Terrance Williams Is Extremely Undervalued in Fantasy Football

Williams struggled when asked to lead the Cowboys' receivers in 2015, but he will have a chance to deliver value at his current draft cost.

What would you do if you won a million dollars?

Most of us have thought through this hypothetical question before, and I’m sure we’ve all run the gamut from “buy a fancy, new car” to “buy an enormous house with a supersized flat screen TV”. It’s easy to think about the ways we can improve the top-end of our lives with that kind of dough, even when it comes to paying off student loans.

As for me, I played this game the other day. My answer: buy new Tupperware and some nice non-stick pots and pans. That’s a really mundane answer for what you would do to improve your quality of living with an amount of money like a million dollars, but the mundane things are often overlooked in how they improve us.

That’s where a player like Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams comes in. Everyone is rightfully fixated on incoming rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott and the return of superstar wideout Dez Bryant, but those two won’t be the only game in Dallas.

Williams won’t be a fantasy football Ferrari, but he can improve the quality of your team.

Swimming Like Scrooge McDuck

When it comes to making good selections in your single-season fantasy football leagues, half of the game is getting players at an appropriate value. While we love to focus on the first few rounds of the draft, banking your whole draft strategy on unlocking the early rounds is equivalent to getting investing advice from MTV Cribs; there’s not a ton of difference between which opulent multimillionaire you’re watching, and it frankly doesn’t trickle down to later in your draft.

The often underappreciated -- and yet vitally important -- part of our drafts is the last third or so. This is where you will see teams start drafting team defenses and kickers, but it is the same point where you can stick to your strategy and keep piling up late-round skill-position options.

Per Fantasy Football Calculator’s ADP data, Williams is going as the 70th wide receiver on average in 12-team leagues, both in standard scoring and PPR. Yet, by numberFire’s projections, Williams is the 45th- and 52nd-best wide receiver for fantasy in these formats, respectively.

That’s flat-out grand larceny.

One would think there would be more interest in a wide receiver pegged for over 700 yards and around five touchdowns, but everyone is overlooking Dallas’ second wideout. That creates an opportunity for value.

Working-Class Hero

Why are people so down on Williams this year?

First off, a career 57.32% catch rate can’t really help perceptions that Williams is inconsistent. When we look at the data, though, that isn’t entirely true.

The table below shows Williams’ 2015 season in terms of his fantasy point standard deviation (how consistently his fantasy scores were last year) and startability percentage (the percent of weeks his score ranked in the top-48 of fantasy wide receivers).

Player S-Dev Start%
Terrance Williams 5.24 (t-41st) 40.00% (t-48th)

Among the 128 wide receivers who scored a total of 30 or more fantasy points in 2015, Williams was in or near the top-third for both statistical consistency from week-to-week (S-Dev) and fantasy teams’ weekly ability to use him. He had a few clunkers, like a 3.3-point showing in Week 15, but Williams is a more-than-solid fourth receiver in 12-team fantasy leagues, based on consistency ratings as well as total points.

Part of this perception surely comes from Williams’ production when Bryant was injured in 2015, and that Williams wasn’t able to seize the job and run with it. Using the Rotoviz Game Splits app, we can see what his per-game production was with and without Bryant last year.

Split Games Rec Targ recYD recTD
With Bryant 9 3.00 4.67 41.33 0.11
Without Bryant 7 3.57 7.29 66.86 0.29

When we look at Williams as the Cowboys’ top receiver in 2015, we can clearly see that there was an uptick in value in every category, from opportunity (receptions and targets) to production (yards and touchdowns). In fact, when translated to fantasy points, Williams gained about 33% more fantasy points in PPR formats with Bryant out and had nearly a 100% increase in standard scoring leagues.

The glaring detriment, though, is that Williams’ catch rate with Bryant taking the attention of the defense away was a solid 64.24%. When Williams had to deal with the top cornerbacks in the offense, he had a 48.97% catch rate. With Bryant back and healthy, however, Williams can resume dealing with the second-best cornerbacks on the opposing defense. Think of him like a middle-class Randall Cobb; not good enough to carry the entire passing offense on his own, but a solid second receiver when given the volume.

Late-Round Luxury

Here’s the other rub: Williams not only had to play seven games in 2015 without Bryant to soak up opposing defensive attention, he also played 12 games without quarterback Tony Romo. The table below shows his splits with and without the Cowboys’ starting passer.

Split Games Rec Targ recYD recTD
With Romo 4 4.25 6.50 65.50 0.50
Without Romo 12 2.92 5.58 48.17 0.08

We would assume Romo was much better for Williams’ fantasy production than any member of the Matt Cassel-Brandon Weeden-Kellen Moore carousel, but the data shows it was by a wide margin. His catch rate was 13.05% higher and his receiving yards per target rate was 1.45 higher. At the pace he was on, if Williams had had Romo throwing him the ball all season in 2015, he would’ve ranked as a solid top-20 fantasy wide receiver with 153 points.

The receivers our algorithms project to finish close to Williams in fantasy points -- Sterling Shepard, Tyler Lockett, Travis Benjamin -- are going anywhere from six to eight rounds earlier, and all of them have a similar range of production outcomes in 2016.

He may not be the flashy upgrade that everyone wants, but Terrance Williams can help to fill your fantasy team’s kitchen cupboard with yet another a strong contributor this year at a minimal price. Don’t overlook him.