Tyrell or Mike? Which Chargers Williams is right for fantasy?
(“Today’s Crazy Fantasy Stat” is an occasional offseason offering from PFF that highlights something that catches our eye and aids in our preparation for the 2017 fantasy season.)
Philip Rivers threw a career-high 21 interceptions in 2016. That’s part of the reason why he only earned a grade of 78.6, the second-lowest mark he’s achieved in the PFF era (since 2006) and 19th among qualified quarterbacks in the 2016 season.
Of course, in his defense, Rivers didn’t get a lot of help. Keenan Allen went down in Week 1, and Danny Woodhead followed him a week later. Rivers’ top two tight ends, Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry, each played in 13 games and were not fully healthy during all 13. Rivers’ top wide receivers for the season were Tyrell Williams, Dontrelle Inman, and Travis Benjamin, and he was passing to that group from behind an offensive line that was PFF’s 31st-ranked over the 2016 season.
The biggest beneficiary? Williams, who tied for 11th in standard fantasy scoring among wide receivers last year, catching 69 of 111 targets for 1,059 yards and seven touchdowns. And all that after going essentially undrafted in 2016.
It wasn’t a perfect 2016 for Williams, though. His 62.0 catch percentage was only 69th of 130 qualified receivers. With nine drops, his drop rate of catchable passes was fourth-highest in the league. Rivers’ passer rating when targeting Benjamin was 104.0; to Inman, it was 90.6. But for Williams, it was just 80.9. The only Chargers wide receivers with lower scores were Geremy Davis, Griff Whalen, and Isaiah Burse, who combined for eight targets.
Nine of Rivers’ 21 interceptions came when targeting Williams. That tied for the most in the league when targeting a specific receiver, along with DeAndre Hopkins and Brandon Marshall, both of whom had more targets than Williams; 8.1 percent of the passes intended for Williams were intercepted, the highest rate in the league of anyone with 25 or more targets. No one else on the Chargers had more than four interceptions when the ball was thrown their way.
Williams had a big year for a struggling Chargers team in 2016, but that season was overstated by opportunity, injuries around him, and simple attrition. The Chargers get Allen back from injury to start 2017, and, more importantly, drafted Clemson’s Mike Williams with the seventh-overall pick in the draft. ESPN has reported that Mike Williams might not start for the team right away, instead slotting behind Allen, Tyrell Williams, and possibly even Inman (if he can recover from offseason surgery).
But fantasy players shouldn’t draft that way. It wouldn’t be a great idea to draft either of the Chargers’ Williamses as a locked-in fantasy starter, but for those looking for depth, insurance, or a WR3/flex in a sticky situation, Mike Williams is the better bet than Tyrell. Even if Mike Williams doesn’t get the job right away (and frankly, I think he will), he’ll have it for a larger chunk of the 2017 season.