Dynasty Players to Acquire Before Free Agency: Tyrell Williams

by Josh Brickner | @joshbrickner | Featured Writer
Feb 13, 2019

Tyrell Williams could blossom into a fantasy WR2 if he finds the right spot in free agency.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” – Helen Keller

“…If there is no risk, there is no reward.” – Christy Raedeke

“Fortune favors the bold.” – Virgil

These quotations are helpful in giving someone that final nudge to do something bold, which could become fruitful in the future. In the lead-up to NFL free agency, smart and savvy dynasty owners need to take calculated risks in acquiring players who may find a new home. Think of it in terms of the stock market; you want to acquire a commodity (player) at value before the situation changes and said stock skyrockets in value. Buy the right players in February and you’ll be looking at a roster full of coveted dynasty assets come spring and summer.

Today, we will look at Los Angeles wide receiver Tyrell Williams. The unrestricted free agent would see huge gains in his dynasty worth by signing with the right team. Before we take a look at these preferred destinations, let’s examine his career thus far.

Early Career (2015-2018)

After being activated off the Chargers’ practice squad in November 2015, the undrafted free agent out of Western Oregon made a minimal impact in his rookie season. Williams appeared in only four games, converting five targets into two receptions, 90 yards, and a single touchdown. It appeared that it would take a horrific injury to those above him on the depth chart to make an impact.

Unfortunately for both the Chargers faithful and dynasty owners, superstar receiver Keenan Allen tore his ACL in Week 1 and was lost for the season. Allen’s untimely setback opened up an opportunity for the second-year wide receiver to put his abilities on full display. Williams led the Chargers in targets (119), receptions (69), receiving yards (1,059), and touchdowns (seven) while finishing as WR18 in PPR scoring.

Those expecting a duplication of the 2016 production were dealt a serious blow when Los Angeles drafted receiver Mike Williams out of Clemson seventh overall in 2017. Allen fully recovered from his injury, relegating Tyrell Williams back to WR2 status. He finished second on the team in receiving yards (728) and touchdowns (four), but finished third in targets (69), fourth in receptions (43), and ended the campaign as WR43.

Mike Williams spent the majority of his rookie season in 2017 (11/95/0) recovering from a back injury. The Clemson product’s return to full health in 2018 (43/664/10, WR30) came at the expense of the fourth year Chargers receiver’s fantasy value (41/653/5, WR46). The Western Oregon alum had an amazing three-week run in Weeks 5-7, where he caught 10 of 11 targets for 302 yards and three touchdowns while averaging 27.45 yards per catch. Yet, both this high yards per catch rate and his lack of consistent production throughout the rest of the season (only one other game with over 50 receiving yards) have Williams incorrectly labeled by some as only a deep threat.

Opportunity is King

Tyrell Williams is a talented player, but, outside of 2016, has not gotten a chance to put said talent on display. A successful fantasy football player not only needs the talent to succeed but the opportunity to do so. The Division II product feels he took his game to the next level in 2018 and is a WR1. Given the sad state of the WR free-agent market, Williams should have plenty of potential suitors to choose from come early March.

Which teams offer the 6’4″ speedster (4.48 forty yard dash) the best chance to resurrect his dynasty value? I will look at historical data of the offensive play-callers at three potential landing spots that will offer him an opportunity for fantasy success.

Preferred Landing Spot #3: New England Patriots

NE WR1s & Gronk Target Share 2015-2018
Year Player Targets Target Share Recs Rec Yards TD Fantasy Finish Gronk Tgt Share
2015 Julian Edelman 88 14.1% 61 692 7 WR35 19.2%
2016 Julian Edelman 159 29.1% 98 1,106 3 WR14 6.9%
2017 Brandin Cooks 114 19.5% 65 1,082 7 WR15 17.9%
2018 Julian Edelman 108 19.4% 74 850 6 WR21 12.9%
Avg Per Season 117.3 20.5% 74.5 932.5 5.8 WR21 *14.2%
*16.6% sans 2016

This destination is based on Rob Gronkowski retiring and Tom Brady not. Yes, I watched the Super Bowl and saw Julian Edelman’s MVP performance. However, the former Kent State quarterback isn’t getting any younger at 32 years old and could miss some games in 2019. As a Browns fan, I know counting on Josh Gordon for anything but local sports talk radio fodder is a risky proposition. Chris Hogan (55/35/532/3) and Phillip Dorsett (42/32/290/3) are nice complementary pieces but lack the ability to be the game-breaking wide receiver Brady covets.

Tyrell Williams could not usurp Edelman as WR1 and still have dynasty value in New England. Gronk hanging up his cleats leaves not only a void of nearly 15% of the team’s targets from the last four seasons, but he and the WR1 have averaged 34.7% of the team’s targets in that same timespan. No matter his chemistry with his GOAT quarterback, Edelman will not see over 20% of New England’s targets next season. I envision a scenario where both men see around 17% of the passes coming to their direction with Williams finishing in the WR20-24 range.

Preferred Landing Spot #2: Oakland Las Vegas ? Raiders

Jon Gruden WR1s 2005-2008
Year Player Targets Target Share Receptions Receiving Yards Touchdowns Fantasy Finish
2005 Joey Galloway 152 31.8% 83 1,287 10 WR7
2006 Joey Galloway 143 27.0% 62 1,057 7 WR20
2007 Joey Galloway 98 20.5% 57 1,014 6 WR25
2008 Antonio Bryant 138 25.1% 83 1,248 7 WR9
Avg Per Season 132.8 26.1% 71.3 1151.5 7.5 WR15

Learning Joey Galloway was in his mid-late thirties (34-36) when he produced the three-year run above helps to explain why Jon Gruden signed Jordy Nelson last offseason. Sadly for Raider Nation, the 33-year-old Nelson was a shell of his former self (63/739/3) sans Aaron Rodgers and has an out in his contract for 2019. Tight end Jared Cook (68/896/6) paced the team in all receiving categories in 2018, and the Pro-Bowler might not return in 2019.

This desired landing spot centers around the “volume is king” argument, as Williams may get his wish to be Oakland’s WR1. His only competition for alpha dog status would be the underwhelming Seth Roberts and/or a neophyte rookie wideout. In Gruden’s preferred offense, he will pepper the leading receiver with a lion’s share (26%) of targets leading to top-25 fantasy value. Why Gruden failed to make Amari Cooper fantasy relevant is still a mystery, but look for the old-school coach to learn from last season’s mistakes.

Those with dynasty shares of Williams would immediately see his value jump from a boom-or-bust WR3 or bye-week replacement to a locked-in WR2 based on target share alone. If he doesn’t mind a multi-year rebuilding effort (or possibly playing his home games in the parking garage of a Las Vegas resort in 2019), he could become a nucleus of the Raiders’ young core.

Preferred Landing Spot #1: New Orleans Saints

New Orleans WR1/WR2 & Kamara Target Share 2015-2018
Year WR1/WR2 Targets Target Share Recs Rec Yards Touchdowns Fantasy Finish Kamara Tgt Share
2015 Brandin Cooks 129 19.4% 84 1,138 9 WR14 N/A
2015 Willie Snead 101 15.2% 69 984 3 WR32 N/A
2016 Michael Thomas 121 18.2% 92 1,137 9 WR7 N/A
2016 Brandin Cooks 117 17.6% 78 1,173 8 WR11 N/A
2017 Michael Thomas 149 28.2% 104 1,245 5 WR6 18.90%
2017 Ted Ginn 70 13.2% 53 787 4 WR34
2018 Michael Thomas 147 28.7% 125 1,405 9 WR6 20.50%
2018 Tre’Quan Smith 44 8.60% 28 427 5 WR72
WR1 Avg Per Season 136.5 23.6% 101.3 1,231.3 8.0 WR8 19.7%
WR2 Avg Per Season 83.0 13.7% 57.0 842.8 5.0 WR37 19.7%

The Saints’ search for a reliable WR2 to complement Michael Thomas has been ongoing since 2016 when the team traded Brandin Cooks. Cameron Meredith only appeared in six games due to injury and could be a cap cut casualty. Dez Bryant tore his Achilles in practice just a few days after signing, and his football future is uncertain. Tre’Quan Smith went six games without a single catch in an uneven rookie season (44/28/427/5). I can’t imagine a team hungry to win the Super Bowl would trust that kind of inconsistency.

Williams would play second fiddle to the All-Pro Thomas, but he would be on arguably the league’s best team with the inroad to be a fake football starter. At first glance, the above table might demonstrate Alvin Kamara has become the defacto WR2 in the Big Easy, making it an undesirable landing spot for our hero. Yet, looking deeper at historical data tells us that’s not the case.

New Orleans Leading Receivers & Sproles Target Share 2011-2012
Year WR1/WR2 Targets Target Share Recs Rec Yards TDs Fantasy Finish Sproles Targ Share
2011 Jimmy Graham 149 22.7% 99 1,310 11 WR3 16.9%
2011 Marques Colston 107 16.3% 80 1,143 8 WR10 16.9%
2012 Jimmy Graham 135 20.5% 85 982 9 WR16 15.8%
2012 Marques Colston 130 19.80% 83 1,154 10 WR13 15.8%
WR1 Avg Per Season 142 21.6% 92 1146 10 WR9 19.70%
WR2 Avg Per Season 118.5 18.1% 81.5 1148.5 9 WR12 19.70%

The Saints’ offensive attack is not only capable of supporting two starting fantasy wideouts and a pass-catching running back, but it can be argued this is when it’s at its best. In the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Jimmy Graham was the team’s de-facto WR1. Colston thrived at WR2 while focusing defensive attention away from Graham, and Darren Sproles was a master of leaking out of the backfield to turn a five-yard gain into 20 (sound familiar?). Thomas would remain the unquestioned leader of this WR corps, and Williams would represent the best talent lining up across from him since Cooks. The former Buckeye would remain a top-three fantasy wideout while his potential new teammate should finish in the WR15-20 range.

Dynasty/Trade Value

Per Mike Tagliere’s January dynasty trade value chart, Tyrell Williams has a value score of 14, which is comparable to fellow receivers Marqise Lee, Paul Richardson, David Moore, and Devin Funchess. If you own any of the above players, dangle them in a trade for the free-agent wideout. He’s been acquired for on the cheap end for a third-round rookie pick, and, depending on the competitiveness of your league and the other owner’s intelligence in negotiations, you shouldn’t be required to pay top dollar prior to free agency.

Williams’ dynasty stock rose from October to November after his three-game run but has remained stagnant ever since. I attempted to trade him and Kyle Rudolph for David Njoku at the end of October and was Mutumbo’d quickly. Take the risk and make a buy-low offer for Williams immediately. Given the correct landing spot, you could bolster your dynasty squad by adding another WR2 or selling him at a much higher cost than you paid to acquire him.

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Josh Brickner is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @joshbrickner.

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