Mike Williams was drafted seventh overall by the Los Angeles Chargers. He enters a somewhat crowded depth chart, but given the draft capital spent and his collegiate resume, we could quickly see Williams fighting for significant playing time as a rookie.
From a fantasy perspective, just six of the 22 wide receivers drafted in the first round dating back to 2012 have netted a top-36 PPR season as a rookie. Given the Chargers heavy pass play percentage last year (12th-highest), Williams has a chance to join that special cohort.
We’ll get to more of that in a minute. But first, we take a comprehensive look at the new Los Angeles Charger WR, Mike Williams.
Mike Williams, Clemson, 6-4, 218
Raw and Market Share College Production
Williams’ 2014 campaign as a sophomore (a 57-1,030-6 season at Clemson) cemented himself in the national spotlight. A neck injury limited him to just one game in 2015, but he bounced back to finish his collegiate career with 98 receptions for 1,361 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.
“Williams performed at his best when in the spotlight in some of the biggest games of the season, including the following stellar performances:
9/174/0 against No. 17 Auburn
5/70/1 against No. 15 Louisville
7/70/0 against No. 10 Florida State
15/202/1 against No. 22 Pittsburgh
Ranks per December 4th, 2016 Associated Press Poll.”
Williams did some of his best work against his toughest competition. That’s particularly noteworthy in the AFC West, a division that boasts some tough cornerback competition in Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., and Marcus Peters — three cornerbacks that ranked in ProFootballFocus‘ top-10. Williams will have his hands full with these secondaries, but it’s reassuring to know he has a knack for performing his best against difficult competition.
He was able to perform so well against cornerbacks of this caliber due to his size, athleticism, and heavy volume.
Taking his draft spot into account, the list of comps for Williams aren’t particularly flattering. In fact, it’s mostly a list of “what ifs.” Tavon Austin, Laquon Treadwell, Cody Latimer, and Titus Young all saw sizeable shares of their respective offenses in college yet were unable to find sustained success in the league. Williams leads his list of comps in draft capital, but at first glance, his closest comps cause pause for concern.
He also posted a 0.499 Phenom Index score, a disappointing output for a receiver ranked so highly. His Phenom Index ranked 47th among the 120 wide receivers in the 2017 class. For some context, the lowest PI score in the cohort of top-12 wide receivers was 0.27, by Michael Thomas last year.
Jon Moore offered some speculation as to why Williams fared so poorly, and there may be a silver lining:
“In a vacuum [Williams’] 2016 score looks underwhelming for someone who could be the first receiver taken. However, if you go back to his 2014 campaign at age 20… you’ll see a 20 year old who accounted for 33 percent of Clemson’s receiving yards, which would translate to one of the best Phenom scores in this class. Shawn Siegele has written before about how breakout season might be more important than final season, which may be the case with Williams.”
Williams’ unique past three years make him stand out quite a bit from the typical prospects we evaluate. Moore’s optimism regarding Williams’ 20-year old breakout season has me inclined to believe his low PI score in his final season isn’t a death knell for his future success.
In fact, Williams came in second among all wideouts and second overall in our final RotoViz Scouting Index.
Williams has prototypical X-receiver size and can win in a variety of ways. His moves off the line of scrimmage are the first thing that pops out when watching him and his ability to complete contested catches has been deemed a “trump card” by Reception Perception’s Matt Harmon.
Being taken as the second receiver off the board at seventh overall, it’s reasonable to expect Williams to take on an immediate role. Keenan Allen has played in nine of his last 32 games and Tyrell Williams was a former undrafted wideout. An insurance policy — or flat-out upgrade — Mike Williams shouldn’t have a difficult time climbing to second on the depth chart by the end of training camp.
He should immediately carve out a role in the red zone, where he can showcase his 6-foot-4-inch size and box out defenders. The Chargers ranked fourth in red zone trips per game last year (3.9), but only 21st in red zone touchdown scoring (51.61 percent). Williams could be a big mismatch Los Angeles utilizes to help improve this area.
Williams’ redraft ADP according to the Best Ball App has him currently being drafted as the WR50 in the 10th round. Given his ideal fit in this pass-heavy offense, it’s reasonable to expect that to climb quite a bit over the upcoming months.
Dynasty owners have long been waiting for Williams to enter the NFL and his current Dynasty ADP is WR25, a lofty ranking for a player that has yet to catch a pass in the NFL. Of course, that’s nothing new for dynasty drafters. Laquon Treadwell was the WR20 at this time last year, and Kevin White was the WR20 prior to the draft in 2015. Unfortunately, we’re still finding that the same wide receivers continue to finish top-24 each year and first round dynasty rookie picks have just a 47.6 percent hit rate. Take that as you will, it’s just noteworthy that his dynasty value is already that high before he even gets fitted for an LA jersey.
Last year, the Chargers ran three WR sets just 11.4 percent of the time. It was the lowest rate in the league.
Here is the team by team breakouts of three plus wide receivers on the field. Who stands out the most to you? pic.twitter.com/w6mHicQwqW— Anthony Staggs (@staggsNFL) April 19, 2017
Essentially Mike Williams will need to beat out Tyrell Williams if he hopes to see significant playing time. The Chargers’ wide receivers saw just 52.2 percent of the team’s targets, with Antonio Gates (92) and Hunter Henry (54) shouldering a large part of the offense.
Overall, adding Mike Williams lowers the dynasty ceiling of Tyrell Williams the most and likely lowers the value of Allen and his potential for touchdowns. Mike Williams has cemented himself as a top-six rookie dynasty pick with this player-team pairing and should provide usable fantasy weeks in his first season given the Chargers’ play calling tendencies.
Williams is a good prospect that is now tied with high draft capital. He should make an immediate impact as a rookie in Los Angeles’ offense with a chance to flourish and develop into a solid fantasy contributor as early as year one.
Find all our 2017 NFL draft reaction content here.
- The Phenom Index – Jon Moore combines age and market share of receiving yards into a single number. Historical success rates are provided, and scores for the 2017 draft class can be compared to those from previous years.
- Jim Kloet provides context, graphing WR college market shares by age.
- Josh Hermsmeyer calculated dominator ratings for all of this year’s prospects. Dominator rating is the average of a player’s market share of receiving yards and market share of receiving touchdowns. In terms of predicting NFL success, any number over 0.50 projects as an NFL superstar or Top 10 overall pick value. Scores from 0.45-0.50 are excellent (roughly Top 15 pick value), 0.40-0.45 very good (Top 20 pick), 0.35-0.40 (late first, early second), 0.30-0.35 (second round to third round), below 0.30 (middle round pick).
See for yourself…