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Jahan Dotson a Round 1 favorite in the 2022 NFL Draft following Jameson Williams’ injury?

If Jameson Williams falls out of Round 1 in the 2022 NFL Draft due to his injury, is Jahan Dotson next in line to take his place?

On the heels of an electric breakout 2021 season, Alabama WR Jameson Williams has been a virtual lock in first-round mock drafts. Now, however, after suffering an ACL injury in the 2021-2022 National Championship, he could slide down the board. Were he to fall out of Round 1, could another WR like Penn State’s Jahan Dotson take his place on the first night of the NFL Draft?

Round 1 wide receiver outlook in the 2022 NFL Draft

We’ve entered a true golden age for wide receiver talent coming out of the NFL Draft. After just two receivers were taken in the first round of the 2018 and 2019 NFL Drafts, at least five have gone in the first round of the past two showcases.

Most recently, five wide receivers went in Round 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft. Ja’Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle dazzled in front of awestruck onlookers this past season, but others like DeVonta Smith and Rashod Bateman also flashed when given the opportunity.

Finding playmakers at the position is becoming a primary success factor for many NFL franchises. And with so much talent coming onto the scene year in and year out, plenty of players command early interest. The 2022 NFL Draft is just as strong as past classes, with superb depth at the top of the group. Thus, it’s reasonable to expect that at least four more WRs will go in Round 1 this coming April.

The favorites for Round 1 capital appear to be Garrett Wilson (PFN’s consensus  No. 1 wideout), Drake London, Chris Olave, and Treylon Burks. Jameson Williams was comfortably a part of this group heading into the title match — taking the fifth spot. But an injury suffered in the season’s final game has clouded his outlook.

Jameson Williams suffers apparent ACL injury vs. Georgia

In a 33-18 national championship loss to the Georgia Bulldogs, Williams suffered what’s believed to be an ACL injury. The Alabama WR was attempting to gather himself after a catch when his knee caught and buckled. He left in the first half after recording 4 receptions for 65 yards and did not return.

This article will be updated when an MRI confirms the extent of the injury, but the fear is that it’s a torn ACL and potentially a torn MCL as well. If those fears are confirmed, Williams will be looking at a 6-9 month recovery timeline.

If Williams declares for the 2022 NFL Draft, he won’t be able to test at the NFL Combine, and he may not be ready for the start of the regular season. Furthermore, concerns surrounding his post-injury durability and longevity could cause some hesitation among teams. Combine medicals will be big, but there’s enough immediate uncertainty to potentially bump Williams out of Round 1.

Obviously, the hope is that Williams’ injury isn’t as serious as believed. He’s a rare talent and an all-out competitor on the field, and an even better young man off it. He’s earned everything he’s achieved this season. But if Williams is knocked out of the Round 1 WR group, who takes his place?

Jahan Dotson could join first-round WRs in the NFL Draft

There are a few candidates to take Williams’ place if he falls out of the first, but one of the top names in the remaining NFL Draft pool is Penn State WR Jahan Dotson.

Standing around 5’11”, 184 pounds, Dotson has been a constant playmaker for the Nittany Lions over the past two seasons. In nine games in 2020, he caught 52 passes for 884 yards and 8 touchdowns. In 2021, he took his game up another level, hauling in 91 passes for 1,182 yards and 12 scores.

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Despite having somewhat inconsistent quarterback play from Sean Clifford, Dotson separated himself, not just as one of the best wideouts in the Big Ten, but one of the best in the country. He was named a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors.

In late December, Dotson officially declared for the 2022 NFL Draft, embarking on the next leg of his football journey.

Does Dotson have the skills to go in the first round of the NFL Draft?

The production checks out with Dotson, but does he have the physical tools to go in Round 1? His frame is a bit lighter than average, but watching the film, Dotson pops. He’s a dynamic playmaker and fits the definition of a three-level threat well. The Penn State WR can separate, elevate and contort for passes, and make defenders miss after the catch.

My early pro comparison for Dotson is Brandin Cooks, who was the 20th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Since entering the league, Cooks has enjoyed a steadily productive career. He’s made stops in New Orleans, New England, Los Angeles, and most recently Houston. Over the first eight seasons of his career, he amassed 7,917 receiving yards and 48 total touchdowns.

Dotson might not have the sheer top-end speed that Cooks has, but he is not slow by any means. And a lot of the finer details match up for these two receivers. Here’s a summation of Dotson’s skill set from his 2022 NFL Draft scouting report.

“When he’s at his best, Dotson is a pure playmaker. As a catcher, he has the vertical athleticism, body control, hands, and laser focus to make eye-popping plays down the field. And as a ball carrier, the Penn State WR is explosive, agile, and he can sink his hips effortlessly when evading defenders.”

Needless to say, Dotson is a worthy candidate for the first-round discussion. If Williams moves out, Dotson comes to mind quickly.

Can other receivers enter the first-round discussion?

Although Dotson is a strong candidate for the fifth WR spot in Round 1, he’s not the only name in the conversation. As mentioned earlier, while this class doesn’t necessarily have a generational prospect like Chase, it is very strong at the top. There are over a dozen receivers in the Top 100 range. And all it takes is one team to fall in love, and players can go higher than expected.

After Dotson, David Bell is the next-best first-round option. The Purdue receiver has been dominant for two seasons at the collegiate level. He might not be quite the high-level athlete that Dotson is. But he can run routes, make tough catches, and extend plays after the catch. He has a very high floor, and his low bust potential could make him appealing for teams in need of reliable playmakers.

Dotson and Bell are the favorites after the initial five. But even then, there are other receivers in the fold. Jalen Tolbert and Romeo Doubs are both vertical threats with the size and body control to be catalysts downfield. John Metchie III has an enticing, well-rounded skill set, and he could be far enough along in his ACL recovery timeline to be available next season. Even beyond them, players like Wan’Dale Robinson, Alec Pierce, and Erik Ezukanma could elevate their stock with testing.

Whatever the case, Williams’ injury could open a window for WRs to move up the board. Dotson is the one primed to take advantage. Yet, he’s far from the only one in the running.

Ian Cummings is a Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here and his voice and face on Pro Football Network Daily. Follow him on Twitter @ian_cummings_9.

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