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Why I Keep Buying Mike Williams, Red Flags and All

A year ago, Mike Williams was one of my must-avoid players, and then he struggled through an injury-plagued rookie season with 11 catches for 95 yards. That’s obviously not a great sign, but it may be worse than you think. Neil Dutton has shown that receivers with extremely low levels of rookie production tend to have short NFL careers.

With the red flags continuing to pile up, it’s important to be skeptical of the opportunity provided by Hunter Henry’s injury. Fortunately for buyers, his ADP continues to languish deep in the triple digits, creating less than risk than we might expect to buy the second season of the No. 7 overall pick from last year’s draft.

The Resume

Williams entered the draft as a redshirt junior, but neither he nor John Ross distinguished himself from the rest of the cohort. The lack of production comes into stark contrast when putting him next to the two previous Clemson stars.

Hopkins Watkins Williams

  • Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins recorded 30 percent and 29 percent career yardage share respectively. Those numbers are in line with what we see historically from elite prospects.
  • Watkins’ freshman season msYD was equal to Williams’ best season, and that was despite overlapping with both Hopkins and Martavis Bryant.
  • Even though they overlapped with each other in two out of three seasons – not to mention Bryant – Hopkins and Watkins never posted a yardage season below a 22 percent share. Williams’ career numbers stand at 19 percent.

Of course, Williams is dragged down by a poor freshman season, so more context may be in order. We can also compare him to the other top tier prospects from a season ago.


We see the impressive overall production from Corey Davis and Cooper Kupp, and the precocious early numbers from JuJu Smith-Schuster. Looking at the dashed line, you can see the way production increases with age, and this offers a reminder that breakout age matters quite a bit.

An ADP Opportunity

So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Williams is inexpensive after a lost rookie season, but he has gained a little momentum after the Henry injury.

Williams Lowest ADP

Williams’ ADP has held steady around 172 in early MFL10s, but even his fanatics didn’t need to take him before Round 10. Then on May 24th, the day after the Henry injury, he was selected 73rd overall. We can see the trend even more clearly by looking at drafts where he lasts the longest.

Williams highestTry the updated MFL10 ADP app!

Between the beginning of May and the injury, Williams frequently lasted into the 200s. On May 14th, I selected him No. 164 overall in the MFL10 of Death. On May 22nd, he fell to 204 in a league. He hasn’t made it into the 170s since.

The Second-Year Breakout

Even at slightly steeper prices, I’m interested in Williams due to the intersection of draft pedigree, opportunity, and breakout history. Second-year WRs break out to the 200-point level much more often than any other experience cohort, and they’re also one of the only experience groups to see an average increase in fantasy points. If you want to maximize your chances to own breakout players, this is the group you should target.

Also check out Blair Andrews and the Wrong Read on how to maximize RB breakouts.

With Tyrell Williams also disappointing last season, there was plenty of target volume available before the Henry injury, but the Chargers will address his absence by running more three-receiver sets. A puff piece all-star even before these latest developments, we know the coaching staff will force the ball Williams’ way if he provides even the smallest incentive to do so.

Buying Williams provides cheap exposure to target volume and a potential breakout, and it also helps you avoid Rookie Derangement Syndrome as you construct your roster. Be aware of the downside – he’s one of the weakest top-10 picks in recent memory – but add him where you can this offseason.

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