Mike Williams Fantasy Value
Written By Paul Maland
The Los Angeles Chargers invested in a dynamic offensive weapon early as they selected wide receiver Mike Williams with the 7th overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. Williams becomes the highest player drafted at his position in team history. In fact, the Chargers haven’t used a first-round pick on the wide receiver position since they selected Craig Davis 30th overall in the 2007 draft.
As it seems, the move to Los Angeles comes with not only a new draft philosophy but a refreshing approach to getting their first round pick under contract a lot faster. The Chargers have already locked up Mike Willams to a four-year contract, the deal is worth $19.75 million fully guaranteed. In previous years, the Chargers were notorious for playing hardball with their first round picks which made for a frustrating and pointless power struggle that only resulted in limiting their first round talents rookie potential. However, that won’t be the case for Mike Willams, which brings a new sense of optimism to not only the fanbase but fantasy football owners of all kind.
So, what does the path to NFL success look like for the former Clemson star? In order to formulate a true opinion, there are many things we need to consider.
Often times an NFL prospect can see their value increase or decrease based upon the team that selects them. Fortunately for Mike Williams, he was drafted by a team that throws the rock as well as any in the league. Despite their recent success running the ball with Melvin Gordon, the Chargers are naturally a pass-first team. Over the past three seasons, they have finished 21st, 28th, and 22nd in run play percentage.
The quarterback situation in Los Angeles is among the most solidified in the NFL. Philip Rivers, despite entering 2017 at age 35, has not missed a start since 2007. In addition, he consistently finishes amongst the league leaders in passing yardage. In fact, over the past four seasons, he has not finished outside of the top-8 in yardage and has ranked as high as 2nd. One of the things that Rivers has said about Williams is that “His range is unreal”. According to ESPN’s Sports Science, he has a wingspan of 6’9” and a max touch of 11’3.5” high.
Competition for Targets:
Williams enters one of the most talented groups of pass-catchers in the NFL. He will join Pro Bowl WR Keenan Allen and undrafted star Tyrell Williams as the starting trio in Los Angeles. Allen will begin moving around in formation and the Williams pair will be lined up outside with Travis Benjamin rotating in. But the competition for targets doesn’t end there. The Bolts also have future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates and 2016 second-round draft pick Hunter Henry at tight end. But how worried should you be about the workload for Mike Williams? Honestly, not very. Don’t get yourself all worked up and think it’s impossible to support four guys with 90+ targets in the same offense. Matter of fact, it happened in 2014 for the Chargers with Keenan Allen, Eddie Royal, Malcom Floyd, and Antonio Gates. Let’s also keep in mind that Keenan Allen is averaging just nine games per season and has played nine total games in the last two years. While he is a target hog when he is on the field, his health has never permitted a 16-game season.
History vs. Elite Competition:
One of the biggest knocks on many receivers who enter the NFL is in regards to the competition they played in college. It is much easier to look like a big fish when you are swimming in a little pond. However, this is not the case for Williams as he continued to shine versus elite competition during his time at Clemson. Matter of fact, his final two games came on the biggest of stages including a National Championship game. During his final two performances at Clemson, he put up stat lines of 6-96-0 against Ohio State and 8-94-1 against Alabama. Those two teams alone had four defensive backs join Williams as first-round selections in the draft.
How Will They Use Him?
GM Tom Telesco made it clear that the team selected Williams to win in two areas specifically. Those areas are third-down and in the red zone. When I hear this, I think about a former Charger WR who thrived in the offense with Philip Rivers. That player is Vincent Jackson. At 6’4”, Williams is one inch shorter than Jackson was. Williams was timed just a tad slower in the 40-yard dash at 4.50s versus Jackson at 4.46s. Much like Jackson, Williams thrives on go-routes. Matter of fact, 29% of his targets came on go-routes in 2016. And according to Pro Football Focus, he had the fourth highest catch rate in the FBS on deep targets of 20+ air yards at 53.8%. His size-speed ratio will be a nightmare for defenders looking to stop him in the red zone, as he is known for making contested catches.
Williams is currently being valued as a borderline WR3 in redraft leagues. According to FantasyPros, his ADP of WR41 suggests that while there is some optimism about the offense he is in, the number of targets he will see is far from a lock. In my latest rankings, I have him pegged as my WR32 which puts him square on the WR3 radar. In dynasty formats, he is definitely worthy of a first-round selection and should be targeted early. For 2017, it is reasonable to think that a stat line of 60-900-7 wouldn’t be far-fetched as a debut campaign.
Mike Williams Pre-NFL Draft Profile
Written By Phil Clark
This is not to suggest that Williams will enter the draft without possessing any discernible weaknesses. Because as with many highly regarded prospects who sit at the threshold of launching their NFL careers, he exhibits appealing strengths that are integrated with potentially troublesome shortcomings. Those will be discussed shortly. However, any lingering concerns about the 6′ 4″ Williams should be superseded by the knowledge that he will possess a significant height advantage over many opposing defenders. The large catch radius that he can provide creates an excellent potential for Williams to secure jump balls with regularity. Which will not only induce a team to select him in the initial round of the draft but should create an inevitable path for Williams to receive abundant opportunities to employ his prodigious frame, toward exploiting that incontestable size differential. It is not difficult to envision his new signal caller being comfortable with relying upon his ball tracking ability, by launching a desirable number of passes in his direction.
His output this season should surpass the modest production that he accrued at the onset of his collegiate career. As he started just three games during his freshman year at Clemson while playing behind Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant, and Adam Humphries. After he amassed 20 receptions for 216 yards and three touchdowns during that 2013 season, he then led the Tigers in receiving yards as a sophomore in 2014 (1,030). Williams was sidelined for nearly all of 2015 after fracturing his neck in the team’s opener. However, he achieved the best output of his career in 2016, when he caught 98 of his 142 targets for 1,361 yards. He also averaged 6.5 receptions per game, 91 yards per game, and scored 11 times. Ultimately, he accumulated 177 receptions during his four-year tenure at Clemson, while compiling 2,727 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Among the areas of concern regarding Williams, is the fact that he cannot be classified as a genuine burner. Although he possesses enough speed to defuse any massive alarm about that aspect of his capabilities. Despite his production in 2016, some within the fantasy community have also expressed unease that Williams did not collect a larger share of Clemson’s receptions (under 24%), or forge a higher yards after catch average. Plus, there has been a degree of angst about the fact that he will turn 23 in October, and that his results during the NFL combine were hardly spectacular. Among the numbers that he posted were 15 reps in the Bench Press, a 32.5“ vertical jump, a 121” broad jump and a 32.5 vertical jump at the combine. He opted not to participate in the 40-yard dash but did generate an unofficial 4.49 when he ran during Clemson’s Pro Day.
Mike Williams College Stats
It is wise not to become overly preoccupied with any of the negative elements contained within critiques of Mike Williams, to the point that his much larger number of positive qualities become overlooked. There are tangible reasons why Williams will be chosen sooner, rather than later, during Round 1 of the upcoming draft. As mentioned previously, the team that seizes him will instantly have a wideout that possesses a height advantage over many opponents. Which can be blended with his long arms (33 3/8″) and hand size (9 3/8”), to elevate his potential to seize the vast majority of 50/50 balls even further. He also has no apprehension about operating in the middle of the field, which will combine with his towering presence to create frequent usage as a preferred option, while creating a nightmarish situation for opposing defensive backs. Williams is also a natural pass catcher, who has exhibited enough body control to sustain confidence that he will produce consistently at the NFL level. Which is demonstrated with the compilations of his receptions that currently occupy highlight reels. One can easily expect his new team to exploit these advantages that Williams can deliver both downfield, and in the red zone. Making him a candidate to produce favorable results in 2017, even as he endures the learning curve that can be inherent with rookie wide receivers. Especially, if he is selected by a franchise that will immediately place him in a position to succeed.
Wherever he ultimately lands, Williams should garner a reasonable workload, while working every level of the field. He is fully capable of capitalizing on those opportunities, delivering respectable numbers during his rookie season, and continuing to amass production of sufficient quality to sustain viability as a fantasy option for owners.