Jamaal Williams rushed for 505 yards and two touchdowns on 119 carries (4.2 Y/A) in 14 games last season. He also caught 31-of-35 targets for 236 yards and one touchdown, finishing as RB42 in half-PPR points per game. Williams is slated to play a role as offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn’s “A-Back,” which means that he’s their primary runner between the tackles. We could see the Lions try to establish the run given their limitations on the perimeter, but it’s tough to envision a scenario where they can maintain this strategy since their defense will likely thrust them into shootouts. In order for Williams to reach his upside, he would need an injury to Swift. This would allow the veteran back to take over pass-catching duties and put him on the RB2 radar.
D’Andre Swift is 5-foot-8, 212-pounds with excellent receiving skills, so he has the physique and skillset to take over as a true three-down running back. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to see Swift start off hot, causing the Lions to give him even more touches. This would render Williams as merely a backup who you draft as a lottery ticket in the event that the starter gets injured. Even if Swift doesn’t get more touches than projected, there’s a chance that he dominates red-zone carries. Last season, Swift had 19 red-zone attempts in 13 games. Part of Williams’ appeal is the chance that he’ll get the red-zone carries, so this would definitely remove some of his luster as an RB4 with upside.
Williams is currently being drafted as RB44 (142.4 ADP) in Underdog fantasy leagues. He’s one of the few running backs who have standalone value as the clear-cut RB2 on their team. Williams would become a volume-based RB2 if Swift were forced to miss time with injury. While we can expect a decline in efficiency in moving from an elite Packers offense to the mediocre Lions, Williams should still play a role. He’s worth targeting as your RB4 or RB5 because he’ll provide depth but also have enough of a role to be started if you’re in a bind due to injuries.