We are at an interesting point in the season, with Week 5 is in the books- and for the Chargers who is their lead WR Mike Williams or Keenan Allen? Trends are starting to emerge in front of us. As fantasy football players, we have to decide which of them we think are going to stick. It’s really key to make sure that you’re ahead of the curve with a potential breakout. If you hit on James Robinson last year, you were able to identify that early-season production was correlating with future production. But this is really tough to do. With a limited data set, it’s important to make sure that we can use the evidence in front of us to inform our decisions.
The Case for Williams
Mike Williams is currently the number one wide receiver in fantasy football. Williams has always been a boom or bust player, with elite size, strength, and speed, but a tendency to be incredibly inconsistent. This year, that hasn’t been the case.
In half PPR leagues, he’s averaging 20.1 points per game. He’s caught 31 passes for 471 yards and 6 touchdowns. Extrapolated over the season, that’s a pace of 105 receptions for 1600 yards and 20 touchdowns. We can’t think that he’s going to continue this pace, but it seems promising. And with highlight-reel players like this 72-yard touchdown against the Browns, it’s difficult to see a full regression to the norm for Williams.
The Case for Allen
Keenan Allen isn’t having such a stellar year. Currently, he’s sitting as the half PPR WR25. This isn’t bad at all, as Allen’s floor provides a lot of stability in your WR2 spot. Allen has often been a high floor, low ceiling player, with huge volume but low red-zone usage.
That’s what we’re seeing so far this year. Allen caught 27 passes for 369 yards and a touchdown. This puts him on pace for 115 receptions (when we consider his catch rate from his targets), 1250 yards, and 3 touchdowns. This is relatively similar to what we saw last year from Allen in terms of yardage and receptions, although his touchdowns last year were higher. However, it’s widely known that touchdowns aren’t a sticky stat.
At this point in the year, we have to try and predict whether this situation is going to continue. Is Mike Williams now the Chargers WR1 over Keenan Allen? I believe the answer is yes.
Effect of Herbert as QB
The key for me here is Justin Herbert. The second-year QB and 2020 Rookie of the Year is playing out of his mind currently, having thrown for 1576 yards (4th in the league) and 13 touchdowns (3rd in the league). He’s also only thrown 3 interceptions. This is distinctly an MVP pace. What’s even more notable is that Herbert is 6th in completed air yards, showing his instincts to throw the ball down the field, whilst also being 3rd in completed passes. This shows us a QB who is passing the ball efficiently but also aggressively.
This is something you can definitely see watching Herbert’s film. He has a cannon of an arm and Brandon Staley is more than happy to dial-up multiple deep shots per game. Herbert has the most attempts and yards off play-action in the league. Staley knows the asset he has at quarterback and is coaching a scheme that suits him.
This instantly makes me lean towards Mike Williams over Keenan Allen. Allen has never been a deep threat. In his nine years in the league, Allen has never caught a pass for longer than 55 yards – something Williams has done for the last five years.
Before the season, new Chargers offensive coordinator told us that Williams would be playing as the X receiver in his offense. This is the same role that saw Mike Thomas break the targets and receptions record in 2019. Whilst Williams is clearly elite as a deep threat and contested-catch receiver (just look at him), he’s playing in a new role and he’s thriving. Mike Williams is being used in intermediate routes and making plays after the catch. This is something that is contributing to Herbert’s 4th ranked 756 YAC.
One thing to consider here is Herbert’s tendencies as a quarterback. Against the Browns, there was a key third-down which I think shows us everything we need to know about him. The Chargers needed 10 yards to convert. Allen was open on a slant for about 15 yards, but Herbert wasn’t interested. Instead, he threw the ball to his guy. The pass was deflected, but that play told me everything I needed to know about the way Herbert likes to play football. He’s an aggressive quarterback, playing with an HC and OC who are happy to let him play the game his way.
Ultimately, the conclusion here comes to what you’re looking for in your roster. Keenan Allen is unlikely to ever lose you a week. Since Herbert has been the starter, Keenan Allen has never seen less than 7 targets in games where he’s player more than 50% of snaps. He has more games over double-digit targets than under in this same period. Allen is supremely talented and he’s always going to get his.
However, Mike Williams is clearly a different receiver this year. He’s averaging over ten targets a game so far this season and only has only game with less than 80 yards and a touchdown. His role naturally means he’s going to have the occasional bust game. His playstyle also means he’s more likely to get injured. But if you’re looking for someone to win you your league, I am willing to push in the chips on Mike Williams this season.
So, who do you think the Chargers lead WR is Williams or Allen? Let us know you can find us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or jump into our Discord server. Stay up to date with our latest articles here.
Image Credit: Robert Hanashiro – USA TODAY Sports