Jonathan Williams: Priority Waiver Wire Pickup for Week 12
Another week in the NFL and we have more new faces who will be gracing the top spot of waiver adds this week. Unfortunately for Marlon Mack owners, this week’s priority add comes at a cost to you as the stud RB was knocked out of last week’s game with a broken hand. If you have been desperately scouring the waiver wire for RB adds each week though and keep coming up short, maybe this is your week!
Any RB in the NFL who has the potential to fall into significant volume will become a fantasy-relevant player to some extent. This week, that man is Colts backup RB Jonathan Williams. We will dive into who Jonathan Williams is as a player, what the state of the Colts offense is, and what you can expect from Williams going forward.
Jonathan Williams is in his third active year as a member of an NFL team. He played his college ball at Arkansas where his best year on record was his junior season where he compiled 1,190 rushing yards and 12 rushing TDs on 211 carries while adding 11-65-2 as a receiver that season. He split the backfield in a near dead-even share and resulted in nearly identical results with former Ravens RB Alex Collins. Chargers TE Hunter Henry and sudden Broncos starting QB Brandon Allen were also notable teammates of his there. Without solid options in the passing game, the duo of Williams and Collins carried that team when it came to yards from scrimmage and TDs.
Williams was drafted in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. After getting drafted by the Bills, Williams struggled to find the field in 2016 which was a season that saw LeSean McCoy produce 1,623 yards from scrimmage and earn Pro-Bowl honors for the fifth time in his career. Williams also found himself behind Mike Gillislee and Tyrod Taylor when it came to rushing production and opportunity on that team as the two combined for 196 carries and 1,157 rushing yards on the team that finished with a 7-9 record. Williams never had more than five carries in a game for the Bills and never ran for more than 26 yards in a game with them, so there isn’t a legitimate sample size there.
He was cut by the Bills in 2017 and found a home with the Broncos as a practice squad member before moving over to the Saints, but he never saw the field for a snap with either team that season. He had a stint of being cut, added, and activated with the Saints in 2018 and only saw the field for one carry in each of the team’s first three games that amounted to zero rushing yards and caught one catch for one yard. Again, no sample size there to judge NFL-caliber of play.
Now with the Colts, Williams has been active for three games this season and saw double-digit touches for the first time in his career last week after Marlon Mack left the game. Williams totaled 116 yards on 13 carries (8.9 YPA) and took one pass for 31 yards against a Jaguars team who has been vulnerable against the run this season and was already getting carved up by Mack all day. With Mack known to miss at least one game and potentially more, Williams could slide into that early-down role but will have some competition if Jordan Wilkins is officially ready for action after missing Week 11 with an injury of his own.
State of the Offense
The Colts have made do without Andrew Luck this season as Jacoby Brissett has been a competent game manager and assisted in leading the team to a 6-4 record as the top team in the AFC South. The Colts rank fourth in both rushing attempts and rushing yards this season which bodes well for whichever back becomes the incumbent to Mack. The team is averaging 22.7 PPG which puts them squarely in the middle of the pack this season.
Heading into Week 11, Marlon Mack had found himself ranked as the RB15 in half PPR scoring formats this season. While this could partially be attributed to his 178 carries this season ranking fifth-most in the league and his offensive line being one of the best in the league, it is also due to him ranking top 10 in evaded tackles, yards created, and breakaway runs according to Player Profiler. It is hard to say that Williams can offer the same efficiency as Mack has this season, but he did last week. Also, if you are one to weigh draft capital heavily in your opinion of a player’s potential, Mack was just a fourth-round pick himself in 2017.
The elephant in the room and the primary obstacles for Williams to carve out value in Mack’s absence is pretty straight forward. He needs to beat out Jordan Wilkins who, if active, will likely be less than 100% and he needs the team to commit to keeping Nyheim Hines in primarily a pass-catching role. This is pretty much expected, though coach Frank Reich did mention Hines could see more carries going forward as well.
Williams has health on his side over Wilkins, but Wilkins has a fairly impressive two seasons worth of carries as Mack’s primary backup toting a 5.8 YPA career average. Wilkins was officially the primary backup to Mack as well, but as mentioned, it will rely on him being able to come back healthy to beat out Williams for the lead role at the moment. That will be all the more difficult immediately as the team has a quick turnaround with the Texans on tap for a Thursday night showdown this week. That matchup looks better now than it did a week ago after the Ravens just ran for 263 yards as a team against them, though that offense is operating on an entirely different level than the Colts right now.
The rest of season outlook for the Colts isn’t exactly a cakewalk either according to our strength of schedule chart which ranks to Colts RB matchups right around top 10 for most difficult. Our matchup calendar shows games against the Bucs and the Saints as matchups to avoid in Weeks 14 and 15, the most crucial of weeks for fantasy football fans being the playoffs for most.
This makes Williams tough to swallow has a player to drop a ton of your remaining FAAB on, but we are quickly running out of regular-season action here from a fantasy perspective and that FAAB isn’t going to do you any good if you can’t make the playoffs. Williams and Wilkins are equally worth about 10%-20% of your remaining FAAB depending on your need at RB. If you are in leagues with a rotating waiver priority, I would give Williams the slight advantage right now based on known health, but if we get glowing reports on Wilkins’ abilities late on Tuesday after practice, they would be about dead even for me.
Nyheim Hines, who is also only about 17% owned in Yahoo leagues, is worth a stash especially in PPR formats as the tougher upcoming matchups could lead to more game scripts that could benefit him as a pass-catcher. The Saints especially have given up a receiving TD to an RB in each of their last two games.