Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams did not have the rookie season anyone would have liked in 2017.
Williams was drafted with the seventh overall selection in the 2017 NFL draft. It was the first time the Chargers had taken a wide receiver in the top-10 of the draft.
(Yes, in the team’s draft history)
After missing all of the off-season programs and training camp as a rookie due to a disc herniation, the Clemson product struggled to settle into the offense during the regular season once healthy. It appeared to me that he was never fully healthy last season. But his lack of performance on Sundays was not solely due to injury.
Back in January, quarterback Philip Rivers seemed to convincingly sum up the rookie year of Mike Williams.
“He never seemed fully, fully comfortable, and I don’t know that it ever just had flow to it, you know, for him,” Rivers said via an article from LA Chargers beat writer Eric D. Williams. “I still think there’s a little bit of thinking that’s going on. It never felt like he was playing free.”
Rivers went on to talk about the importance of the 2018 off-season for Mike Williams in that same article on ESPN.com.
“This offseason will be huge for him,” Rivers said. “I’m excited about Mike. I think he’ll add a lot and bring a great impact to our offense. But this offseason will be huge for him, to get him healthy, all those OTAs, a full offseason program, weight room and running. Mike can add another dimension to our offense.”
Williams finished his rookie year with a paltry 11 receptions for 95 yards. Those numbers are incredibly underwhelming for a first-round pick, but he did miss six regular-season games.
As mentioned above, I am not entirely sure that Mike Williams was actually healthy in 2017. But I feel it’s far more important to take notice of the words of Rivers.
Make no mistake about it, the Chargers’ playbook is not easy to learn for pass-catching targets. When you miss extended time due to injury, keeping you off the field and really learning, the lack of effective play makes perfect sense.
The passing offense for the Bolts is full of option-routes, realignments and position switches for the receiving targets. Within seconds of coming out of the huddle, Rivers may change the position of multiple players. This forces even their most reliable and knowledgeable of targets to learn and know all positions and routes on any given play. Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt is a solid teacher, and Williams is in good hands with Whiz and the rest of the staff. An adjustment period should be expected for the 23-year-old.
Mike Williams’ success in his sophomore season will depend on a lot of factors. Should he manage to be healthy and involved in all facets of off-season work, we could see what he is capable of at this level.
My concern lies in what could be his lack of ability to separate from NFL defenders. Despite injuries and lack of time in off-season activities, that concern is real.
Williams does a great job of high-pointing the ball and using his body to shield off defenders as he attacks the ball. He was seen to be a threat in the red zone and on third-down situations in college. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, his frame and size lend itself to that being a strength in the NFL.
I think it’s safe to say that Mike Williams will improve in his second year. Improving upon 11 receptions is certainly not too tall a task.
Receiving targets like Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams and Hunter Henry allow the second-year player time to ease in to the scheme. Though fans want production immediately, expect a slow start for No. 81. Look for Mike Williams to haul in roughly 45 receptions for 490 yards and six scores in 2018. In comparison to his rookie season, those numbers would be a welcomed sight for all.
In conclusion, do not close the book on Williams and declare him a bust.
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