Bills Trade for Mike Williams
Just recently, the Bills swung a deal for now ex-Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Williams. With the trade, Buffalo is building up a well-rounded receiving corps. The question remains just how high Williams’ fantasy value is for the 2014 season.
Bills head coach Doug Marrone coached Williams during the latter’s college days at Syracuse, so the two have an established history with one another. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett also coached at Syracuse and, as such, the three are connected in that regard.
2013 was a true down year for Williams. Playing in just six games, he hauled in 22 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns. The wideout wasn’t able to stay on the field and struggled to make much of an impact.
However, from 2010-2012 (Williams’ first three seasons in the league), the former Buccaneer averaged 910 yards and eight touchdowns on 64 catches. With such numbers, Williams would have been among the Top 20 wide receivers in Standard Fantasy Scoring last season.
Assuming that Williams’ consistent production over the first three years of his career is his true ‘mean’ production, we can say that after repeated simulations of Williams playing a 16 game season under similar conditions to his first three years in Tampa Bay, we are 95% confident that he’ll amass somewhere between 770 and 1,050 yards.
What this means for the typical fantasy owner is that Williams’ lowest floor is likely 770 yards receiving in 2014, assuming he stays healthy, is given similar opportunities in Buffalo to the ones he was given in Tampa Bay and his 2010-2012 output is his true average production level (conditions we’ll address in a moment). Should the receiver also put up his average eight touchdowns, he’d finish in the Top 25 of wide receivers in ESPN Standard Fantasy Scoring (based on a replication of last year’s totals). That’s pretty good for an absolute worst case scenario.
Of course, some ambitious assumptions were made in the above analysis.
First of all, to explain the test conducted, we tried to estimate Williams’ true average yards per game. We are 95% confident that the true average yards per game for the receiver is captured in the interval between 48 and 66 yards per game (after writing down each of Williams’ per-game yardage totals from 2010-2012, we calculated the mean and standard deviation of the list and estimated the mean at a 95% confidence level). Multiplying 48 by 16 (the ‘worst case scenario’ per game average for Williams, assuming met conditions) yields a yardage total of about 770.
Second of all, we must compare the new environment in Buffalo to the old environment in Tampa Bay. Sophomore quarterback E.J. Manuel is developing into a serviceable starter in Buffalo. His talent level is comparable to that of the Josh Freeman that led the Buccaneers during Williams’ time in Tampa Bay.
That said, it’s tough to see Williams getting nearly as many targets with the Bills as he did with the Buccaneers. There are more mouths to feed in Buffalo, with Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods each looking to eclipse the 90 targets mark. While it’s reasonable to think Williams will see 80 passes thrown his way in Buffalo, he probably won’t get the 120+ targets he grew accustomed to in Tampa Bay.
However, even 75% of Williams’ originally projected production is still worthy of a look at WR2. Look for Marrone to open up the offense more in 2014 and work the ball down the field. Having a full season of E.J. Manuel will allow the coach to be more confident in the team’s passing game and Williams can only benefit from such.
While he’s not going to carry any fantasy team, Williams is a solid bet to contribute points on a weekly basis. After a poor 2013, owners will be leery of drafting the pass catcher. That said, the environment in which Williams played was not conducive to success and I’m content to bet on a regression to the mean in this case. Williams’ production was so consistent between 2010 and 2012 that it’d be genuinely surprising if his numbers didn’t revert to the averages from said years.
The 6’2”, 210-pound wideout gives Buffalo exactly what it needs; he’s a large pass catcher with a decent frame who can produce in the right scheme.
Make sure to give Williams a look in your fantasy draft this year, as he has solid WR2 upside and figures to be a key part of the Bills’ passing attack in 2014.