Who is Tyrell Williams?
With the devastating news of Keenan Allen’s season-ending ACL injury, fantasy owners are left scrambling trying to pick up the pieces of the Chargers’ offense. Count me among those who writhed in pain alongside Allen as he was carted off the field, seemingly ending fantasy hopes not even through 2 quarters of football in Week 1.
We now turn to UDFA Tyrell Williams who seems to be generating some buzz with his impeccable physical tools and long speed. In the Chargers’ Week 1 loss to the Chiefs, Williams caught two 30-plus-yard passes and seemed to be more than capable being a down the field threat. Many have compared him to former Chargers WR Malcom Floyd, who specialized as a bomber in Philip Rivers’ offense. But let’s take a deeper look rather than simply “plug-and-play” Williams.
Who is he? If you put in a waiver claim for Tyrell Williams, what can you expect? And more importantly, what kind of fantasy production is possible?
Undrafted out of Western Oregon in 2015, Williams has been known more for his advanced metrics ability rather than actual production on the field. According to PlayerProfile.com, Williams’ scores are in the 75th percentile or above across-the-board in SPARQ, burst and agility. He ranked in the 98th percentile according to catch radius, a rank that puts him among the elite in that category. Although some comparables include some head scratchers such as Stephen Hill and Jon Baldwin, a RotoViz study also concluded and validated the catch radius statistic with some top notch talents such as Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones, and Vincent Jackson.
Jackson might be the best comparable I’ve seen in terms physical tools. You wouldn’t call Jackson an absolute burner, but a wonderful combination of size and speed who has been able to carve out a nice career and a big free agent contract from San Diego to Tampa Bay. If you remember Jackson’s years in southern California, he was a legitimate down-the-field threat for the Chargers producing near Pro-Bowl caliber numbers.
Williams flashed last year with an 80-yard bomb against Denver in Week 17. However, in his first year, he saw a total of 6 targets in 2 games. So before we blow the doors off any projection, let’s temper our expectations and see how Williams fits within this offense.
The opportunity presents itself to eat up targets in this offense which loves to air it out 30-40 times a game although the Chargers would prefer to orient themselves around Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead. Allen was a target hog commanding 10+ targets a game, sometimes even in upwards of 13-15. Instead of simply funneling towards one main option, it seems likely Rivers will likely spread the wealth towards a plethora of options such as Travis Benjamin, Dontrelle Inman, Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry, and Woodhead out of the backfield.
After reviewing Week 1’s film, I found that Benjamin was utilized mostly in the short bubble screen game. OC Ken Whisenhunt was hoping that Benjamin could be used best in open space and create big plays. After Allen’s injury, Williams was given the intermediate routes to stretch the defense and keep them honest rather than crowding the line of scrimmage. These are the routes that Allen excelled at as one of the NFL’s premier route runners. Although clearly not possessing the same precise, polished skills as a technician, Williams has the extra gear to turn these 10 yards routes into longer chunk gains as seen in Week 1. His 5 targets were encouraging when we consider he didn’t become an integral part in the first half against the Chiefs as the Chargers were nursing a 21-3 lead. Most of his work came in the second half after Allen’s injury while Rivers was trying to maintain the lead.
The only thing we haven’t seen yet is a full game from Williams. His snap share in Week 1 was a healthy 65% and something that should stay close to 75%. He also saw a red zone look, something he’s built for at 6’3 and 204 lbs. Projecting going forward, I see Williams as a WR3/4 this week with added upside to enter into WR2 territory any given week if regular red zone looks are in store. He’s definitely worth the waiver add to stash on your bench as a developing WR in an offense that should be in the top five in terms of pass plays per game.