Detroit Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams (knee) is not expected to be on the field when training camp opens for rookies Saturday, July 23. The first-round pick in April’s NFL draft ranks among the top players at the position, so it’s no surprise the coaching staff isn’t keen on rushing their franchise weapon back too soon from a January ACL tear.
Head coach Dan Campbell was asked on June 9 about Williams’ expected availability for camp, responding, “I don’t see him being ready for training camp. I don’t see that. I’m very hopeful, but I don’t see it. We’re going to do this thing the right way and when he’s ready, he’ll be ready. But, no, I don’t feel like you’re going to see him out there Day 1,” Campbell said.
Typically speaking, a player is physically recovered from knee reconstruction between six and nine months, which would put Week 1 of the regular season in jeopardy on the long end of things. Modern science has assisted players in returning sooner than in the past, where needing nine months to a year generally served as the target range.
The tricky part no one can forecast is just how long it takes an individual player to trust the repaired knee and feel comfortable making all of the necessary football moves without giving it a second thought. In a game of inches, any fraction of time invested in hesitation can make all the difference.
When can fantasy footballers expect to see Williams back on the field? On the long end of things, Week 7 at Dallas would be the conservative approach if the Lions opt to put him on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list. However, the recent revamping of the Reserve/Injured list rules means three weeks on the sidelines is the likelier outcome given the time frame we’ve established for Williams.
In that even, the Alabama standout will miss home games against Philadelphia and Washington as well as a trip to Minnesota before an Oct. 2 return to Motown to face Seattle. Based on projections, Philly is a poor matchup, Washington leans favorable, and Minnesota is a modest one with a slight lean toward the rookie’s favor.
Williams will suffer from missing most if not all of the offseason. The value of building chemistry with quarterback Jared Goff cannot be overstated, and there’s only so much a rookie can glean from mental reps within the playbook.
Fantasy football outlook
Factoring in Campbell’s lack of assurance about Williams’ return for camp and no immediate need to rush him back, fantasy footballers should not count on the first-round rookie making a splash before midseason. The likes of Amon-Ra St. Brown, DJ Chark Jr., Josh Reynolds, Quintez Cephus and Kalif Raymond will be available to hold down the fort. That’s not to say Williams won’t be on the field prior to the midway point, but it’s going to potentially take that long before he’s remotely comfortable physically and mentally with the speed of the pro game.
For now, barring a miraculous change in his prognosis, Williams is a upper-end bench addition in most formats. He has WR3/flex appeal as the season winds to a close, perhaps just in time for a late push toward the fantasy playoffs.