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Beyond the Stats: Analyzing Mike Williams

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In the past two seasons, Mike Williams was targeted on 166 passes. He caught 51.2% of those passes for 1,212 yards. Where does he excel and how will he fit into the Bills’ offense in 2014?

In his last two seasons, Williams lined up wide on both the strong and weak sides of the formation and rarely in the slot. He did not struggle with getting off the line when on the weak side (lined up on the line of scrimmage, which usually results in getting jammed at the line of scrimmage more often). His speed is dangerous enough to force cornerbacks to give Williams some cushion on the line.

Just as he was used in different parts of the formation, Williams was also targeted all over the field in 2012 and 2013.  Here’s the distribution from the two seasons.

An initial concern when starting to look at Williams’ statistics from the two seasons was the completion percentage on passes thrown to him. 51.2% is a low completion rate, but is heavily skewed by deep passes. Williams was targeted twenty or more yards past the line of scrimmage 39 times in the two seasons but he caught just 36% of them.

Luckily, not all of those incomplete passes were Williams’ fault. Fourteen of the 25 twenty or more yard incomplete passes were badly off target. Those passes landed out of bounds, sailed over everyone’s head, or were otherwise uncatchable. Nine of the remaining eleven incompletions were broken up by defenders and the last two were dropped. Deep passes are tough, but Williams gives his quarterback a chance by fighting for the ball and getting really, really open deep.

But he’s not limited to just deep routes down the sideline. An overlooked part of Williams’ game is his ability to make a play in space and forcing missed tackles. Because of his elusiveness, he gained five or more yards after the catch on 33% of his catches in the two seasons. His catches, with targets representing bubble size, are depicted below.

27% of Williams’ targeted routes were fly (or go) routes. He caught just 23% of those passes, but the huge gains led to that route having the third highest yards per attempt average (just post and deep comeback routes averaged a higher yards per attempt average). All of the routes, with their descriptive statistics, are in the table below.

Lastly, Williams has great value as a red zone target. He has seven red zone catches inside the end zone. Notice where they occurred (not near the sidelines on fade routes) in the graph below.

Williams looks to be a lock for the starting rotation with Stevie Johnson in the slot and Robert Woods on the other side of the formation. TJ Graham seems to be the odd man out in this acquisition, as Williams is an upgrade as a deep threat receiver. The Bills can expect to get great yardage after the catch and EJ Manuel has a new red zone target.

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