Bolt Beat has handed out its 2017 awards and now its time to move onto the rookie class. How did Tom Telesco’s draft picks perform this year?
On paper, the Chargers appeared to have a strong draft class following April’s college selection, but “on paper” has never meant anything in professional sports.
The team used its first-round pick on a wide receiver even though wasn’t a position of need. Mike Williams had a scary career-threatening injury in 2015 but turned in a massive junior season in 2016 that saw him catch 98 passes for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns which culminated in his school, Clemson, winning the national championship.
That seemed to be all the evidence the Chargers needed to draft him at No. 7 overall. Let’s take a look at how Williams’ rookie season turned out.
Yards per catch: 8.6
The good? Honestly, there wasn’t much to rant and rave about. Williams does have plenty of talent, but it’s hard to say if Chargers fans will ever see it.
Los Angeles was set at the wide receiver position going into the draft, which is what made this a strange pick. To me, it was clearly made because the team wasn’t confident that Keenan Allen could return to form. But when it was revealed that Williams was dealing with a bad back going into training camp, red flags should have been popping up just about everywhere.
It took until Week 6 before he could even take the field and by that time, he was behind the 8-ball in terms of getting on the same page with the rest of the offense, something he never really did do.
The Chargers had enough weapons in the passing game that they didn’t really need Williams. His 11 receptions amounted to an average of about one per game and he seemed to have just about as many drops. The rookie lacked confidence and that seemed evident nearly every game he played in.
Though the Chargers missed the playoffs, they finished the season with a red-hot offense and Philip Rivers will be looking to pick up right where he left off. He won’t be willing to wait for Williams to catch up as he gets toward the final years of his career and will prefer to throw to more familiar targets which includes, well pretty much everyone else.
Here’s what Rivers had to say about his rookie wide receiver after the season.
Philip Rivers on injury plagued #Chargers WR Mike Williams: "I never really felt like he was playing free. Tough when you miss training camp practices, live reps and all those things. So this off-season will be huge for him. I'm excited for Mike. He can add a lot to offense."
— Mike DiGiovanna (@MikeDiGiovanna) January 1, 2018
That’s all well and good, Phil, but the question over whether or not this player is just too injury prone is a real concern for me. Can he stay on the field? At the same time, many people thought Melvin Gordon was a bust following his rookie so this being a huge offseason for Williams is a mild understatement.
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He needs to find a way to get reps. That starts by standing out in training camp. If the Chargers made a move to cut a player like Travis Benjamin, that could open the door and would make selecting him in the first round a little easier to digest. When you consider that players such as Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker and even Deshaun Watson could have been had at that pick, it’s a tough sell.
We’ll give Williams the benefit of the doubt and hope that he bounces back in his second season and shows the skills that made the Chargers select him so high, but if he has another year like this one, there has to be some serious questions asked.
As for his overall grade, I can’t be too nice. This was a bad season for Williams and for me, injuries don’t excuse that. He didn’t do much on the field when he got his opportunities and his lack of confidence which led to things like careless drops is on him, not the team.