Why Karlos Williams Can Keep Playing at a High Level
My grandfather is a smart man. Do not argue this with me; it is fact not opinion.
Among the lessons he has taught me, death and taxes are the only things we are guaranteed in life. Yes, this is morose, but it seems that he left out one important fact to this.
The lesson he left off is that some players have a nose for the end zone and know how to score in every game they play. One such player is Karlos Williams, who has scored a touchdown in every game of his rookie season so far.
While touchdowns are not a stat we can necessarily bank on for sustained production, Williams has proven that he is a capable back who warrants owning in every fantasy football league.
Impressive Rushing Success
Acting as the backup to LeSean McCoy in a run heavy offense for the Buffalo Bills, Williams gets an opportunity share that makes him usable in deeper formats. He also is the first man up when McCoy gets hurt, which then makes him startable in every format.
On the year -- before his Week 10 game against the Jets -- Williams had 56 touches (51 rushes, 5 receptions) in his five games played. Williams gained 336 yards on his 51 carries for an impressive 6.59 yards per carry.
Using our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics, we can look deeper than these basic statistics to comprehend his early success more fully. Prior to Week 10, Williams boasted a 20.26 Rushing NEP that was the highest mark in the league.
If you think this is impressive, then take a look at his absurd efficiency.
His 0.40 Rushing NEP per play was also best in the league among the 54 running backs with at least 40 carries. Dion Lewis (0.19) was a distant second.
A further look at Williams's efficiency shows that he had the best Success Rate in the league, as 52.9% of his carries produced a positive NEP. This was tied with Ryan Mathews, who in his own right is another backup who appears to be outperforming the starter ahead of him.
By no means do I believe McCoy deserves to be replaced as the starter. After all, he has battled injuries, and the numbers show he is still a capable starter. In his six games played before Week 10, McCoy rushed 94 times for 416 yards, averaging 4.43 yards per carry.
Based on his 1.04 Rushing NEP, McCoy was the 19th best running back of the 54 backs with at least 40 carries heading into Week 10. His efficiency through his Rushing NEP per play (his 0.01 ranked 19th) and his Rushing Success Rate (41.5%, 21st) showed this, too.
While the Bills had run 236 rushing plays (11th) before Week 10 (26.2 per game), they do not have much room to increase this number because they already have a 1.09 pass-to-run ratio (28th). Though the overall volume can't climb too much, the Bills would be wise to give more carries to Williams.
Surprising Receiving Success
Prior to Week 10, there were 84 backs who have at least 7 targets, and Williams was tied for 78th with 7 targets. While McCoy is this team's passing back, this appears to only be the case based on opportunity over production.
Although Williams does not profile like a typical pass-catching back, his efficiency is on par with McCoy's based on Reception NEP per target. McCoy (65th, 0.16) and Williams (66th, 0.15) have performed basically the same, via NEP.
Neither mark is great by any stretch, but McCoy hasn't done much -- in terms of efficiency -- to establish a stranglehold on the role.
Plus, Williams does show some signs of improvement, as his 71.4% Catch Rate (tied for 54th) is better than McCoy's 65% (68th). This Catch Rate is translating, as he is tied for 12th with an 80% Reception Success Rate. McCoy (64th, 53.8%) is far worse in this area.
Although Williams has not had many opportunities in the passing game, he is showing that he has potential to be one with time. McCoy's drop off in this category (last year, he ranked 43rd among 46 backs with at least 30 targets in Reception NEP per target) could make this change happen sooner rather than later.
Against the Jets, Williams was stymied on the ground and posted only 7 carries for 24 yards. This led to a -1.26 Rushing NEP against a Jets team that boasted the fifth best Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP entering the week.
Conversely, McCoy had a day, as he took 19 carries for 112 yards and posted a 2.60 Rushing NEP.
However, Williams took his lone target and turned it into a 26-yard touchdown, leading to a 3.63 Reception NEP. McCoy, with his higher opportunity, turned 5 targets into 5 catches for 47 yards and a 3.16 Reception NEP.
McCoy finally looked like the back that we think of him as this week, as he finally appeared healthy.
Regardless of McCoy's current health status and return to form, the time is now to acquire Williams in all formats. If he is available in your league, then you need to pick him up yesterday.
He is ranked 31st in our projections for the rest of the year, making him worthy of weekly flex consideration based on his matchup, and if McCoy is to get hurt, then he instantly vaults to RB2 status weekly.
His schedule is soft going forward, too, as he only faces one more team ranked in the top 10 in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP before a Week 17 matchup with the Jets.
Although Williams might feel like a buy-high in dynasty, his stock will only rise there, as well, once he gets the starting opportunity. Get your hands on Williams while you can.