Rookie tight ends rarely make a big fantasy impact. Everyone knows that.
In Baltimore, Crockett Gillmore began the season as the team’s undisputed starting tight end, and Maxx Williams began the season on the sidelines — just the latest tight end prospects to spend the majority of his rookie year waiting his turn. Then, Maxx Williams’ situation got even worse.
Crockett Gillmore kicked off 2015 with a miniature breakout as the starting tight end for the Ravens. At 6-6 and 260 pounds, it shouldn’t surprise you to hear that he already has a two touchdown game on his 2015 resume. Unfortunately, the Gillmore breakout party music stopped suddenly when he suffered a significant calf injury that ruled him out of Baltimore’s Week 4 match-up against the Steelers on Thursday Night Football. In steps Maxx Williams, one of the most precocious tight end prospects to come along in the last few years. As the week 4 starter, Williams warrants starting consideration for tight end-needy fantasy teams while Gillmore remains sidelined.
Hogging TargetsOne of the factors we look for in our late-round/streaming tight ends is prototypical TE1 size. At 6-4 and 249 pounds, Maxx Williams doesn’t fit this particular prototype. He’s closer in size to Zach Ertz, his comparable player per PlayerProfiler. Williams and Ertz also have similar athleticism and workout metrics. An underwhelming blocker, Ertz has yet to earn a full-time role with the Eagles and become a consistently reliable fantasy option due to the presence of Brent Celek. This is where PlayerProfiler’s Hog Rate metric, which represents a player’s targets per snap, comes in handy. The fact that Zach Ertz recorded a top-10 Hog Rates in each of his first two NFL seasons tells us that he’s been targeted a lot when he’s been able to get onto the field. In his first meaningful NFL action, Maxx Williams recorded seven targets on 38 snaps played in Week 3, good for a Hog Rate of 18.4-percent. This is not likely a sustainable number, but good for his prospects going forward for as long as he remains the starter.
What makes Maxx Williams’ Week 3 Hog Rate even more impressive is that he received six of his seven targets in the second half, after Crockett Gillmore got knocked out of the game with a calf injury. As he works to gain the trust of his coaching staff this early into his young career, it’s more important for him to be creating these kinds of opportunities for himself by getting open enough to receive targets than it is for him to convert on all of them. But if he can receive that kind of opportunity as the every-down starter in a plus match-up against the Steelers, he can threaten a top ten fantasy finish in Week 4.
Undersized, Yet Precocious
They don’t have prototypical size, but Zach Ertz and Maxx Williams make up for it with elite College Dominator Ratings. Ertz posted a 31.8-percent (90th-percentile) College Dominator Rating at Stanford, while Williams’ College Dominator Rating was an astonishing 48.8-percent (99th-percentile) at Minnesota. This is the reason Ertz has been able to turn his limited playing time into fantasy production. Granted, it hasn’t been enough to make him a weekly starting fantasy option, but Brent Celek also hasn’t missed a game since Ertz came into the league in 2013. With every-down starting tight end Crockett Gillmore already ruled out for Week 4, Williams is receiving a bigger opportunity than Ertz has had at any point in his career.
Rookie tight ends tend to disappoint in fantasy football given the learning curve that’s steeper than the other skill positions once a player reaches the NFL level. But when a prospect as precocious as Maxx Williams has the mixture of talent, opportunity and situation that he’s been presented with, owners need to do what they can to take advantage.
At worst, Maxx Williams is a one or two week streamer with Crockett Gillmore out. At best, Maxx Williams is a speculative add with the potential to become a waiver wire savior. If you have bench space, or need tight end help, stash him before the Ravens play the Steelers on Thursday Night Football.
With Breshad Perriman still nursing a sprained knee, Baltimore has a chasm between Steve Smith and [insert generic No. 2 WR X] on the team’s wide receiver target pecking order. Given the rate that Maxx Williams soaked up targets upon entering the game in week 3, it is conceivable that he becomes Joe Flacco’s defacto No. 2 option in the passing game and absorbs 8-10 targets. Williams is RotoUnderworld’s No. 11 ranked tight end for week 4.
Take a deep breath. You are about to see how a fantasy TE1 is born.
Ray Marzarella is a professional wrestler on the independent circuit and a lifelong New York Giants fan.