Way back in 2016 while with the Los Angeles Chargers, he posted 69 receptions on 119 targets for 1,059 yards and seven scores. That year, he began the season as the No. 3 receiver before Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson (who I barely even remember being on the Chargers) were both placed on injured reserve. Pushed up into the No. 1 WR role, Williams didn’t miss a beat. Then, the last three seasons happened and Williams, while solid on the field, has provided very little for fantasy fans.
At 6’4” and 205 lbs, Williams is your classic split end receiver. He has size and length which he uses at the line of scrimmage to gain an advantage. As the player lining up to the widest side of the field, he will often find himself out on an island, going toe-to-toe against single press-man coverage. There’s going to be hand-fighting, jostling for position. Ideally, when the Raiders are in the red zone, Williams has to be the guy.
When things didn’t pan out with Antonio Brown, many assumed Williams would step up to be the Raiders WR1 and a viable fantasy option. He was, for a moment, by scoring a touchdown in each of the first four weeks of the 2019 season. Unfortunately, he injured his foot and missed the next two games. After scoring another TD in his first game back, the rest of the season petered out for him. In 14 games, he finished with 42 receptions on 64 targets for 651 yards and just six touchdowns.
Foot injuries can derail seasons. At a position where you need to get in and out of breaks, create separation and jump to make a living, it’s understandable and entirely possible that Williams’ injured foot was never quite right all year long.
I’m a big believer that if you can do it once, you can do it again. With that in mind, I’m not worried about the arrival of rookie receiver Henry Ruggs III. Like just about any rookie out there, the hype is in full force. Raiders reporter Hondo S. Carpenter Sr. noted in a recent article that NFL Network analyst Nate Burleson was a big Ruggs fan:
"I am going with the Raiders new wide receiver Henry Ruggs III. If you think about the impact that Tyreek Hill has had on the Chiefs, he is just a special player," Burleson said. "You can't coach speed. In the six years that Derek Carr has been in the league, he has 11 passes for over 50 yards for a TD (Touchdown). That is pretty wild. He should double that, this year with Tyrell Williams, Darren Waller, and now Henry Ruggs."
Burleson was not done with his praise for the rookie speedster.
"And here is the thing. He had an 87-yard TD to Amari Cooper, back when Cooper was still on the Raiders. I guarantee that Henry Ruggs has a 90-plus yard TD this season. I got Henry Ruggs, making a big impact."
As mentioned, Williams is a split end and Ruggs is your classic flanker: undersized, speedy. You put him in motion before the snap and let the guy do his work to find seams and put pressure on the defense. His ability to take the top off will only serve to open up the offense for guys like Williams and Darren Waller.
Williams has plenty of experience being the No. 1 receiver and even if Ruggs hits the ground running, this is going to be a relatively balanced offense. The biggest boost it will enjoy is improved efficiency. More first downs mean more plays. Fantasy football is all about opportunity.
Williams is at best the third-best fantasy option in the Raiders’ offense behind Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller. I’m imagining defenses throwing the kitchen sink at those guys every week, which affords Williams the opportunity to step up against a lot of single coverage.
With his ADP at 162, he’s a freebie flier at the end of most drafts and the 61st receiver off the board. Although Waller will likely finish with better numbers, Williams is the Raiders No. 1 receiver and that’s a rarity to find for the WR5 or WR6 spot on your fantasy roster.