Can Mike Williams avoid the sophomore slump?

M. Williams Availability by Pick

It’s not often that a rookie wide receiver has the kind of year that Mike Williams had in 2010. The Tampa Bay wideout caught 65 passes for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns, and finished WR16 in PPR formats. To put his year in perspective, here is a list of the 16 other receivers that had at least 75% of Williams’ catches and yards in their rookie seasons since 1990. The cutoffs are 48 receptions, 723 yards and five TDs. (I set the bar a little lower for TDs to increase the sample size.)

Player Year Age Tm G GS Rec Yds Y/R TD Y/G FP (Std) FP (PPR)
Randy Moss 1998 21 MIN 16 11 69 1313 19.0 17 82.1 14.6 18.9
Anquan Boldin 2003 23 ARI 16 16 101 1377 13.6 8 86.1 11.6 17.9
Terry Glenn 1996 22 NE 15 15 90 1132 12.6 6 75.5 9.9 15.9
Marques Colston 2006 23 NO 14 12 70 1038 14.8 8 74.1 10.8 15.8
Michael Clayton 2004 22 TB 16 13 80 1193 14.9 7 74.6 10.1 15.1
Eddie Royal 2008 22 DEN 15 15 91 980 10.8 5 65.3 8.5 14.6
Mike Williams 2010 23 TB 16 16 65 964 14.8 11 60.3 10.2 14.2
Keyshawn Johnson 1996 24 NYJ 14 11 63 844 13.4 8 60.3 9.5 14.0
Eddie Kennison 1996 23 STL 15 14 54 924 17.1 9 61.6 9.8 13.4
Joey Galloway 1995 24 SEA 16 16 67 1039 15.5 7 64.9 9.1 13.3
Kevin Johnson 1999 23 CLE 16 16 66 986 14.9 8 61.6 9.2 13.3
Roy Williams 2004 23 DET 14 12 54 817 15.1 8 58.4 9.3 13.1
Dwayne Bowe 2007 23 KC 16 15 70 995 14.2 5 62.2 8.1 12.5
Marvin Harrison 1996 24 IND 16 15 64 836 13.1 8 52.3 8.2 12.2
Percy Harvin 2009 21 MIN 15 8 60 790 13.2 6 52.7 7.7 11.7
Larry Fitzgerald 2004 21 ARI 16 16 58 780 13.5 8 48.8 7.9 11.5
Torry Holt 1999 23 STL 16 15 52 788 15.2 6 49.3 7.2 10.4

So Williams had arguably the 7th most impressive rookie season of any wideout since 1990. But what does this mean for 2011? Here’s a look at how these 16 players did in their sophomore seasons.

Player Year Age Tm G GS Rec Yds Y/R TD Y/G FP (Std) FP (PPR)
Randy Moss 1999 22 MIN 16 16 80 1413 17.7 11 88.3 13.0 18.0
Anquan Boldin 2004 24 ARI 10 9 56 623 11.1 1 62.3 6.8 12.4
Terry Glenn 1997 23 NE 9 9 27 431 16.0 2 47.9 6.1 9.1
Marques Colston 2007 24 NO 16 14 98 1202 12.3 11 75.1 11.6 17.8
Michael Clayton 2005 23 TB 14 10 32 372 11.6 0 26.6 2.7 4.9
Eddie Royal 2009 23 DEN 14 12 37 345 9.3 0 24.6 2.5 5.1
Keyshawn Johnson 1997 25 NYJ 16 16 70 963 13.8 5 60.2 7.9 12.3
Eddie Kennison 1997 24 STL 14 9 25 404 16.2 0 28.9 2.9 4.7
Joey Galloway 1996 25 SEA 16 16 57 987 17.3 7 61.7 8.8 12.4
Kevin Johnson 2000 24 CLE 16 16 57 669 11.7 0 41.8 4.2 7.7
Roy Williams 2005 24 DET 13 12 45 687 15.3 8 52.8 9.0 12.4
Dwayne Bowe 2008 24 KC 16 16 86 1022 11.9 7 63.9 9.0 14.4
Marvin Harrison 1997 25 IND 16 15 73 866 11.9 6 54.1 7.7 12.2
Percy Harvin 2010 22 MIN 14 13 71 868 12.2 5 62 8.3 13.4
Larry Fitzgerald 2005 22 ARI 16 16 103 1409 13.7 10 88.1 12.6 19.0
Torry Holt 2000 24 STL 16 15 82 1635 19.9 6 102.2 12.5 17.6

Stats are nice, but let’s compare fantasy points year to year.

Player Rookie FP (Std) Rookie FP (PPR) Soph FP (Std) Soph FP (PPR) Diff (Std) Diff (PPR) Rookie QB Soph QB
Randy Moss 14.6 18.9 13.0 18.0 -11% -5% Cunningham George
Anquan Boldin 11.6 17.9 6.8 12.4 -41% -31% Blake McCown
Terry Glenn 9.9 15.9 6.1 9.1 -38% -43% Bledsoe Bledsoe
Marques Colston 10.8 15.8 11.6 17.8 7% 12% Brees Brees
Michael Clayton 10.1 15.1 2.7 4.9 -74% -67% Griese Simms
Eddie Royal 8.5 14.6 2.5 5.1 -71% -65% Cutler Orton
Keyshawn Johnson 9.5 14.0 7.9 12.3 -17% -12% Reich O'Donnell
Eddie Kennison 9.8 13.4 2.9 4.7 -70% -65% Banks Banks
Joey Galloway 9.1 13.3 8.8 12.4 -4% -7% Mirer Friesz
Kevin Johnson 9.2 13.3 4.2 7.7 -54% -42% Couch Couch
Roy Williams 9.3 13.1 9.0 12.4 -3% -5% Harrington Harrington
Dwayne Bowe 8.1 12.5 9.0 14.4 11% 15% Huard Thigpen
Marvin Harrison 8.2 12.2 7.7 12.2 -7% 0% Harbaugh Harbaugh
Percy Harvin 7.7 11.7 8.3 13.4 9% 15% Favre Favre
Larry Fitzgerald 7.9 11.5 12.6 19.0 59% 65% McCown Warner
Torry Holt 7.2 10.4 12.5 17.6 74% 69% Warner Warner
Average 9.5 14.0 7.8 12.1 -14% -10%    

On average, sophomore studs regressed 10% in PPR formats and 14% in standard formats. So there’s a sophomore slump, right? Not so fast. Take a look at those last two columns. I listed the team’s leading passer each year, and only eight of the 16 players had the same QB for both seasons. Consistency at QB is important for a WR, and Williams has stability with Josh Freeman under center.

Player Rookie FP (Std) Rookie FP (PPR) Soph FP (Std) Soph FP (PPR) Diff (Std) Diff (PPR) Rookie QB Soph QB
Terry Glenn 9.9 15.9 6.1 9.1 -38% -43% Bledsoe Bledsoe
Marques Colston 10.8 15.8 11.6 17.8 7% 12% Brees Brees
Eddie Kennison 9.8 13.4 2.9 4.7 -70% -65% Banks Banks
Kevin Johnson 9.2 13.3 4.2 7.7 -54% -42% Couch Couch
Roy Williams 9.3 13.1 9.0 12.4 -3% -5% Harrington Harrington
Marvin Harrison 8.2 12.2 7.7 12.2 -7% 0% Harbaugh Harbaugh
Percy Harvin 7.7 11.7 8.3 13.4 9% 15% Favre Favre
Torry Holt 7.2 10.4 12.5 17.6 74% 69% Warner Warner
Average 9.0 13.2 7.8 11.9 -10% -7%    

Players with consistency at QB saw a drop of 7% in PPR formats and 10% in standard leagues. But what about quality of QB play? As you can see, there are a few names on this list that aren’t exactly Hall of Fame caliber. Since Freeman looks like a 'good' QB, let’s just look at wideouts who had 'good' QBs throwing to them during their first two seasons.

Player Rookie FP (Std) Rookie FP (PPR) Soph FP (Std) Soph FP (PPR) Diff (Std) Diff (PPR) Rookie QB Soph QB
Terry Glenn 9.9 15.9 6.1 9.1 -38% -43% Bledsoe Bledsoe
Marques Colston 10.8 15.8 11.6 17.8 7% 12% Brees Brees
Percy Harvin 7.7 11.7 8.3 13.4 9% 15% Favre Favre
Torry Holt 7.2 10.4 12.5 17.6 74% 69% Warner Warner
Average 8.9 13.5 9.6 14.5 13% 13%    

Granted, a sample size of four is way too small to make any concrete conclusions, but on average, WRs in similar situations to Williams actually increased their production by 13% in their sophomore seasons. 4for4’s current rank for Williams (WR13) seems entirely reasonable. Looking at the Tampa Bay passing game as a whole, it should progress as Freeman grows in his role as franchise QB, and that should offset any threat that Arrelious Benn may pose as he returns from a knee injury. In fact, if Benn is healthy and productive, it may help the quality of Williams’ targets because the defense won’t be able to focus solely on him. Kellen Winslow is getting older, but he’s still a threat over the middle, which will only help to keep defenses honest. The only worry with Williams is that he may regress in the TD department, but he'll continue to be the Bucs' best option in the red zone. Utilizing the ADP Draft Planner, we can get an idea of what Williams’ availability will be on draft day. His ADP in PPR formats is currently 3.11 (WR13), so it appears that fantasy owners aren’t too worried about Williams regressing in his second season.

M. Williams Availability by Pick

He is a solid value at his current ADP and obviously becomes a good value if he’s still available in the 4th round. Given that the RBs available in the middle of the 3rd aren’t exactly without risk (Mathews, Best, Bradshaw), Williams appears to be a very safe option for those owners who went RB/RB in the first two rounds or are willing to wait until the 4th (or later) to take their second RB.

 

CONCLUSION

The potential is there for a sophomore slump, and that is the general trend for WRs who have a big impact in their rookie seasons. But since Williams enjoys consistency and good play from his QB, he has a great chance to progress in his second season and enter WR1 territory. Draft him with confidence in the 3rd.

Filed Under:
Preseason
,
2011

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