Have you ever ingested hallucinogenic chemicals and then tried to jump through a closed window because you thought a pack of wolves was closing in on you? Rhetorical question, I’m sure we’ve all experienced this same scenario. When it happened to me, I ended up in the ER with a large gash on my arm and very disappointed parents. On the plus side, those rabid wolves didn’t get me!
Point is, we don’t always make the best decisions when we’re young and stupid. Preston Williams—#89 in my Top 200 Dynasty Rankings for 2020 Fantasy Football—would likely attest to this. Let me back up a little and regale you with the story of Preston Williams.
In high school Williams was a Georgia state long-jump champion, two-time all-state football player and captain of the bible-study team. *checks notes* Not positive on that third one. But he was definitely a 5-star football recruit pursued by the SEC powerhouse schools before suffering a torn ACL in his senior season.
Williams landed at Tennessee where he got a late start after being forced to retake his college entrance exam. He played in a mostly underwhelming 3-games his freshman year and 4-games his sophomore year before transferring to Colorado State University midway through his second season at Tennessee.
Per NCAA transfer rules, Williams was forced to sit out the 2017 season at CSU. During this hiatus Williams was arrested for domestic violence and harassment after allegedly shoving an ex-girlfriend “several times.” If that wasn’t enough, he was then arrested again only three weeks later for violating a restraining order.
Many questioned whether Williams would ever play a snap at Colorado State; but he was able to work his way back from suspension, regain his coach’s trust, and get on the field for the 2018 season. And what a season it was—96 catches for 1,345 yards and 14 touchdowns—under the tutelage of wide receivers coach and former NFL wide-out, Alvin Whitted. The very same coach who helped mold a raw Michael Gallup into a perfectly-cooked filet Michael Gallup, prior to Preston Williams’ arrival.
Unfortunately for Williams, even this monstrous junior season wasn’t enough to tempt NFL GMs to dial his number at the 2019 NFL Draft. The black cloud of his 2017 arrests, combined with poor results at his pro-day workout and his exclusion from the draft combine due to his past issues with violence caused all 32 NFL teams to look the other way.
With a chip on his shoulder, Williams landed in Miami last year as an undrafted free-agent and wasted little time dazzling the fantasy world with bunches of highlight reel catches during the 2019 preseason. He didn’t slow much over the first eight weeks of the regular season, routinely making spectacular plays look easy.
Earlier this week I gave you my Dynasty Outlook for DeVante Parker, Williams’ teammate down in North Cuba. I won’t rehash the same quarterback and coaching staff narratives I outlined in this previous article, but in short: there’s plenty of reason for fantasy optimism in Miami for 2020 and beyond. Take a look at how Young Preston was stacking up against his counterpart, DeVante Parker, through eight weeks.
|2019 Weeks 1-8||DeVante Parker||Preston Williams|
|Weight||216 lbs||218 lbs|
|Average Targeted Air Yards (full season)||13.8||14.3|
It’s a somewhat eye-opening graphic when you consider Parker went on to post WR1 numbers at season’s end with Williams was out of the picture. By all accounts Williams is the younger, bigger, and—arguably—more exciting player.
I mentioned in the Parker article that DeVante, “finished the year 19th in Average Targeted Air Yards (TAY) with 13.8 air yards per target—meaning he ran a lot of deep routes, an obvious plus for fantasy production. He also landed at 14th in % Share of Team’s Air Yards (TAY%) at 33.11%—meaning he garnered a huge percentage of the Dolphins’ targeted yardage, another boon for fantasy production.” Williams was actually 13th in the league in TAY averaging 14.3 yards and had a 16.3% TAY% through only eight weeks.
So why did I rank Williams #89 and Parker #75 in my Top 200 Dynasty Rankings while it sounds like I think Williams is actually the better player? On top of the obvious collegiate character red flags, in week 8, Williams suffered a devastating (for him and my fantasy teams) torn ACL—he’s now torn his ACL in both knees—ending his breakout rookie campaign.
Fortunately, data suggests younger receivers have enjoyed a much higher success rate in returning from ACL injuries in recent years. The cases of Allen Robinson, Keenan Allen, Jeremy Maclin, Jordy Nelson and even Reggie Wayne provide reason for optimism. Counter point: none of those players tore the ligament in both of their knees. Counter-counter point: I’ve created a prayer hexagon for Williams because I’m excited to watch him develop in 2020 at full health. Not a valid counter-counter point? Bah! Well I’d still be buying the 22 year old aggressively in dynasty leagues, don’t fear the wolves.
All statistics sourced from ProFootballReference.com & NextGenStats.NFL.com