Cautious optimism in fantasy with Mario Williams signing with Miami

Ross Miles looks at the fantasy impact of Mario Williams landing in Miami.

| 7 months ago
(Photo by Michael Adamucci/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Adamucci/Getty Images)

Cautious optimism in fantasy with Mario Williams signing with Miami

Mario Williams has signed with the Miami Dolphins on a two-year, $17 million contract, with an additional $3 million available via incentives, according to FOX Sports’ Mike Garafolo.

Last year was an unmitigated disaster for Williams, as he posted the worst season of his 10-year career in Buffalo under Rex Ryan. Throughout his career, Williams has played in a variety of schemes and systems, and the transition to Ryan’s 3-4 defense was not thought to be a problem considering his successes under Wade Phillips in Houston. But the reality was quite different, as he was asked to drop in to coverage much more frequently. The end result was just five sacks, the second-worst total in his career.

The writing was on the wall by the final few weeks of the season, as by then, players were anonymously throwing Williams under the proverbial bus with comments to the media that he had been showing “zero effort” and that he “takes two steps and stops.” Despite rumors that Williams was prepared to take a pay cut to stay with the Bills, he was eventually released on March 1st, saving $12.9m in cap room.

Courted by both the Giants and Jaguars, who both spent big on defensive lineman in free agency, Williams eventually agreed terms with the Dolphins, who had seen Olivier Vernon leave for New York.

The signing of Williams had initially cast a shadow over Cameron Wake’s continued presence on the roster, but the subsequent departure of Vernon means the Dolphins are likely to roll with a pair of veterans on the edge in 2016. Neither player is a lock for double-digit sacks, but it is well within their remit, especially with the space-eating Ndamukong Suh absorbing blockers in the middle.

Williams and Wake have both posted two seasons of 14 or more sacks during their careers, so the Dolphins line has the potential to be very disruptive. But question marks hang over both players on age and health grounds, while Suh has his own issues to deal with. There is a lot of unpredictability here, and for fantasy gamers, that is a red flag.

Of course, these type of situations can provide great value on reflection, but I’d suggest caution in targeting Williams on draft day.

All that being said, a return to a 4-3 scheme means he is classified as a defensive lineman again, which does make him somewhat fantasy relevant as opposed to being an edge rushing 3-4 outside linebacker who holds next to no value in most IDP scoring systems. However, I can’t see him returning to the DL1 tier he once occupied.

Certainly don’t target Williams as the first defensive lineman you draft because of his unpredictability; consider him as your second defensive lineman if you’re waiting on that position. I’d be happy to plug him in as my third DL, as he’d serve as a bye week replacement or matchup play, or even a starter in deeper leagues. Williams will slide into my rankings in the second half of the DL2 tier, but I’d approach him with caution and consider him a volatile scorer who isn’t an every week start, which can prove taxing when deliberating on your lineup each week.

Ross Miles is a lead fantasy writer on PFF Fantasy. He contributes IDP content to the site. He was the 2011 winner of the FantasyPros IDP Expert Rankings contest for both weekly in-season rankings and also for pre-season rankings and finished second in IDP rankings in 2012 and 2015. Ross is also a member of the FSWA.

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