This is the third part in a series looking at the fantasy value of current Pittsburgh Steelers.
While earlier I looked at guys who can have an impact for your team week in and week out like Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell, today I look at a trickier situation in the form of running back DeAngelo Williams.
When Williams signed with the Steelers, it didn’t do much for his already plummeting fantasy value, but throw in Bell’s suspension and a guy like Williams has seen his value rise a bit.
Knowing that Williams will be the primary ball carrier in Pittsburgh for the first two weeks of the season makes him draftable, but the question is how early do you want to take a guy that can help you two weeks and likely won’t have any value the final 15 weeks?
Currently Williams has an ADP of 180, which puts him in the 15th round of 12-team leagues. On average he is the 43rd RB off the board.
Should you look to draft Williams? And if so where?
Let’s take a look.
Pros- The obvious is that Williams will get a lot of touches the first two weeks of the season and realistically Williams could perform like a Top-10 back during Bell’s absence. While he isn’t nearly the efficient runner that Bell is, there might not be much of a drop-off as a pass catcher.
He has the knack for taking dump off passes and making long gains out of them. Last season Williams averaged 12.8 yards per catch, which is the best mark in the NFL of all backs who caught at least 40 passes.
That alone could see him sneak into the offense as a third-down back to help spell Bell.
Speaking of Bell he has been injured his first two seasons in the league. Running backs aren’t durable to begin with, so if something happens to Bell, Williams could be in a very good situation in terms of fantasy impact.
While 32 years of age, Williams doesn’t have the normal wear and tear that most backs his age will have. Having split carries with Jonathan Stewart for most of his career may have left another good year or two on Williams’ legs if given the opportunity.
Cons- The major drawback for Williams is that he has been a huge disappointment since 2009.
With Carolina, he carried the ball 1,432 times for 6,846 yards and 46 touchdowns. His best years came in 2008 and 2009, the only times he ran for over 1,000 yards in a single season.
Williams ran for 1,515 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2008. Injuries limited Williams to 219 yards and zero touchdowns in 2014.
While many believe Williams can have a rebound season, most of that is based on him being healthy. Then a lot has to happen, like him having a big first two weeks and Bell’s workload being cut back.
That’s not going to happen.
The more likely scenario is that Williams struggles out of the gate and the Steelers are still looking for answers behind Bell.
The first four weeks are against solid run defenses in New England, San Francisco, St. Louis and Baltimore. I would be surprised if the Steelers gave Williams more than 10-12 touches early on and that number will likely drop down to 6-8 per game once Bell is healthy, which is around the number that LeGarrette Blount got when he was with the team.
Projections- 300 yards rushing, 175 yards receiving, one touchdown.
Verdict- No need to reach on Williams here. If you want to take a flier on him in Round 15 or later as a RB4 or RB5 that is fine. But drafting him expecting production is a mistake. You can find better options on the waiver wire.
Even before he broke his hand late last year, the writing was on the wall for Williams in Carolina. Once a great back with outstanding quickness and balance, the 32-year-old Williams was merely a replacement-level player in 2014. He’ll start two games in place of Bell to begin 2015. The Steelers have a good enough offense that if you draft Bell, you must also draft Williams. Just don’t expect huge production.
That is the only time I recommend drafting Williams is if you drafted Bell or are holding onto Bell in keeper formats.
If that is the case, you absolutely must handcuff Bell with Williams and wouldn’t have a problem doing so even a couple rounds earlier.
Otherwise the best advice is to simply stay away.
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