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The Tape Tells All - Mike Williams's Week 15 Performance

Week 16. This is it, hopefully -- the championship finale. You need to know if a guy can be trusted in a must-win situation. Should you take that major risk? Play it safe? Will last week's breakout star be this week's league winner?

With that question in mind, let us talk about Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams.

Williams caught seven passes for 76 yards and a pair of touchdowns last week, and added one score on the ground. He was the second-highest scorer in PPR scoring in Week 15, and with Keenan Allen's status in doubt this week against the Ravens, can he be counted on for a repeat performance? Let's talk about it.

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Mike Williams: The Tape Tells All

Background Information

Thursday's game against the Chiefs represented the most catches Mike Williams has had this season and the third-most receiving yardage, and after 15 weeks of the season it's safe to say that Thursday's result is an outlier. But Keenan Allen's injury status means it's a viable question this week: do I play Mike Williams if Allen is out?

Williams has nine receiving touchdowns on the season, but quarterback Philip Rivers has targeted him in spurts, with Williams having three multi-touchdown games on the season. Still, there are encouraging signs that Williams is due for a solid performance if Allen is out. He ranks 15th among wide receivers in yards per target and 14th in yards per reception. He's 15th in average target distance, and among wide receivers, Rivers has the second-highest passer rating in the league when targeting Williams, and he ranks second in fantasy points per target. He's been an efficient player in his current role all season, and Thursday suggested he can keep that efficiency up with an expanded role.


The Game Tape

I'm traveling this month and don't have very reliable streaming Internet right now, so instead of posting individual GIFs in here, which might take me hours to compile, I'm just going to include a link to a video of catches by Williams and talk about them.

Here is the video.

Alright, so what do we see from Mike Williams?

  • 1st quarter, 0:43 remaining: Rivers goes deep to Williams, who seems to just be waiting down there for the ball between two defenders. Williams almost catches this one like you'd see a returner catch a punt. Great job running between two defenders and finding that open space.
  • 2nd quarter, 9:50 remaining: On second and goal, Williams gets single coverage in the end zone. He's got a huge size advantage here, so when Rivers puts the ball in front of Williams, there's no chance for the defender to do anything.
  • 2nd quarter, 8:03 remaining: Williams makes the catch about three yards past the line of scrimmage out on the left sideline. Does a great job absorbing contact and picking up the additional yardage to get the first down
  • 2nd quarter, 1:20 remaining: Not much here for Williams. They run the screen out to him on the left, and he's able to spin forward for some yardage, but it doesn't go for much. Williams ranks in just the 32nd percentile among wide receivers in 40-yard dash time, so I'm not sold on running this play to him instead of running a similar play to get the ball to the quicker Tyrell Williams? I guess Mike makes sense here because he has the size and strength to at least fight for some yardage?
  • 2nd quarter, 1:07 remaining: On third and 12, Rivers fire it out to Williams on the sideline for the first down. Just a good, accurate throw from Rivers that's complemented by Williams again having a size advantage on the defender.
  • 3rd quarter, 8:50 remaining: Another one of these comeback routes out on the sidelines for Williams. There's been a lot of this in this game, and it's a good, safe throw that keeps the chains moving. Fantasy owners should be happy to see how much Rivers trusts Williams on this connection.
  • 3rd quarter, 5:09 remaining: Rivers flips it to Williams on the reverse, he makes a good cut, and then he's off to the end zone. This is such a fun play, and watching Williams run the football reminds you of just how much bigger he is than a lot of other players. But wide receivers scoring on run plays, while entertaining, aren't plays that suggest replicability, and when we're evaluating a player for his potential fantasy production, we want to look at plays that are replicable. All those comeback routes? Replicable. Tossing the deep ball to him, especially with Allen sidelined? Replicable. This? Not so much.
  • 4th quarter, 0:08 remaining: Just another one where Rivers accurately gets the ball to Williams in the end zone. There was some controversy about there being a push-off by Williams on this play, but even aside from that question, this is so much like the other touchdown by Williams. Good ball placement, and Williams takes advantage of a matchup with Orlando Scandrick.
  • 4th quarter, 0:04 remaining: And the wide open two-point conversion play happens. This is just bad communication by the Chiefs defenders, who are trying to switch off coverage at the line and wind up just allowing Williams to be as open as humanly possible in the end zone. Inexcusably bad communication and recognition on the defense here.


The Fantasy Impact

Now, if Keenan Allen miraculously makes it back this weekend, you aren't playing Mike Williams with a championship on the line against the Baltimore Ravens, okay?

But if Allen is out, Williams showed us a lot of quality things on Thursday. Rivers was looking at him on those safe routes on the sidelines and safe routes in the end zone, and those are both signs of future production. Take the rushing touchdown away, and Williams still had a very solid game, and it mainly came on a lot of safe throws by Rivers. Williams wasn't getting fluky catches down the field or having to make acrobatic efforts to bring the football in. With Allen out, he'd be by far the safest option in this receiving corp; there's no argument for going Tyrell Williams over him this week.

Still, the Ravens defense is allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers, so Williams is far from being some set and forget WR1 option. If Allen doesn't play, I'd rank Williams somewhere in the WR3 tier, because the Ravens are likely to limit Los Angeles from having many red zone chances, which mostly leaves Williams as a guy who should make some safe plays this week and might be able to make one or two big plays. That might is scary in the final week of fantasy, but if you're dealing with injuries, Williams is a capable flex fill-in option.


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