Every 5 years or so people have been burned by the name “Mike Williams” in fantasy football. It isn’t a surprise that some of the more seasoned owners might have a learned aversion when they hear the name. Similar to the natural instinct in most animals, you typically learn to associate and generalize bad experiences and stay away from similar things or experiences in the future. Kind of like the time I was a teenager and had food poisoning and was pooping green for days after I had Chinese food. I developed a generalized food aversion to Chinese food and it took me years to get over this experience and be willing to eat Chinese food again. This is probably how some people who have been playing fantasy long enough might feel about the NEW Mike Williams who is projected to go in the first round of the NFL draft this year.
A brief background: The first Mike Williams that burned people was a wide receiver from USC who was drafted 10th overall in the 2005 draft by the Detroit Lions. Besides the fact that Williams was drafted ahead of players like Demarcus Ware, Thomas Davis, Frank Gore, Aaron Rodgers, etc., he also went on to vastly underperform and only was in the league for six seasons. Williams 1 averaged 21 receptions for a meager 254 yards for his NFL career and only had a total of 5 career TDs. The second Mike Williams played college ball at Syracuse and wasn’t drafted until the 5th round of the 2010 NFL draft by the Bucs. Williams 2 went on to have a much more successful NFL career and even had a year or two of fantasy production. Williams 2 was much less of a disappointment given his later round draft pick status and few years of production. Williams 2 averaged 44.6 receptions for 617.8 yards and 5.2 TDs over a 5-year career. Williams 2 was a TD machine at times which helped his fantasy owners tremendously.
The NEW Mike Williams has received a lot of national media and attention this year due to Clemson’s championship season and his performance in that nationally televised game. Williams might have had even more hype if he didn’t have a freak injury before what would’ve been his third year at Clemson. He fractured his neck after colliding with a goal post. At 6’4” and nearly 220 lbs with long arms, THIS Mike Williams is exactly what most NFL teams look for in a WR1 and red zone target. He also has good speed for a guy his size and his 40 yard dash time is believed to be around 4.5 seconds.
Anyone who has seen Clemson games this season might have, what I believe to be, a skewed view of Watson and his accuracy. There have been MULTIPLE times that Mike Williams has bailed Watson out by catching what would normally be an interception or incompletion. Williams has tremendous ball-tracking ability and is able to adjust well after the ball is thrown. He has really long arms, can jump well, and even catch balls that are thrown at his feet (maybe he would do well with Kirk Cousins).
Williams also looks like he is very difficult to bring down after first contact at times. He also uses his large hands well to high-point the ball and catch it away from his body (unlike some other WR prospects in this year’s class). Williams really excels in the middle of the field with short to medium distance to go. Many of the catches from his film are exactly in this part of the field. He will be great at moving the chains for a team that doesn’t take as many deep shots downfield. Williams could really succeed in a system with a QB similar to Alex Smith that is fairly accurate and lives by throwing the short-medium throw. Williams also isn’t as much of a “big play guy” or a down field speed receiver. People often associate this trait with Williams because they have seen some of his highlight catches, but his average yards per reception dropped from 18 to 13. He seems like more of a reliable possession guy who can move the chains, which is in no way a bad thing!
Mike Williams is currently the 8th ranked WR according to his Dynasty MetriX score which is slightly below 1.0. This score is slightly lower than the other top ranked WR this year, Corey Davis, and it puts Williams in the second decile as well. These are scores that use an accumulation of data and statistics dating back all the way to 2001. Historically, WR prospects in the second decile only have around a 40% “hit rate” of becoming a viable fantasy producer within their first five years in the league. This doesn’t mean that Williams is destined for failure, only that historically there have been metrics prospects that have shown a better hit percentage. Many people believe that Williams will easily be an NFL and fantasy producer.
Final Thoughts (Not Tomi Lahren):
Although Williams doesn’t have the best metrics or Dynasty MetriX score, I still believe that he will go on to be a successful NFL starter and fantasy producer. I think satisfaction is all about expectations. If you go in to a movie hearing that it’s the best movie ever you are likely to come away from it being a little bit disappointed. I believe that some of the expectations and hype around Williams are slightly too high to end up not disappointing many owners and fans. Williams has been comped to players like Alshon Jeffery, Demaryius Thomas, and even Dez Bryant. I definitely view these player comps as more of his ceiling. One NFL scout (unnamed) has even said that Williams is the closest thing to Calvin Johnson that he has ever seen. If people expect this type of production from Williams, I see them coming away extremely unsatisfied even if Williams goes on to have a successful career in the NFL.
I would not hesitate to draft William in the top 5 of rookie drafts, but do not believe that he should be drafted in the top 3. Williams is as safe as any 1.05 pick, but the problem I have with him and that draft position is that I don’t see him falling that far because of how people perceive him. Again, I am not suggesting that he is bad of that he’ll fail in the NFL, but I do not see him having as great of a chance at succeeding as some other prospects. It comes down to a personal preference in this year’s draft: Many people have a top 2-3 for RBs that are nearly interchangeable as well as a top 2 for WRs that could be argued either way as well. The only way I would draft Williams (unless he goes to an optimal landing spot) is if he falls to me at 1.05 or later. I would prefer Fournette, Cook, Davis, and possibly Mixon ahead of Williams. Feel free to contact me on twitter @Dynasty_Advice if you have any thoughts or questions about Williams or this year’s class in general.