Mike Williams: Is the 5th Year a Charm?

Mike Williams is entering the 5th season of his career with the Los Angeles Chargers. He was the 6th pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, and many believe he has been a bust because he was such a high draft selection. To this point, he has flirted with the “injury-prone” label but has both a 1,000-yard season and a 10-touchdown season. He is also now playing with a 2nd year QB who set the record for most touchdown passes by a rookie. Is this the year that he puts it all together and finally has a breakout season? Yes.

The Beginning

Mike Williams’s breakout season in college was his sophomore year in 2014. In 13 games, Williams had 57 receptions, 1,030 yards, and 6 TDs. He was expected to enter the NFL Draft after his junior year, but in the first game of that season, he fractured a vertebra in his neck and was out for the year. Williams came back for his senior year healthy and dominated in 15 games. He finished with 98 receptions, 1,361 yards, and 11 TDs! Clemson won the National Championship too. At 6’4” and 218 lbs with a 76th percentile speed score, according to PlayerProfiler.com, he was a physically dominant WR coming off a huge season, and that is why he was selected 6th overall in the NFL Draft.

The First 4 Seasons

Mike Williams did not play much his rookie season (2017) because he missed 6 games (5 missed to start the season) and only averaged a 34.6% snap share in the 10 games he played. He managed just 11 receptions on 23 targets for 95 yards for the entire season. In his second season, Williams was the clear WR3, behind Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams. However, he did not miss any games and averaged a 61.6% snap share for the season. Williams only saw 66 targets and converted that into 43 receptions for 664 yards and 10 TDs. He added a rushing TD that season, too, for 11 total TDs!

In 2019, Mike Williams moved up to WR2 for the Chargers, and people were expecting him to be a third-year breakout after his 11 TDs and 15.4 yards per reception in 2018. Instead, he finished only 49 receptions on 90 targets but converted that into 1,001 yards/ Unfortunately, he only scored two TDs. He went from 4.3 receptions per TD to 24.5, which is a massive rate change.

Heading into 2020, there was mild optimism since Williams had put together 10+ TDs and 1,000 yards in his previous two seasons. This could be the year that it all comes together, and he becomes a legit fantasy WR2. Instead, he missed another game and had a pedestrian season, finishing as the WR45 in .5 PPR. He only averaged 8.6 ppg even though his rookie QB, Justin Herbert, set the record for most TD passes thrown in a rookie season.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Good

  • 11 total TDs in 2018 (2nd season)
  • 20.4 yards/rec in 2019 (3rd season)
  • 1,001 yards in 2019 (3rd season)
  • Average Target Distance – 5th in 2020 (4th season), 1st in 2019 (3rd season), and 7th in 2018 (2nd season)
  • In 2020, 7th in air yards per reception with 26.1 yards (4th season)
  • In 2020, 10th in targets in the endzone with 11 (4th season)
  • Averaged 17.2 yards/rec over the last three seasons
  • Amazing highlight-reel catches

Bad

  • In 2020, sprained AC joint in training camp (no missed games), hamstring strain in Week 3 (missed 1 game), back sprain in Week 14 (no missed games). Williams seems to get banged up a lot while making big plays.
  • 2020: 8.6 ppg; 2019: 9.1 ppg; 2018: 9.9 ppg

Ugly

  • Career average of 2.7 receptions per game and 3.25 r/g over the last two season
  • Since being 4th in WR total TDs in 2018, Williams was 75th in 2019 and 35th in 2020.
  • In 2020, 58th in receptions and 46th in targets.
  • From the start of 2018 (2nd season) until the end of 2020 (4th season), Williams has been a WR1 11% of the time, a WR2 17%, a WR3+ 72%, and inactive 4% (per RotoViz)

Redraft Outlook

According to FantasyPros consensus ADP for .5PPR, Mike Williams is being drafted as the WR49 at pick 127 (11.07 in 12-team draft). At the value, you should target Williams in all of your drafts around the 10th round. He should be drafted before the six WRs in front of him: Marquise Brown, Laviska Shenault Jr., Jaylen Waddle, Michael Pittman Jr., Corey Davis, and DeVante Parker.

Mike Williams’ biggest issue seems to be volume because he doesn’t get enough catches each season to be a WR2 without scoring double-digit TDs. The Los Angeles Chargers have new coaching this season, and Williams should be the third player for targets behind Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler. There is a much better chance that Williams finishes as a WR4, but there is no risk at his draft value, and he is capable of being a WR2 if he puts it all together in one season.

If Mike Williams bumped his receptions to four per game, maintained a y/r of 16, which is below his career average of 16.7, and scores 10 TDs, he would have finished as the WR20 in .5PPR ppg. That would have been just ahead of Terry McLaurin. Mike Williams has the skillset, and he needs more receptions to reach his breakout potential. It would be best if you made Mike Williams one of your double-digit round targets in redraft.

Dynasty Outlook

Startup Draft: According to DLF.com, in dynasty startups, Mike Williams is currently being drafted as the WR58 at pick 119. That is the lowest value Williams has ever been in his career, and his value has been declining since 2019 when he had an ADP of 55. This season, he will turn 27 years old, which is within the peak age range for WRs, so that should not scare you away. He has limited risk at that ADP.

Williams can finally have his breakout season, and then his value will increase. The Chargers picked up Williams’ fifth-year option in his rookie contract. There is a chance Williams will not re-sign with the Chargers next season, but if he breaks out as I expect, he could get a big contract with another team. That would allow you to flip Williams for more if you wanted to cash in after the breakout season.

Already Rostered: Mike Williams’ value has been declining for three seasons. At this point, you should hold onto him. If you want to trade away now, he would need to be included in a multi-player/pick trade as a throw-in. However, he can break out this year, and you can finally enjoy having him on your roster. If you still want to trade him, do it after the season once his value has dramatically improved.

Not rostered: Try to trade for Mike Williams now before the season starts and any training camp highlight-reel plays. This is the lowest his value has ever been, so now being the time to acquire him. If you wait until the season starts, his value will increase each week he does well, and you will lose out on his lower value. If you wait until the next offseason, then his value will only be higher.

Summary

Mike Williams came into the NFL as a top WR prospect, and he has not lived up to expectations yet. He made big plays and put up some great stats but has not put it all together in one season. Williams needs more catches to showcase his true fantasy ability. The Los Angeles Chargers have a dynamic offense, and Williams can break out in his fifth season. Williams’ value in redraft and dynasty are at career lows, so the risk is minimal, and the potential is high. That is a great combination to buy in on Mike Williams’ fifth-year breakout!