Since 2006, there have been just three rookie wide receivers who finished with a top-15 rank at their position in fantasy football. The first one, Marques Colston, has captured a 1,000-yard receiving year in every healthy season he’s played throughout his career. The most recent rookie stud was, of course, A.J. Green. His 1,057-yard, seven-touchdown coming out party made him the 14th best wide receiver play in 2011.
The one rookie wideout in between? Tampa Bay’s generically-named Mike Williams.
Tampa Williams’ Numbers
There are 23,745 people named Mike Williams in the United States. And unfortunately, I can’t say they’re all men.
We do know two of them though. One was a lazy first-round wide receiver bust who has since been released by the Toronto Argonauts. The other, as I mentioned, lives and works in Tampa Bay, and is one of the most underrated wide receiver assets in fantasy football.
Just take a look at Number 19’s numbers. In three years with the Buccaneers, Williams has tallied 23 touchdowns on 193 receptions. For some perspective, the touchdown number over this time period ranks higher than the totals from Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall and Andre Johnson, and the catch total is more than Anquan Boldin and Lance Moore. In fact, the catch total ranks him 19th in the NFL amongst all receivers.
And remember, that’s all happened during the first three years of his career.
He’s yet to top 1,000 yards in a single season, but his ability to get into the end zone has made him more than fantasy relevant during his young career. Though his sophomore campaign was somewhat of a disaster, Williams has already finished with a fantasy wide receiver rank of 11 and 18 throughout his first three NFL seasons. The reason for those rankings was, of course, a result of his 11 and 9 touchdowns in 2010 and 2012.
Tampa Williams’ Projections
It’s safe to think that Williams will exceed the 60-reception mark in 2013. He actually has been incredibly consistent in the category, catching 65, 65 and 63 receptions in each of his first three seasons. Yardage-wise, Williams hit his career high last season with 996, his first year alongside stud wideout Vincent Jackson. The favorable coverage should continue into the upcoming campaign, making him a clear candidate for a 1,000-yard receiving season.
Using rotoViz’s similarity scores app, Williams is projected to score a low of 6.3 fantasy points per game in non-PPR formats. To make more sense of that, his floor would place him with a little over 100 standard fantasy points, making him approximately the 43rd standard scoring wide receiver in fantasy. It’s not to say that this projection is good, but when you factor in his WR39 ADP, you soon see how his ADP is reflecting his probable floor. Williams can, and should, perform better than 100 fantasy points.
In fact, his ceiling, according to the application, is set at nearly 10 fantasy points per game. Again, if we extrapolate that average across an entire 16-game season, Williams has the potential to finish the year with 160 points, resulting in a top-20 wide receiver finish. Not bad for a guy being drafted around a couple of rookie wideouts.
Tampa Williams’ Competition
Your late-round choices during drafts should always be used for upside. Why choose someone who will predictably ride your bench the entire season?
The problem in 2013 is that every position is arguably deeper than it was in 2012. As a result, standard late-rounds are actually even later, and your “upside” picks are occurring later than usual. The fact that Mike Williams has a 9th to 10th round ADP is a prime example of the depth at the position.
We have to be cognizant of this. Though there are some really nice upside players in Mike Williams’ range, the same type of players can be had in rounds 11, 12, 13 or 14 of most drafts. Sure, rookie DeAndre Hopkins or new Steelers starter Emmanuel Sanders look attractive, but as you move later in your drafts, the same type of upside can be found. Just look at players like Michael Floyd, Alshon Jeffery, Ryan Broyles and Rueben Randle; each of them have “worse” ADPs.
That’s the main issue I have with Mike Williams’ current ADP. He’s being selected around players with little experience. He’s a known in a group of unknowns. There’s less mystique with the Buccaneers wideout, and because of this, owners would rather take a sleeper with generic upside. But why?
Sit back and ask yourself, “Do these players truly have more upside than Mike Williams?” Typically we select a late-round wide receiver hoping they reach a top-20 or starting wide receiver ranking, but Mike Williams has already done that twice in three seasons. And he has a realistic potential to do it again in 2013.
This comes down to, I think, the general human psychology in fantasy football. In a way, groupthink has concluded that late-round draft selections should be used on the unknown, because the unknown is typically associated with upside. We feel as though we know what we’re getting out of Mike Williams, so his ADP drops as a result. The same could be said for a player like Lance Moore. The problem with this logic is that we don’t know. He’s only played three seasons in the NFL, and throughout those seasons, he’s been a fairly reliable commodity given his expectations (aside from, of course, 2011).
Mike Williams is a player to target in 2013 because he’s a solid team WR3 with a WR4 ADP. His upside may be more known than other players at his position, but keep in mind that the position is deep with potential. You can find your diamond in the rough later than rounds 9 or 10.