Do something extraordinary! As the 7th overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft season, Mike Williams was expected to be a breakout success for the Los Angeles Chargers. The Clemson product, rated not less than the third-best by any NFL draft ranking source and the overall number one ranked wide receiver in the draft by ESPN, Mike Williams’ $19.74 million contract and $12.50 million signing bonus may have drawn a bit of concern for the Chargers after Williams’ rookie season. His season was riddled with back and knee injuries and left him with only 11 receptions for 95 yards.
Returning as the 4th receiver on the depth chart, Mike Williams had to prove himself while sitting behind Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin. His preseason performances showed many bright spots for the monster receiver’s ability to stretch the field and attack the rock. But, gaining the trust of Charger’s Quarterback, Phillip Rivers, is the true determinant of whether Williams will be a star in this league.
Lo and behold, he’s back! In week two of the 2018 season, Williams recorded his first professional touchdown in the 31–20 victory over the Buffalo Bills. And that’s where it all got started. In his next game, the following week against the Los Angeles Rams, Williams set it off with four receptions for 81 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Through three games, Williams already has 11 receptions for 189 receiving yards and three touchdowns, garnering more involvement in the Chargers’ offense and the opportunity to start opposite Keenan Allen.
Who Is Mike Williams?
Hailing from Lake Marion High School & Technology Center in Santee, South Carolina, this four-star prospect was a basketball player turned wide-receiver. Believe it or not, Williams had to be convinced by the local high school coach to give football a try. With a rough start on the JV team, the coaches recognized that Williams’ 6-foot-3 frame with long limbs made him a prime candidate to be molded into a dynamic receiver. By his junior year, Williams began to realize his potential, catching 65 passes for 1,269 yards and scoring 12 touchdowns. That is when the recruiting calls started.
As scouts compared him to other long, athletic receivers from South Carolina who went on to productive college and NFL careers, Williams held firm to his basketball dreams, continuing to play year-round. After recording 1,395 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior, Williams was rated by Rivals.com as the third-ranked high school player in the state, and 37th in the nation. He must have been convinced that football was his number one sport. In July 2012, Williams became the 13th high school recruit to commit to extending his football career with the Clemson University Tigers.
Playing as a true freshman, Williams contributed in all 13 games and made three starts. He ended his first season with 20 receptions for 316 yards and three touchdowns. The next year, as a sophomore, Williams started in every game. He finished the year with 57 receptions for 1,030 yards and 6 touchdowns.
In the first game of 2015, after a collision with the goalpost, while attempting to catch a touchdown pass from quarterback Deshaun Watson, Williams fractured a bone in his neck and sat out the rest of the season with red-shirt status.
The following year, Williams had a breakout season as a red-shirt junior. Back in his previous role, Williams started all 15 games for Clemson, recording team highs with 98 receptions, 1361 yards, and 11 touchdowns. His hard work and results were further evidenced as he became Clemson’s top target on daring slants out of the slot and intermediate passes on third down.
Williams, after completing his degree in Sociology, decided that he would forgo his senior year and enter the 2017 NFL Draft.
Drafted as an offensive weapon for his skill set and great body control, Williams was not considered by the Chargers as the best receiver for after the catch yardage or at creating separation. They realized this player would need to evolve into the receiver role, outside of the Clemson standard of play, in order to make him an impact player for their program. However, a lower-back disc herniation left Williams’ status unclear and on the unable to perform list, causing him to miss the Chargers Training Camp and in possible need of back surgery.
Why Do the Chargers Need Mike Williams?
Making no excuses for the challenges of his rookie season, Mike Williams returns to the Chargers hellbent on shutting down any concerns about his abilities and intentions. At 6 foot 4 and 220lbs, his big body and wide arm radius make Williams a receiver that allows Rivers to just throw the ball in his direction and know that he is going to get up and bring the ball back down.
With Keenan Allen, some might say Williams is just another ornament on the tree. Obviously, he has the size, speed, and strength to be a headline player in the Charger’s offense. But, what the Chargers need is the other important quality, which is the ability to stay on the field. So far, Williams is proving that he can be that man. His preseason performance showed that he can easily get open against his own defense, run shallow crossing routes, curls, and the complete route tree. Some of these skills are new to Williams as we didn’t see him run this range of patterns at Clemson.
And don’t overlook finishing the 35-23 loss to the Los Angeles Rams with four catches for 81 yards and two touchdowns; it clearly shows Williams has been the open target on the field for Rivers. And, that’s not all. All three of Williams’ scores this season have been on tight window throws with a yard or less of separation.
There’s more. The Chargers need a true red zone target. What an opportunity! Williams has to be that man. With injury and contract issues of other players, like Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates, who accounted for a combined 75 receptions for 895 rushing yards and seven touchdowns last season, there is a definite void on the field. Williams has the opportunity to step into this key role, make the big plays, and capitalize on this vacant opportunity to be a dominant playmaker and make the contested catches in the red zone.
Right now, Williams is fired up about his performance and potential. If he can remain explosive, continue to out-jump his opponent, and maintain his consistency in the game and not be a boom-or-bust deep threat, Mike Williams will prove himself to be an essential component to the Chargers football program.
Mike Williams’ Stats
#81 of the Los Angeles Chargers currently holds the following stats:
REGULAR SEASON GAMES RECEIVING RUSHING FUMBLES
WK Game Date Opp Result G GS Rec Yds Avg Lng TD Att Yds Avg Lng TD FUM Lost
1 09/09 KC L 28-38 1 0 5 81 16.2 25 0 — — — — — — —
2 09/16 @ BUF W 31-20 1 1 2 27 13.5 17 1 — — — — — — —
3 09/23 @ LA L 23-35 1 0 4 81 20.3 42T 2 — — — — — — —
4 09/30 SF W 29-27 1 0 1 15 15.0 15 0 — — — — — — —
5 10/07 OAK W 26-10 1 1 3 45 15.0 26 0 1 3 3.0 3 0 — —
6 10/14 @ CLE W 38-14 1 0 1 4 4.0 4 0 1 10 10.0 10 0 — —
7 10/21 TEN W 20-19 1 0 1 55 55.0 55T 1 1 3 3.0 3 0 — —
8 Bye — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
9 11/04 @ SEA W 25-17 1 0 1 30 30.0 30T 1 — — — — — — —
10 11/11 @ OAK W 20-6 1 0 — — — — — 1 0 0.0 0 0 — —
11 11/18 DEN L 22-23 1 0 2 56 28.0 29 0 — — — — — — —
TOTAL 10 2 20 394 19.7 55 5 4 16 4.0 10 0
It leaves the question for sports fans analysts, as it relates to Mike Williams, “will he do something extraordinary?” This player has definitely got us on the fence, leaving many unable to definitively answer that question. You want to look at his track record and unequivocally say that he is the man. Yes, he was a top-rated high school player with a lot of upside due to his focus on basketball rather than football. And yes, Williams was a standout wide-receiver and the go-to man for Clemson in contested situations. While his rookie season was a bust, his second-year preseason performances have shown great promise.
However, once again, it’s Williams’ consistency that will be the true determinant of his impact. Not only does he need to stay consistently healthy, but his on-field performance has to show a consistently high level of play and the ability to connect with Rivers at big moments in play action. One thing is for sure; if Mike Williams is able to step up and fill the expectations that Chargers’ owners had when they drafted him as the 7th overall pick, boy are we in for some good football!