on those kinds of routes.

After the catch, Williams counts on his speed and quickness to create additional yardage. With long, fast strides that can obliterate the angles of defensive backs downfield, he is the kind of player who can turn a 15-yard reception into a 75-yard open-field touchdown.

But at the next level, one area of potential concern will be Williams’ strength to work through physical coverage at the line of scrimmage — and at the top of route breaks. Williams’ thin build lacks the desired upper-body playing strength — something that he will need to address as he begins his NFL career. He is likely hoping to land in a scheme like Kansas City’s, where coaches will be able to mitigate the impact of this problem.

Alabama loved getting Williams the ball quickly on short jet-motion routes to leverage his foot speed. Aside from the Chiefs, few NFL offenses are better equipped to maximize that ability.

For a player with strength concerns, one piece of the evaluation that we love to see is the ability to play with a large catch radius.

Williams can use his very long frame to make tough snags. This began to shine through, especially later in the season — when he was asked to make these sorts of plays more often. If he is going to become a No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL, this part of his game will be crucial; he’ll need to be much more than just a deep and screen/sweep threat.

Williams has the physical talent to be a game-breaker. Now it comes down to being drafted into a situation with good coaching and veteran leadership — and for him to have the mindset of a true professional who wants to be great at all costs.

How he fits with the Chiefs

Even before Tyreek Hill was traded, I personally found Williams’ potential with the Chiefs tempting. Whether it was pairing him with Hill for a season — or simply preparing for life without the All-Pro wideout — there was always logic to bring him to the Chiefs. Williams’ ability to win vertically — combined with how the Chiefs can incorporate full-speed routes and double moves into the offense — is highly intriguing.

But now... Hill is gone. The Chiefs need to replace their primary Z-receiver — and in the years to come, Williams could slide right in as Mahomes’ primary target. This isn’t to say that Williams will ever be as good as Hill was in Kansas City — the odds are against that — but what Williams likely can be is a better value over the next five-plus seasons. Retaining Hill would cost over $25 million per year in annual salary, while Williams will be on a rookie deal.

With Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid leading the way, a career arc like DeSean Jackson’s would not be surprising. Given how NFL rules and offenses have evolved to help that type of player succeed, Williams is actually in an even better position than Jackson, since he is a few inches taller and has longer arms.

But Williams’ recovery timeline is significant. At the NFL Combine, he shared a promising update.

It seems entirely possible that Williams will be ready for the start of the regular season. But either way, he would have the potential to top out what would be a better all-around wide receiver room than Kansas City had in 2021 — yes, even without Tyreek Hill.

With deep burners like Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Mecole Hardman already rostered, however, it is entirely possible that Reid and general manager Brett Veach want a more polished, diverse skill set in their top receiver — someone with greater playing strength who can win at every level of the field.

In late April, we will see.