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20 Projections for 2020: Part 11- Mike Williams

Entering his fourth year in the NFL, can Mike Williams build on the minor breakout he had last year? Read more to find out what I think we’ll see from Mike Williams moving forward.

Numerous things can be said of Mike Williams start in the NFL, ranging from disappointment to budding young star. In his third year in the NFL, people watched as the Los Angeles Chargers young WR had a minor breakout in 2019. He topped 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. Williams drew 90 targets but only caught 49 of those. Another stat worth noting is that Williams only had 2 TD’s even though he topped 1,000 receiving yards. The table below highlights his stats from last season’s minor breakout.

Receiving & Rushing Table
Game ReceReceReceRece
Year Tm Pos G Tgt Rec Yds TD
2019LACWR15904910012
Care41179103176012
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/21/2020.

However, following his breakout season last year, the Chargers have made a change at QB after mutually parting with Phillip Rivers during the offseason. That is most certainly something you don’t want to see after a young WR starts to breakthrough, but it’s in the past, and we must move forward. With Rivers out of town, the Chargers have veteran Tyrod Taylor and Justin Herbert, who they just selected number sixth overall in April’s NFL draft.

With those new faces in the QB room, it’s unclear where Mike Williams lands in the targets’ pecking order. He has a multitude of variables baked into his value. We could see him take over as the new number one in hat offense or be a distant fourth option behind guys like WR Keenan Allen, RB Austin Ekeler, and TE Hunter Henry. Although he is subject to an array of outcomes, Williams is an asset worth all the risks involved long term, not just in 2020.

How Did We Get Here

Up to this point, Williams struggles with a few things in his short NFL career. In his rookie season, Williams was plagued by a neck injury that caused him to miss many games. His second year was a much healthier one. He only started five games as the Chargers already had an All-Pro WR in Allen. At the same time, WR Tyrell Williams took the other starting spot. Then came his third year (last season), where he became the Chargers second WR on the depth chart as Tyrell left for Oakland (Now, the Las Vegas Raiders) in free agency. Williams played solid and showed a lot of development from his second to the third year. No matter what took place in his first three years, you could always feel safe knowing Rivers was under center, but that is no longer the case.

A New Sheriff in Town, Maybe?

That leads me to the new starting QB for the LA Chargers: unknown. That’s right, who knows. It could be Taylor or Herbert as either of them could realistically win the job in camp and start right off the bat. One thing is certain, regardless of what happens in-season, you will see Herbert suit up for the Chargers at some point this year. That is one variable I am confident in when it pertains to this QB situation. For Williams, unlike Ekeler, this is a big negative.

For one, fewer targets will go to the RB position with Taylor, which means Williams would most likely be a benefactor of this. Secondly, Rookie QB’s hardly ever produced top 24 fantasy WR’s; It’s incredibly rare. The last one to do so was Texans QB Deshaun Watson with WR Deandre Hopkins. I’m a big fan of Williams’s game, but he is nowhere near Hopkins. His situation at QB is bleak in 2020, yet I find it rather promising following that. I wasn’t huge on Herbert, but with the staff surrounding him and the skill players currently there, he has an excellent chance of succeeding in the future and elevating Williams further.

Courtesy of Chargers.com

The Pecking Order Following Rivers Departure

Unbeknownst to few, Rivers loved to feed the RB position with targets; he was the dump-off master, especially last season (Nyheim Hines truthers rejoice). However, Rivers is now in Indy, and that will change the pecking order a bit in the passing game. How much it will change, has yet to be determined. Last year, five players received 50 or more targets, and two of those were RB’s. The table below highlights who those five were as well as how many targets they received.

Advanced Receiving Table
No. Player  Pos Tgt
β–Ό
13Keenan Allen*WR149
30Austin Ekelerrb108
81Mike WilliamsWR90
86Hunter HenryTE76
25Melvin GordonRB55
Team Total576
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/21/2020.

Right away, you already know that some of what you see in that table will change with a new QB. The most apparent change will be the targets the RB’s received last year (163 total). With Melvin Gordon heading out to Denver, there are some targets up for grabs. That does not factor the natural regression that would take place with another person under center. That means some more targets could be heading Williams way in 2020 that could lead him to surpass Ekeler and stay ahead of Henry in targets.

Another thing this table highlights is Rivers’s propensity to target Keenan Allen, which I expect to change with a new QB. The slate is wiped clean, and that report that Allen had with Rivers means nothing. I’m not insinuating that Williams will surpass Allen in targets. Still, with a new QB and fewer targets going to the RB, I expect that large gap between them to narrow with Williams targets increasing and Allen’s decreasing. That’s important because the more opportunity Williams receives without Rivers, his momentum will trend upward, even though the QB play quality decreased.

Final Thoughts

In 2020, I’m fearful of all the Chargers weapons, outside of Ekeler. There are so many variables that could decrease or increase a player’s value/production in LA this year. If I were playing redraft, it would be hard to pay up for Williams, given his array of outcomes. However, we don’t play redraft, that’s for losers. I still believe in Williams’s talent and am not scared away by what could be a lackluster season in 2020. Long-term, I view him as a top 24 WR for fantasy, but I find it hard imagining him doing that in 2020. I envision him as a low-end WR3 to high-end WR4 next year.

Trust me; I’m backing up what I’m saying. In a recent startup draft, with several different fantasy experts called Roughing the Pasta, I drafted Williams at pick ten in the ninth round. Considering he has improved each of his first three years in the league and had his fifth-year option picked up by the Chargers. The ninth round is a steal for him, so don’t be wary of pulling the trigger on him there. He’s someone you can buy at a cheap rate and also has a cheap ADP. How many WRs can you draft in the ninth round that is young and can be a solid WR2 for years to come? The answer is not many, so go out and grab him.

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