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Spotlight: Mike Williams

posted by Mark Wimer on Aug 1st

Mark Wimer's thoughts

Mike Williams posted a fantastic rookie season, with 65 receptions (on 125 targets) for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was the most-targeted Buccaneer, and was also the leading TD scorer. Williams finished as the 12th best fantasy receiver, a remarkable accomplishment for a rookie receiver - particularly when one considers that the Buccaneers drafted another receiver - Arrelious Benn, ahead of Williams. To put a finer point on things, Williams had one of the best rookie seasons in the modern era:

Rank First Last Year Recs Yds YPR TDs FPTs
1 Randy Moss 1998 69 1,313 19.0 17 233.7
2 Anquan Boldin 2003 101 1,377 13.6 8 188.7
3 Joey Galloway 1995 67 1,039 15.5 7 167.3
4 Michael Clayton 2004 80 1,193 14.9 7 164.3
5 Mike Williams 2010 65 964 14.8 11 162.4
6 Terry Glenn 1996 90 1,132 12.6 6 153.4
7 Marques Colston 2006 70 1,038 14.8 8 151.8
8 Lee Evans 2004 48 843 17.6 9 146.8
9 Eddie Kennison 1996 54 924 17.1 9 146.4
10 Kevin Johnson 1999 66 986 14.9 8 146.0

As a team, the Buccaneers were 17th in the NFL with 3,361 net passing yards, and were 11th in the league with 26 passing scores. Williams accounted for 42.3% of the passing scores. QB Josh Freeman (also a youngster with just two NFL seasons under his belt) took major strides in 2010 by reducing his interceptions from 18 to 6 while throwing 25 TDs as compared to just 10 in his rookie campaign. All told, Freeman completed 291 attempts for 3,451 yards to go along with the aforementioned 25 TDs and six interceptions. There's no reason to think we've seen the peak of this partnership yet, as both Freeman and Williams have plenty of room to grow if NFL history is any indicator.

Rookie accolades aside, Williams has room for improvement:

  • He dropped 7 passes last year
  • He only caught 53% of the passes thrown his way (in spite of Freeman being an accurate passer overall)
  • He wasn't explosive last year, ranking just 15th in the NFC with 8 catches of 25+ yards

Those issues are really nitpicks though, because Williams was a serious contributor, with great body control, a toughness in the red zone, and by all accounts acquitted himself well in the film room and in coaches meetings.

While it's never easy to project strength of schedule based on the prior year, there is reason to think Williams is well positioned for the fantasy playoff run in 2011. The Buccaneers face Carolina in Weeks 13 and 16 (the Panthers finished 11th in passing yards allowed per game during 2010), Jacksonville in Week 14 (28th in passing yards allowed per game last year) and Dallas in Week 15 (26th in passing yards allowed per game last year).


  • Williams is a youngster (24 years old) yet he's had enough successful reps at this level to be considered a "proven" receiver
  • Given that Arrelious Benn is coming off a significant knee injury, there isn't really a threat to Williams' entrenchment at #1 wide receiver on the depth chart. Williams should continue to command a lot of targets in Tampa's games this season
  • Williams plays on an improving offensive unit that has a dynamic young quarterback at its helm - a rising tide in Freeman's game should also raise Williams' production


  • There isn't a clear-cut #2 wide receiver on the team as training camp opens, which could lead to a lot of double-teams on Williams during 2011 if someone doesn't emerge across from him in the starting lineup
  • Williams has just one year of experience under his belt - it would have bene better if he could have enjoyed organized team activities and mini-camps this year instead of being sidelined by the lockout
  • LeGarrette Blount's emergence during the second half of the season last year may shift the Tampa offense more towards the running game

Final thoughts

There isn't a lot to dislike about Mike Williams' 2011 prospects - he should be the top target in Tampa Bay again this year, and as he and Freeman mature during the season they could get even more simpatico. I am right in step with the consensus ranking of Williams this year, slotting him at 13th on my redraft (non-PPR) wide receiver board. He should once again be on the cusp or just into fantasy #`1 wide receiver range during the coming year.

Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

We Tiger said:

Does anybody remember Mike Wallace? Calvin Johnson? Austin Collie? Hakeem Nicks? DeSean Jackson? We can go back and forth all day listing players who did or didn't continue to perform after a strong rookie season. The only reason people bring up Clayton is because it's Tampa Bay, and it's a lazy comparison.

Scoring 10+ TDs in consecutive years is hard to do. Roddy White did it last year, and in the 6 years before that the only people who did it were Fitz, Moss, TO, and Marvin Harrison. I doubt Williams is close to that class of player yet, especially considering how few rushing TDs Freeman and Blount scored last year. Still, I think he improves his receptions and yardage enough to just about balance that out. Benn is a good player, but Williams is the star here.

Grahamburn said:

I might have my goggles on, but it looks like some of you are going to miss the boat here. Tampa's offense is ready to take the next step, and it could be a big one. Freeman, Blount, Williams, Benn, Winslow.

It's interesting to take a look at Williams' game logs. He was remarkably consistent all season and hit the ground running in week 1 with 10 targets. It's not like he had two or three monster games to pad his stats. He scored in 10 of 16 contests. Freeman loves going to him in the red zone.

If anything, the catch percentage is an anomaly on the low side. Williams was the only viable receiving threat at wideout for Tampa in 2010, and the Bucs also had very little threat of a running game for the first 7 games of the season. He came in as a rookiefighting double teams and still managed an exceptional year. With Blount providing balance and Winslow/Benn drawing defenders, Williams should face much lighter coverage this year. I'd expect something closer to 60%.

Mike Williams is the clear cut WR1 on an up and coming offense with a QB that is working his tail off every day to get better. I see Tampa actually throwing the ball more as Josh Freeman emerges as a top tier NFL QB, but Williams' targets will remain around 130 because Benn will become a threat on the other side.

fightingillini said:

Mike Williams TB is in a nice situation, with a good young QB in Freeman and other talented offensive players around him. TB could really take the next step. Now all of that is factored into Williams' ADP of WR15, which is a good WR2. So the question becomes, does he have the upside to get into the upper echelon of WRs? I doubt Williams can be a top 5 WR, since I don't think he can catch enough passes, but top 10 WR is a possibility. It will all depend on the TDs. I would take him at WR15....there is enough upside for him at that ADP.

Mike Williams projections

Mark Wimer701050800
Message board consensus771115900