Los Angeles Chargers: How good can Mike Williams be as a rookie?

Apr 28, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers first round pick Mike Williams speaks during a press conference at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 28, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers first round pick Mike Williams speaks during a press conference at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports /

The Los Angeles Chargers used the seventh-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on wide receiver Mike Williams, but how good can he be as a rookie?

There was a strong belief heading into the 2017 NFL Draft that three wide receivers would undoubtedly be taken in the first round. What most people didn’t expect, however, was for those three guys to be selected in the top 10. Regardless of expectations, though, the Los Angeles Chargers ended up with former Clemson wideout Mike Williams with the No. 7 overall pick.

Looking at the tape, the statistical production and the measurables of Williams, it takes very little time to see why Williams was taken in the top 10. He has the size the be a prototypical No. 1 and the hands and catch radius to be even more dangerous. What’s more, he proved to have more speed and agility than many thought with his testing at the Combine.

Though some people were surprised by the Chargers going with a receiver at such a premium spot in the draft, the selection made sense. Not only has their No. 1, Keenan Allen, been injured the past two seasons, but they lack real playmakers on the outside beyond him. Sure, Tyrell Williams and company were fine, but they don’t totally move the needle.

Mike Williams undoubtedly answers the call in that regard. The Clemson product has the potential to be a top-10 player at the position. However, with the move to LA and a more stable overall roster, the Chargers would like to compete in 2017. With that, what can they expect from Williams as a rookie?

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Obviously it’s hard to project the mental aspect of the game and how he’ll pick up the playbook and so on. But just looking at the prospect and the opportunity, history says that he’ll be a highly productive wideout.

One of the first places to look at in terms of player and opportunity is actually with Allen. As a rookie third-rounder out of Cal in 2013, he was ultimately thrust into a pseudo-No. 1 role for the Chargers. And Allen performed phenomenally. In 15 games, he hauled in 71 of his 105 targets for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns. Though Allen is a great player when healthy, you could also argue he’s not the caliber of Williams.

Looking in that vein and with similar opportunity, another place to look would be to Tampa Bay and Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans. Also a seventh-overall pick (in 2014), Evans had the No. 1 position out of the gate essentially in Tampa, immediately supplanting Vincent Jackson. He stormed into the NFL with 68 catches for 1,051 yards and 12 scores.

Obviously Williams is a different and more balance player in terms of size and speed than both Allen and Evans. However, what those numbers largely show is that a bid-bodied No. 1 with proven production in college in a position where he’s a primary target as a rookie can have a big year.

Thus, it’s not far-fetched in the slightest to suggest that Mike Williams could be a 1,000-yard receiver as a rookie. What’s more, Williams could also be in line to catch double-digit touchdowns. And with arguably better hands than both Evans (definitely Evans) and Allen, you could also see him put up a much more reliable reception percentage on his targets.

A question that has come up, though, is what if Allen stays healthy — what would that do to Williams’ production with the Chargers as a rookie? Frankly, I think that helps him. With two highly capable receivers in the offense, defenses are less capable of scheming to stop the passing attack. That opens doors for both guys to have big years.

Next: 2017 NFL Draft: Biggest steal for Chargers, each team

Put simply, Williams has all the makings of a player ready to prove he’s well worth the No. 7 pick. He’ll have the opportunity and has the talent to make the most of it. As the Chargers are also expected as a whole to improve greatly from an injury-riddled 2016, Williams could be a key component in spurring the turnaround.