The Los Angeles Chargers threw another receiver into an already crowded receiving corps when they took wide receiver Mike Williams at #7 overall. The Clemson standout missed nearly all of the 2015 season after breaking a bone in his neck but bounced back with 98 receptions for 1361 yards and 11 touchdowns. He provides Philip Rivers with yet another toy to play with on offense, but you’re likely better off leaving him in the toy box in your fantasy football drafts.
Williams has some next-level ball skills and the phrase “even when he isn’t open, he’s open,” definitely applies here. He consistently won at the catch point in college, which led to his gaudy numbers (and made Deshaun Watson look better, too). However, Williams is far from perfect, and he will have an adjustment period coming into the NFL. There were two knocks on him: press corners gave him fits, which would definitely be a problem in the NFL, and focus. The second led to silly drops and poor route running and can be remedied. The first, however, is a concern for his rookie year, as he overcame the limitation thanks to his physicality. He will be seeing much more physical corners in the NFL, and that will cause issues as he adapts.
Another issue with Williams is health. He missed nearly all of 2015 with the neck injury, and he is no guarantee to be ready for training camp with a herniated disc. Disc herniation is no joke, and this is an issue that might linger into the season. It isn’t the reason to steer clear from Williams, but it doesn’t help his situation.
Also not helping Williams’ situation is, well, Williams’ situation. The easy comparison in the NFL today is Mike Evans, whose amazing size and ball skills frequently bail out his quarterbacks. There will be one main difference between Evans’ rookie year and Williams’ rookie year: the talent around him. In Evans’ rookie year, he and Vincent Jackson were the only passing game weapons in town while Doug Martin plugged along at a 3.7 YPC clip.
The Chargers return sophomore breakout Melvin Gordon, who had 1300 yards and ten touchdowns at running back. At wide receiver and tight end, they have superstar Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams (1000 yards in 2016), Travis Benjamin (nearly 1000 yards in 2015), Hall of Famer Antonio Gates and his heir apparent, Hunter Henry. All these guys have more time under their belts with Rivers than Williams, and his herniated disc will cost him reps with the quarterback. There are so many weapons that Williams’ injury may get him lost in the shuffle when the season starts.
Williams will be worth a pick in double-digit rounds of your fantasy football draft as an upside flyer, but given the knocks against him, don’t build him into your weekly plan. He’s currently going at 106 overall as WR40 on FantasyPros, which is the appropriate range. He’s not the guy I would reach for or take before the tenth round, but I can understand doing so.
Mike Williams will face more physical coverage than he could dominate in college, he’s already hurt and Philip Rivers will have many more weapons to choose from. He’s worth a pick gambling that Keenan Allen will once again miss a large chunk of the season and cede his targets to Mike Williams. He’s extremely talented, but there are too many question marks surrounding him to invest any sort of significant fantasy football draft capital in the rookie wide receiver.