Mike Williams or Marquise Brown: Will either fantasy WR break out in 2021?

    Both Marquise Brown and Mike Williams frustrated fantasy football managers in 2020, but which WR should you take in drafts this year?

    Two of the most frustrating wide receivers for fantasy football this season are Los Angeles Chargers WR Mike Williams and Baltimore Ravens WR Marquise Brown. Both are going around the 10th round of most drafts, so they’re perfect players to target if you’re looking for risk on your bench. But which one should you take in your own draft?

    Should you draft Marquise Brown this year?

    Wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown was drafted 25th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft by the Ravens. He was the team’s leading receiver in 2020, catching 58 passes on 100 targets for 769 yards. Brown finished the year as the WR36 in PPR leagues with 183 points. But is that good enough to make him worth starting on your fantasy team this year?

    Baltimore’s running game

    In 2020, the Ravens ran the ball 555 times as a team, more than any other team in the NFL. Alternatively, they only completed 257 of 406 targets, both of which were the fewest in the league. This is a team that clearly prefers to run the ball.

    Being the leading pass catcher on a team that barely throws the ball is like saying you have the biggest slice of the smallest pie. It sounds good in one way, but in the end, it’s not that great.

    Rashod Bateman enters the picture

    Oddly enough, the team decided to address their receiver group first in the 2020 NFL Draft as well. After selecting Brown with their first pick in 2019, Baltimore selected WR Rashod Bateman 27th overall this year. This would imply that the team wants to change things up and lean more on the passing game, right?

    Perhaps that’s true, but this also adds a fair amount of competition for Brown to overcome. If Bateman is as good as advertised, Brown’s role as leading receiver for the team may be in jeopardy. Bateman was injured in training camp and required surgery, which landed him on short-term IR. However, Brown is dealing with injury concerns of his own.

    Brown’s already injured

    Before the preseason even began, Brown suffered a hamstring injury that’s limited him in practice. Coach John Harbaugh and QB Lamar Jackson were both looking for Brown to take a monster step up in their passing game — that appears to have hit a speed bump.

    With running back J.K. Dobbins suffering a torn ACL in the last preseason game, the Ravens seem to be snakebitten this year. If Brown can return to full strength and the team can rework their game plan around RB Gus Edwards, they are still in contention. But it’s starting to look more negative than positive for the Ravens as a whole, especially in fantasy.

    Mike Williams is a viable option in 2021

    On the flip side, the Chargers have been relatively unaffected by the injury bug thus far. As of writing this article, the team hasn’t had a significant injury to a starter yet, including WR Mike Williams.

    The Chargers changed head coaches

    Unlike the Ravens, the Chargers threw the ball the fifth-most in 2020, completing 413 of 627 total passes. In total, the Chargers ran 1,127 plays last year, more than any other team in the NFL. This team was moving the ball fast and furious last year, which was awesome for fantasy football managers.

    The Chargers’ offensive game plan for 2020 relied heavily on rookie quarterback Justin Herbert and running back Austin Ekeler. Even though they were an offensive powerhouse, the team still fired their head coach Anthony Lynn in the offseason. They replaced him with head coach Brandon Staley, who was defensive coordinator for the Rams the last two years.

    This changing of the guard at head coach likely means that the team will shift to being more defensive-focused. As odd as it may seem, this could be good for players like Williams in fantasy.

    Williams’ inconsistent history

    The past few years, Williams has been inconsistent. In 2018, he finished with 180.2 PPR points, in large part due to catching 10 touchdown passes. The next year, Williams finished with 161.3 PPR points, this time due to his career-leading reception and yardage totals but only 2 touchdowns.

    In 2020, he did a little bit of both. He caught 48 of his 85 targets for 756 yards and 5 touchdowns. Williams scored 153.7 PPR points, putting him at WR47 overall — 11 spots behind Brown in fantasy. While the fantasy points have been trending down, how he’s been scoring them has been frustrating to try to predict.

    There are injury concerns for Williams too

    Last but not least, we can’t talk about Williams without at least mentioning his injury history. Much like Brown, Williams has seen his name pop up on injury reports already this preseason.

    Williams missed a game in 2019 due to a back injury and another in 2020 due to a hamstring injury. He’s not exactly fragile, but he’s not invincible either. Williams plays the game like it’s all that matters, which is a lot of fun to watch. It also makes him susceptible to missing time.

    Ultimately, the question between Brown and Williams comes down to which one you trust more. For me, I’d rather have the second receiver on a passing offense than the first receiver on a rushing offense.

    The ceiling is much higher with Williams, and in the 10th round, I’m usually looking to add as much variance as possible to my team. That’s where you make picks that win your league. While Williams has burned me before, I’m still taking him over Brown for 2021 in fantasy football.

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