The quickest way to fall behind in a fantasy football league is to become complacent and rely on the team you drafted, neglecting the all-important waiver wire. As managers make numerous waiver claims for Week 2, hoping to strengthen their roster, should Detroit Lions RB Jamaal Williams be a priority addition off the waiver wire vs. Washington?
Jamaal Williams joins the waiver wire discussion after an active Week 1
Week 1 was filled with performances we didn’t see coming. One of those being Detroit’s three-point loss in a 38-35 shootout with Philadelphia. Sure, the Lions were expected to be improved, but not to this extent. However, don’t count on this being a norm as the Lions — like the Eagles — spent a while putting together this game plan. They won’t have that same luxury now.
One of the many players who had a positive performance and slid in drafts is Williams. And based on his usage, he’ll be a popular waiver wire pick for fantasy football in Week 2.
Splitting time with D’Andre Swift — who went off in Week 1 — both running backs saw double-digit carries, with Williams recording 11 to Swift’s 15. The difference, though, is in the efficiency, which isn’t even remotely close. Whereas Swift totaled 144 yards on the ground, Williams had only 28. With that said, he scored two touchdowns, both coming on one-yard carries.
Short area and goal-line carries are where Williams had the edge. He snuck out a two-to-one advantage on short yardage and led four to one on goal-line carries, converting two of them. However, Swift did have the lead in all others by a convincing margin. He led Williams 47 to 23 in total snaps, 23 to 18 on first and second-down snaps, shut him out 12 to zero on third down, and ran 26 routes to Williams’ 11.
Oddly enough, I don’t think this is a bad thing. If anything, this is what we expected to happen. Swift is the primary rusher and a not-so-darkhorse top-three RB candidate thanks to his receiving skills with targets roughly 2.5x more valuable than a carry.
In contrast, Williams sees his usage as more of a pure rusher, getting downhill when the Lions need a conversion. It’s a pattern that is repeatable and keeps Williams in fantasy consideration.
Should Williams be a priority waiver wire claim in Week 2 for fantasy?
While I don’t feel he should be the top claim this week at RB, that going to Jeff Wilson Jr. of the 49ers, Williams (35.3% rostered) should be inside the top five at his position. Depending on the size of your league and rosters, Williams, along with Jaylen Warren (1.4%), Khalil Herbert (24.7%), and Rex Burkhead (17.2%), are all options with varying levels of upside and value longevity.
I would also double-check to see if Brian Robinson is floating around. Rostered in 38% of leagues, he could return before the midway point, and if you have IR spots at your disposal, he’s the perfect stash.
The Lions like Williams a lot, and he has remained undervalued for fantasy, even going back to last season. In Weeks 12, 13, and 16 — when Swift was out due to an AC joint sprain — Williams averaged 17 carries and 71 yards a game despite also dealing with a hip and thigh issue, plus having had COVID in the back half of the season.
For Williams to have Flex value at a minimum, the Lions need to have games like this, where they are competitive late into the game and don’t have to abandon the running game, something Dan Campbell wants to be a calling card for this offense.
Taking on Washington this week, Detroit should be able to stay in this one as well. In fact, early lines have the Lions a 1.5-point favorite at home in an above-average scoring contest (O/U 49.5). Washington did hold Christian McCaffrey to 33 yards in Week 1 on 10 carries, but as a team, Carolina only rushed 14 times. And with it being McCaffrey’s first action, it was difficult to get him and the offense into a rhythm.
Williams comes into the week as the RB41 and should see double-digit touches in Week 2. His value will always be touchdown-dependent due to the lack of targets and rushing market share. But Williams is a player who should be picked up off the waiver wire even if you’re not starting him, as his value could increase down the line.
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