Should You Start Jamaal Williams vs. the Bills? Fantasy Outlook for Lions Running Back

Should fantasy managers expect Jamaal Williams to continue producing in Week 12 as they face the Bills in the first Thanksgiving game this year?

Jamaal Williams’ fantasy football value has been at an all-time high in his career so far through the 2022 NFL season. With Williams leading the NFL in both rushing and total touchdowns with 12 this season, he is averaging over five fantasy points per game more than at any other time in his career.

However, with D’Andre Swift getting back to full health, should we be concerned about Williams’ outlook on the short week heading into the Detroit Lions Thanksgiving game against the Buffalo Bills?

Jamaal Williams Fantasy Outlook for Week 12

In the past four weeks, we have seen Williams find the end zone six times, including three times last week. However, outside of the touchdowns, there have been some numbers that raise eyebrows. In those three weeks, Williams has been consistently averaging below four yards per rushing attempt.

Across the last three games, Williams has 204 rushing yards (68 yards per game), on 57 rushing attempts, at an average of 3.58 rushing yards per attempt. He has relied on those touchdowns and the volume in order to have consistent fantasy value. That is why the continuing return of Swift does raise some concerns as to whether Williams could be looking at an upcoming drop-off.

Every week that passes, Swift is getting further away from his ankle and shoulder injuries and should be getting more of his explosiveness back. The last two weeks have seen Swift play on 31% of the offensive snaps, but as of yet, the opportunities have not risen considerably. In Weeks 8-11, Swift has averaged 4.5 rushing attempts and 3.75 targets per game.

MORE: Week 12 Fantasy RB Start/Sit Recommendations

However, what we have seen is Swift seeing more usage in and around the goal line in the past two weeks. Prior to Week 10, Williams was the only back for the Lions to have carried the ball inside the five-yard line.

That is not the case anymore, with Swift having three such carries in that stretch. Williams has still led the carries five to three, but there is a far greater balance. It is also worth noting that both of Swift’s goal-line touches in Week 11 came in the fourth quarter. At that point, Williams had three touchdowns, and the Lions led 30-12.

It definitely should not go under the radar that Williams has only topped 10 fantasy points in one game in which he did not score a touchdown. That came in Week 9, but even then, Williams’ fantasy output was boosted by his scoring on a two-point conversion against the Green Bay Packers.

Williams’ lack of targets is also a concern as it relates to his output if he does not find the end zone. He has not been targeted in the last three games and only averages 1.2 targets per game so far this season. With his 12 touchdowns, the lack of targets has yet to prove a major issue, but it does highlight how touchdown-dependent he has been this year.

In Underdog Fantasy Best Ball formats, Williams is and has been a dream option. With five games of multiple touchdowns, he has often hit big while mitigating the risk for fantasy managers, who will hopefully have other RBs pick up the slack in games where Williams does not find the end zone.

In season-long fantasy leagues, he has so far proven to be a player to “set and forget” in 2022. With seven of his 10 games producing at least 10 fantasy points and four games over 20 fantasy points, he has produced more often than he has disappointed. Williams is currently the RB10 in half-PPR scoring this year.

However, in all but one game, he has been playing without Swift or with a limited version of Swift. If that changes in the coming weeks, we could see Williams becoming a far riskier option in season-long formats.

Should Fantasy Managers Start Williams in Week 12?

On the surface, there appears to be some cause for concern with this matchup against the Bills’ defense. They rank among the top 10 in terms of rushing yards per attempt (4.3), rushing touchdowns (10), and fantasy points allowed to RBs this season in half-PPR scoring (18.25).

However, it is also worth noting the recent struggles the Bills’ defense has had against the RB position. Since their bye week, Buffalo has allowed more than 24 fantasy points to opposing backs in three of the four games. During that stretch, they have allowed an average of 23.18 fantasy points, which makes them a marginally above-average matchup.

Then again, in Week 11, they held Nick Chubb to just 19 rushing yards on 14 attempts. Kareem Hunt had more success on the ground, with 32 rushing yards on five attempts. The two backs also combined for 70 receiving yards on five receptions from five targets. Those stats would suggest this matchup marginally favors Swift, but this is also somewhat of an outlier performance of the past four weeks.

MORE: Week 12 PPR Fantasy Football Rankings

Williams’ performances this year, combined with the Bills having some struggles against RBs in recent weeks, make it close to impossible to consider benching Williams this year. He is the RB22 in Tommy Garrett’s Week 12 RB fantasy rankings, which puts him as a backend RB2 option in 12-team leagues.

Benching Williams would be a brave call because, as we have seen, he is virtually an instant starting RB option whenever he finds the end zone. However, there is just a slight concern at the back of my mind that fantasy managers could be left with a sour taste in their mouths as they watch Swift make a statement in the national spotlight while Williams has one of his lower outputs.


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