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Don’t Pass on Preston Williams

Preston Williams is no longer a well-kept secret.

He probably shouldn’t have been a well-kept secret in the first place. Williams was an exceptional college player, but some arrests and off-the-field issues led to him not receiving an invite to the NFL combine. While he had a solid pro day and arguably had the talent to be a first- or second-round pick, the potential for character issues scared off prospective teams and Williams went undrafted. Prior to the 2019 season he signed with Miami as an undrafted free agent, but no one expected much from him.

Williams surprised everyone by how well he performed. He worked hard in practice, made eye-catching plays in preseason, and earned his spot as a starter in week 1. Despite Miami’s “quarterback carousel” (he played 3 games with Josh Rosen as starter, 6 with Ryan Fitzpatrick), Williams led the team in targets on a week to week basis. His season came to an abrupt end in week 9, when he tore his ACL against the Jets. He finished the season with 60 targets, 32 catches for 428 yards, and 3 touchdowns.

While Williams was out, DeVante Parker had the opportunity to shine. Williams had mostly surpassed him in stats the first 9 weeks, but in his absence, Parker exploded. Parker finished the season with 76 targets, 72 catches, 1,202 yards, and 9 touchdowns.

Considering the circumstances, it’s natural that fantasy owners might pass on Preston Williams in favor of other players. Recovery from a knee injury is tough, and although he’s been cleared for football activities the Dolphins will likely have Williams on a snap count to start the season. His 2020 ADP is in the 11th round, and he’s currently being drafted as the WR53. However, I believe passing on Williams could be a mistake.

Despite returning from an injury, it’s very likely that Preston Williams will outperform his ADP. Last year, Miami threw to the wide receiver position 63% of the time and was 7th in the NFL in passing, averaging 39 attempts per game. It’s reasonable to expect the same numbers at minimum this upcoming season. When both receivers were sharing the field, Preston Williams averaged 6.2 targets per game to DeVante Parker’s 5.7. Parker will probably see more targets at first - after all, he’s not injured, and he had a record year - but because of his impressive last season he’ll probably see more double coverage. This will free up some targets for Williams, and it wouldn’t be surprising to eventually see the two wide receivers getting a similar target share per game.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that DeVante Parker had 4 poor fantasy seasons prior to 2019. He may have thrown up good numbers after Williams was sidelined, but he’s never been very consistent, nor has he played a full 16 games until 2019. He’s currently being drafted higher than Williams, but based on his history, fantasy owners shouldn’t count on him to replicate his numbers from last year.

The wide receivers will also benefit from an improved running game and offensive line. The Dolphins recently signed running back Jordan Howard in free agency and traded for Matt Breida, which should help open up the passing game. The offensive line was also upgraded, so the offense as a whole should improve.

The future is bright for Preston Williams. He’s moved forward admirably since his arrest and has shown that he’s extremely focused on football and honing his craft. He should be considered a WR3 to start the 2020 season with week to week upside, and it’s very probable that he’ll out-produce his ADP and pick up where he left off. He certainly has the talent to eventually be the Dolphins’ WR1, and it will be great to see him grow and build chemistry with Tua Tagovailoa. Dynasty owners should be holding shares of him as his value should rise during the season - and, hopefully, for seasons to come.


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