Mike Williams’ 2024 Fantasy Outlook Rising After Signing With the Jets

The Jets now have a big-bodied playmaker on the outside.

Heading into this week, former Chargers WR Mike Williams had three visits lined up. The plan was to meet with the Jets, then the Panthers, and the Steelers before deciding where he’d play in 2024. But upon his visit to New York, the Jets made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, signing him to a one-year, $15 million deal before he left the building.

Mike Williams played just three games a season ago before tearing his ACL, but was off to a solid start with 19 catches for 249 yards before the injury. He underwent the necessary procedure on October 25th, putting him on a timeline that should have him fully recovered by early this season, if not by Week 1.

But with just one full season played throughout his seven-year career, what can we really expect from Mike Williams’ 2024 fantasy outlook in his first year in New York?

CAN ANYONE STAY HEALTHY IN NEW YORK?

Before diving into the numbers, let’s start with the elephant in the room: Williams’ injury history. Aside from the ACL tear last year, he missed 13 games over his first six seasons due to a myriad of back, ankle, and hamstring ailments. And combining that level of injury prone with MetLife stadium, which has taken out more knees than Al Capone, is… a decision, to say the least.

Regardless, when Williams has been active, he’s been one of the most impactful receivers in football over his career. His best season so far was 2021, when he caught 76 passes for 1,146 yards and nine TDs on his way to a WR9 finish. That season he was 12th in the league in yards, tied for ninth in TDs, and 11th with 15.1 yards per reception. Better yet, this was one of two seasons for the Chargers that he and Keenan Allen combined for 32 or more games played, and Allen also tore it up that season to the tune of 106 catches for 1,138 yards and a WR15 ranking.

Being able to produce alongside another top wideout is key, as Garrett Wilson isn’t going anywhere and will likely remain the top dog for the Jets. But Williams has a history of strong production as a team’s second option, which bodes well for his new setup.

Aside from his own health, a huge factor in Williams’ 2024 fantasy outlook is the health of his new QB, Aaron Rodgers. Assuming he’s on the field this year and not running for Vice President on the platform of banning vaccines and legalizing psychedelics, Rodgers will be attempting to return from an Achilles injury that would end most 40-year-old athletes’ careers.

He was apparently making an effort to return late last season before the Jets’ playoff hopes dwindled to zero, so in theory he should be fully healthy and ready for a Week 1 return. But staying healthy is another issue, and even though the Jets added Tyrod Taylor in an attempt to avoid ever living through the Zach Wilson experience again, Williams’ stock would still take a major hit without Rodgers in the picture.

MIKE WILLIAMS’ FIT WITH JETS

Based on their current roster, the Jets will trot out four receivers this year who have legitimate NFL experience: Williams, Garrett Wilson, Rodgers’ old buddy Alan Lazard, and second-year man Xavier Gipson, who came on late last year with 14 receptions in his last six contests compared to just seven through the first 11 games.

There has been speculation that New York may use their first-round pick on a pass catcher, either trading up for Marvin Harrison, Jr. or staying at their current tenth pick and taking Rome Odunze, Malik Nabers, or Brock Bowers.

But until that happens, we’ll go off what we know.

With the addition of Williams, New York will need to sort out who will line up where in three-receiver sets. Out of Wilson, Williams, and Lazard, neither have historically lined up in the slot more than 30% of the time.

Despite his WR1 status, Wilson may actually be the top candidate for the slot role, having lined up there over 27% of the time last year and being the smallest of the top three receivers. Plus, he consistently lined up in the slot at Ohio State in 2020 before moving to the outside when Jaxon Smith-Njigba broke out in 2021. And given Rodgers’ history supporting talented slot guys (see: Randall Cobb’s WR8 finish and 24% target share in 2014), Wilson could benefit from being moved into this role.

This decision of who lines up where will also impact Williams, as many teams’ top corners may shadow him if Wilson serves primarily as a slot receiver. Some have speculated over the years that Williams’ production has been boosted by Keenan Allen consistently lining up against their opponents’ top corner. Still, despite a small sample size, Williams’ stats without Allen in the lineup paint another picture.

Regardless of where he’s slotted and who he’s lined up against, Williams’ 6’4″, 218-lb frame combined with sub-4.6 speed (pre-injury, of course) create a tough matchup for any DB. They also make him a legitimate red zone threat, finishing ninth among WRs in red zone targets in 2021 with 21. This is a welcome sight for a Jets team that was dead last in red zone scoring rate last year — albeit with a very different QB situation — at less than 33%.

SUMMARY: MIKE WILLIAMS 2024 FANTASY OUTLOOK

Assuming Williams returns to form after his ACL injury, he could be a phenomenal signing for the Jets as a big-bodied playmaker. The details of his contract are not yet known, but a maximum $15 million cap hit would rank 20th among NFL wideouts, and the actual figure is likely much lower than that.

The Wolf had Williams at the top of Tier 7 at WR39 on his 2024 Fantasy Football Rankings and Big Board before his move to the Jets was announced. I could definitely see him jumping up to the low-to-mid 30s now, and even that may be an underestimation. Williams has been a top 10 fantasy receiver before, and while that level of production is unlikely entering his age-30 season, anything can happen in fantasy football.

The question marks around his and his quarterback’s health are real, but provided they can both stay on the field in 2024, Williams could be a fantasy steal at his current 9th to 10th-round ADP.

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