Every once in a while we find comments on an article or something in our fabulous forum that creates an unexpected hot button topic in regards to a player’s trade value, a suggested strategic approach, a surprise ranking or even a hotly contested debate on a trade scenario. We’re tackling these in this new series of articles – “The Dynasty Dilemma.” If you’re frequent reader, you already saw one earlier this week on Jonathan Stewart. Today, we focus on the value of one Mike Williams of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
When you take a look at Williams, you can’t help but see a total enigma. On one hand, he has unquestioned talent and ability. On the other, his potential seems to always be untapped for one reason or another.
Williams attended Syracuse University and had a very up and down experience. As a Freshman, he had 24 receptions for a team-leading 461 yards and four touchdowns in just ten games. As a Sophomore, Williams tied the school record with with 60 receptions for 837 yards and ten touchdowns in 12 games. His future looked very, very bright.
Then comes the trouble.
In 2008, Williams was suspended for academic reasons. He came back in 2009 and posted 49 receptions for 746 yards and six touchdowns in only seven games before abruptly leaving the team. The definition of his departure is still a bit of a mystery. If you ask Williams and the school, they each have a different story. Was he kicked off the team? Did he quit? Regardless, he was involved in a car accident with some teammates and was likely facing at least a suspension for violating team rules. The coaching staff simply lost patience with him, that much seems certain.
Even with the sketchy past at Syracuse, Williams was still a highly regarded player in the draft as a “high risk, high reward” choice and was taken by Tampa Bay in the fourth round (101st overall selection) in the 2010 NFL Draft. Many draft gurus claimed the Bucs were able to pluck a first round talent in the fourth round.
His first season seemed to prove just that.
Williams was an absolute stud in his rookie year. When he stepped off the practice field after the first day, the coaches were gushing about his ability, claiming he was the best receiver on the team after just one practice. His practice field buzz translated directly to the field as he started all 16 games and led all NFL rookies with 65 receptions, 964 yards and a ridiculous 11 touchdowns. Dynasty league owners hadn’t seen a rookie season that good from a wide receiver perhaps since the days of Randy Moss. The future seemed very bright again for Tampa Mike and many owners thought they had a bona fide future WR1 on their roster.
Then came last season.
His performance last year can only be characterized as an disappointment. He finished with the same number of receptions (65), but the 771 yards and three scores were a big step back for him. Part of this has to be blamed on the regression of Josh Freeman and the lack of cohesion on offense in Tampa last season. Williams also saw many more double teams and was seen by many opposing defenses as the player they needed to take away the most. He wasn’t able to shake free often and when he did, he wasn’t targeted as much as his owners would have liked to see.
The offseason has been less than kind to Williams as his work ethic and attitude have been questioned. While some may think it’s just a former coaching staff throwing stones, it’s hard not to look at the rumors of him partying too much and raise an eyebrow. Talk of the Bucs not viewing him as a true number one receiver could be seen as validated with the signing of Vincent Jackson.
So, now what? There are two very different schools of thought in regards to Williams. Let’s look at both cases more thoroughly. First, let’s look at the case to hold or buy.
You could make a strong case that Freeman’s regression was a huge part, not a small part, to Williams’ lack of production. After all, it’s tough to score touchdowns when you’re not getting to the red zone as much. In addition, the defensive attention placed on Williams was brutal. Without other proven options in the passing game, defenses were able to constantly roll coverage to Williams, forcing him to be a decoy more than he’d like.
The addition of Vincent Jackson could stretch the field and his presence will certainly command more defensive attention. The days of teams spending their time game planning against taking away Williams every week are all but over with Jackson in tow. In addition, it’s not like 65 receptions and 771 yards was terrible. In PPR leagues, he was still in the top 40 in scoring – you have to figure that’s his floor.
With a new coaching staff in town, any perceptions of Williams and his role in the offense start all over again. If he can impress this group like he did the old regime at the beginning of his career, we’ve seen what he’s capable of. In addition, the expectations for him were already too high. After all, 2011 was just the second year of his career. Expecting double digit touchdowns and 1,000 yards from any player not named Megatron or Fitzgerald is just being unrealistic. In fantasy circles, Williams simply became a victim of his own success. Remember, the third year is typically the one where we see a major breakout with wide receivers.
Now, the case to sell.
You can make just as strong a case that Williams has peaked. If his work ethic and behavior are being questioned, it’s a problem. Couple that with a major step back from his rookie season and a bit of a checkered past and it’s a huge red flag. Talk of him partying and slacking off are legitimate concerns.
In addition, he just didn’t play well last season. He had a lot of dropped passes and couldn’t fight his way to get open on many occasions. The truly great receivers can always find a way to impact a game, regardless of their quarterback and defensive attention – Williams just didn’t do that consistently.
The addition of Jackson could free up Williams, but at the same time, you could make a case that his addition just solidifies the notion that the Bucs just don’t view him as an elite receiver. There aren’t a lot of WR2 caliber players who are the second options on their own team and Williams likely will be next season.
Josh Freeman was another major problem last season. He wasn’t good enough to support one wide receiver’s value in fantasy, now we’re asking him to make two receivers into viable fantasy plays each week? That’s a tall task for any quarterback, no less one who really struggled last season. There is also a lot of talk that new Coach Greg Schiano will run a much more run-oriented attack – that’s not exactly music to the ears of Williams’ owners.
So, what’s the answer?
I have to admit I’m a big fan of Tampa Mike. I’m notoriously hard on him and was squarely in the group who had some very unrealistic expectations of him last year. I see all the talent and ability in the world, but “potential” is a word used altogether too often to describe players who under perform and it’s used a lot with him. Too much, if you ask me.
If you own Williams, there’s just no way you can sell him right now. As I’ve said time and time again on this site, savvy dynasty owners have to recognize when they’re selling low or just selling “even.” With Williams, you’re doing just that. Regardless of what you may think about the addition of Jackson, the maturation of Freeman or the future of the Bucs with Schiano at the helm, Williams’ production last year is going to kill his value if you’re trying to move him right now – that’s just a fact.
On the same token, I wouldn’t be actively attempting to trade for Williams, either. He’s one of those players who you like to see in the lineup against you at the moment. If you can get him on the cheap, it’s something to look at, but there are red flags all over the place on him. If you’re counting on Williams to be a consistent performer for you in 2012, you’re truly playing with fire because nobody truly knows what to expect.
In the end, much of the controversy swirling around Williams revolves around completely unrealistic expectations. Going into last season, his owners wanted him to be their WR1. By the end of the season, the same group was hoping he’d be a good WR2. After reading information about him over the Summer and looking at his whole body of work last year, it’s a tough to know what to expect..in fact, it’s a dilemma!
Right now, you just have to cross your fingers and hold on tight – with Williams, you know it’s going to be an exciting ride.