Very Deep Sleepers: Tyrell Williams (Chargers)
R.C. Fischer discusses deep sleeper candidate Tyrell Williams of the Chargers.
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I thought I’d have more time to write this article.
Suddenly, over the past few days, one of my favorite WR prospects in all of football has gone from a very deep sleeper…to dropping the ‘very.’ He may be on his way to dropping the ‘deep’ part of the ‘very deep sleeper’ label by the time this publishes.
This report is not happening because Stevie Johnson got hurt and left a void. That’s just gasoline on the fire. The main reason I’m writing this report – I believe Tyrell Williams is the most talented wide receiver on the San Diego Chargers’ roster. Not just the best athlete…the best all-around NFL wide receiver.
Yes, I am aware that Keenan Allen is still with the Chargers.
With that, I may have just lost 50–90+% of the people who began reading this piece. It might be just me and you now. Hang with me, and I’ll make a pretty compelling case for Williams. I want to begin our journey by comparing Williams, physically, to a couple other NFL wide receivers. And this is not a guilt-by-association/size thing. It’s deeper than that, but the physical argument helps set the table. From their pre-draft workouts:
- 6′3.4″/204, 4.43 40-time, 1.51 10-yd split, 39.5″ vertical, 6.74 three-cone agility time = Tyrell Williams
- 6′2.7″/219, 4.42 40-time, 1.55 10-yd split, 37.5″ vertical, 6.64 three-cone agility time = Jeff Janis
- 6′2.6″/220, 4.42 40-time, 1.53 10-yd split, 38.5″ vertical, 6.66 three-cone agility time = Julio Jones
- 6′2.0″/221, 4.64 40-time, 1.62 10-yd split, 33.5″ vertical, 7.04 three-cone agility time = Laquon Treadwell
*Note Williams and Treadwell’s numbers were from their Pro Day, not the NFL Combine.
These first three wide receivers listed above, if you’re not as in tune with what these speed-agility measurables mean – those are elite sets of numbers across the board in every physical measurable. I included Treadwell so you could see the separation/differential of the elite athletes at wide receiver from the average ones (like Treadwell).
So many people talk about Jeff Janis as a ‘Metrics’ or ‘SPARQ’ community darling, and he’s often compared to Julio Jones athletically/on paper…and he’s mentioned every other day in fantasy articles about being filled with such hope and promise. You mostly hear crickets chirping about the similarly athletic Williams in fantasy circles.
There’s a big difference, in my eyes, between Williams and Janis, as pro prospects, despite the physical similarities.
I scouted tape of Janis before I arrived at Senior Bowl practice week in Mobile, AL in 2014. He was an intriguing invite because he hailed from small school Saginaw Valley State. I watched the tape, and was put to sleep – stiff, hesitant, and not dominating athletes at a level he should have dominated. When I watched him in drills at the Senior Bowl practices, I was totally turned off. Janis was tentative and displayed poor hands, compared to the class of prospects around him. I wondered how he even got invited to the Senior Bowl. And then Janis’s NFL Combine numbers came in, and it was Julio Jones 2.0 (on paper). I thought something must have been wrong with all the Combine recordings. I didn’t see Julio Jones in Janis, not even for a moment. We have all since learned, from watching him work in the pros – Janis is no Julio Jones.
When I saw Tyrell Williams register Julio/Janis-like measurables at his Pro Day, I assumed it was a Janis-like head fake. Williams was not invited to the 2015 Senior Bowl or NFL Combine. His best season at Western Oregon: 56 catches for 950 yards and eight TDs. Another guy not dominating inferior competition, just like Janis, I thought. My mind was already made up before I even turned on Williams’s college tape. However, given the radical athleticism numbers, I had to do my due diligence.
Within watching a few plays of Williams’ highlight reel, I knew this wasn’t a joke/another Janis story. Williams looked and moved like an NFL wide receiver. Scratch that – he moved and looked like an NFL star wide receiver. I remember watching Janis’s tape and thinking he didn’t stand out among the other wide receivers on his own college team. I recall watching Williams on tape, and instantly recognizing he was better than everyone else on the field…and it wasn’t even close. He has a certain ‘it’ factor. I left the tape study screaming/wondering why his team didn’t try to get him the ball more. Western Oregon had a limited passing game, and they loved to spread the ball around short. Williams was open all the time, but the quarterback wasn’t even looking his direction as often as he should have been. Williams was used as a downfield threat who opened up things underneath. On another team, with a different quarterback and offense, pushed as THE (only) focal point, Williams probably would have broken records for performance.
The measurables don’t lie with Williams. He is ‘that fast’ with high-end agility and vertical. He can accelerate past defenders with the greatest of ease…almost as if he isn’t trying. Think that’s typical hype? Watch for yourself from his rookie preseason.
If you watched the video above, the announcer makes a comment at the end that Williams had a couple of drops prior to his impressive touchdown. I watched him in that preseason game, and remember it well, and the announcer’s comment. He dropped a pass…a rattled rookie moment, and later didn’t make what would’ve been a great catch that he had fingers on. The ‘drops’ comment was a little unfair because he made several ‘wow’ catches in the preseason. From college to the NFL preseason, Williams displayed very good-to-great hands. He’s a great high-point catcher of the ball, and can make all the catches.
Williams ‘has it all,’ but is small-school raw. He needed to add a few pounds of muscle, like many small-school WR prospects entering the league, and he has bulked up nicely the past two years. He has been lauded for his hard work and dedication to his craft by his coaches. Williams was undrafted, and was cut by the Chargers in 2015, but the other 31 asleep-at-the-wheel personnel departments did not pounce, and Williams went onto the Chargers’ practice squad. Eventually, he was activated to the main roster. Here was his first catch as a pro last season – not a bad debut moment.
This offseason, when Travis Benjamin was unable to practice, it was Williams who stepped in and took the first-team reps in his stead. When Stevie Johnson tore his meniscus it was Williams stepping up again. The Chargers can sign James Jones all they want. Jones, on his best day, is not as talented as Williams is. It will be beyond obvious to anyone watching that Williams is ready to ascend to a starting role over the likes of James Jones. Recent training camp reports have been raving about Williams’s work with the first team this past week.
You might wonder, for fantasy, if Williams would actually get looks in games from Philip Rivers, a quarterback who only has eyes for Gates-Allen-Woodhead. Reasonable question. It’s a risk, but I would point to a few years ago when the Chargers rolled the dice on gifted but always injured 6′5″/220-pound Danario Alexander. If you recall, Alexander was an instant success, a WR1 as soon as he got onto the field in 2012 (scoring seven TDs in his final eight games of 2012, before injury took him away for good). There’s some hope Williams could have the same instant impact with Rivers – which might also cut into the fantasy ceiling for Keenan Allen.
The fantasy price of Williams won’t get much better than right now. He’s the 135th ranked PPR wide receiver among the FantasyPros experts as of this writing, just a few spots behind Dwayne Bowe. Williams does not crack the current top 300 ranked overall players on FantasyPros. He’s among our top 75 ranked PPR wide receivers on my latest 2016 draft guide rankings.
These low prices will not last for long…they may not last past the first 2016 preseason game.