It seems like ages have passed since Miles Austin was a viable WR1 in fantasy. In 2009 and 2010, Austin fit comfortably in that territory, suffered through injury for a season and delivered a WR26 season in 2012. Fantasy producer or not, Austin played a lions share of WR snaps opposite Dez Bryant for the last three seasons. The Cowboys organization finally drafted his replacement in Terrance Williams, and with Austin’s release and eventual signing to the Cleveland Browns, the super valuable Cowboys WR2 slot is Williams’.
Much has already been written about the pass happy, fantasy friendly offense of Scott Linehan. This excellent Pro Football Focus article by RV friend Pat Thorman explains it simply.
The combination of Dallas’ per snap firepower with a nearly guaranteed hike in play volume is an exciting prospect. Scott Linehan’s arrival will undoubtedly account for a sizable portion of the additional snaps if the Cowboys can simply manage to streamline their play-calling process.
Furthermore, the absolute putridity of the Cowboys defense will ensure that the offense must be consistently scoring, as it will often be in catch up mode.
Take a look at what Williams has done with Austin out of the lineup.
A marked difference to say the least. Williams scored more fantasy points, received more targets, scored more touchdows, caught more passes, and more yards. The Out of Split full season projections would have put Williams down for 1088 yards and 10 TDs last season. Adding in the methamphetaminic-pace of Linehan’s passing offense and we are looking at a player who could border on high WR2 numbers in 2014.
Williams was by no means a disappointment as a rookie, catching 44 passes for 736 yards and five touchdowns. He won’t be the teams go-to weapon in the redzone as that role is already held by Bryant who has converted 41 percent of his career red zone targets into TDs. He will, however, have almost unlimited work between the 20s and as he showed last year, that won’t limit his ability to score. He had TDs of 82 and 60 yards last season, in addition to his three red zone touchdowns. It’s dangerous to count on long distance touchdowns for fantasy (Victor Cruz says hello) but Williams has shown this ability all the way back to his college days, and we also have evidence that at the very least, he isn’t bad at converting inside the red zone. Not all of the targets will go to Bryant–just most of them.
Right now Williams is being drafted as WR36 according to MFL ADP behind Jeremy Maclin, Mike Evans, and Julian Edelman and just ahead of Tavon Austin. In my mind, he is a full tier ahead of all of these players. His potential is far superior to Kendall Wright, who is going at WR27 or Sammy Watkins, who is at WR23. If you don’t buy into the Zero RB Approach with a player like Toby Gerhart than Williams is an optimal WR2 target. In fact, Williams will likely end up as a WR3 or even WR4 in most fantasy football leagues and that’s, to be frank, preposterous. Given what we know about Linehan’s offense, Williams’ capabilities as a WR, and what he was able to do with Austin out of the lineup, Williams is a screaming fantasy football bargain.