How high should expectations be for WR Mike Williams?


Los Angeles Chargers WR Mike Williams is hopeful to make his NFL debut on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. What kind of impact will he make?

Mike Williams’ long-awaited NFL debut is (potentially) here.

The former Clemson wide receiver says he expects to play on Sunday when the Chargers travel to Oakland to face the rival Raiders. Williams, who was the Chargers’ first-round pick (No. 7 overall) in the 2017 NFL Draft, had been dealing with a back injury suffered in minicamp which forced him out of organized trained activities, training camp and preseason games.

After missing practice to start the season, Williams has been practicing in pads since Week 2. Despite being a limited participant in those practices, Williams is set to play Week 6 barring any setbacks, per ESPN insider Adam Schefter.

We are all excited to see the rookie hit the field, but should expectations be tempered?

Williams will likely be on a snap count and has yet to get hit in a live NFL game. Not only that, but receivers Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin are all healthy. The team’s fourth receiver, Dontrelle Inman, is dealing with a hamstring injury but was a limited participant in practice.

Will Williams surpass these guys right away? We saw that he can be a game-changer at Clemson, but we still have no idea what we’re getting as he transitions to the pros.

Then again, Williams was picked in the top 10 for a reason. He’s not known for his route-running, but he has the size and strength to win those contested catches. His elite ability to high-point the ball and make spectacular catches is what many fans hope to see.

But being a first-round rookie receiver doesn’t always mean you’re going to be a star. Here is a list of fellow rookie wideouts who were drafted in the first round dating back to 2015: Corey Davis, John Ross, Corey Coleman, Will Fuller, Josh Doctson, Laquon Treadwell, Amari Cooper, Kevin White, DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor and Breshad Perriman.

Does anybody stand out on that list? Aside from Cooper, who’s having a down year after back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, these receivers have either dealt with injuries or didn’t have the talent to be more than a No. 3 receiver on their respective teams.

Maybe having a star quarterback under center can help. Philip Rivers, who’s had his ups and downs this season, has a tendency to chuck the ball up in the air more often than not, but he hasn’t had a receiver who could consistently win those jump-ball situations. Williams has the potential to be that guy and if he ends up doing just that, it would open up the offense and put opposing defenses on their heels every single play.

The offense had high expectations going into the season but has underachieved thus far. Through five weeks, the Chargers rank fourth in passing yards (1,334), but they are in the middle of the pack (17th) when it comes to passing yards per attempt (7.0). They are also tied for 19th with just 19.9 points per game. The Bolts continue to struggle on third downs, too, having gone 23-for-61 (37.7 completion percentage), 20th-best in the league. Williams should not only be used to stretch the field, but as a big body on third downs and in the red zone to give the team and chance to move the chains and score.

I’m excited to see Williams play, and I believe he will make an impact early on, which is the same thing I said when former first-rounder Joey Bosa missed the first quarter of his rookie year and made his debut against the Raiders. Bosa’s presence didn’t lead to many wins in 2016, but he absolutely turned what had been an underwhelming defense around. I don’t think Williams will be the dominant force that Bosa was when the latter stepped onto the field, but I think he will make plays.

Perhaps Williams’ presence will jumpstart the offense, even in limited snaps.