The Los Angeles Chargers picked up a much-needed 28-24 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in their Week 3 action, but they didn't escape from the game unscathed. Midway through the game, star wide receiver Mike Williams was carted off the field with a knee injury, and after initial reports suggested his season could be over, an MRI revealed he suffered a torn ACL, which will in fact end his season.
This is a huge loss for the Chargers, as Williams was their top big-play threat on offense. Los Angeles has a lot of other weapons at their disposal on offense, but they will surely miss Williams' ability to stretch the field vertically. For a team that was already hanging on for dear life after an 0-2 start to the season, this was pretty much the last thing they wanted to see.
While this is big for Los Angeles, it's also big for fantasy football owners who drafted Williams and were relying on him for production throughout the season. So now that he's officially out for the rest of the season, let's take a look at what sort of impact Williams' absence will have from a fantasy football perspective, and see who fantasy owners could look to replace him with.
Fantasy football impact of Mike Williams' season-ending injury
It's a shame Mike Williams' season has been cut short, because he was really just starting to find his footing in the new campaign. A week after hauling in eight passes for 83 yards, Williams posted 121 yards and a touchdown on seven catches prior to his early exit in Week 3. So while Williams is done for the rest of the year, he did give fantasy owners a strong performance before his untimely injury.
This is going to have big ripple effects on the wide receiver market, because Williams profiles as a solid WR2 in most leagues. He's a bit of a boom-or-bust guy, but when he makes big plays, he's one of the top WR2s in the NFL. For owners relying on him for production, a massive hole in your starting lineup has immediately opened up.
For starters, it's important to look at how this will impact the Chargers other pass-catchers. If you happened to draft Keenan Allen, you're in luck, because assuming he can stay healthy, he is going to get peppered with targets all season long. Even with Williams playing for the majority of the game, Allen hauled in a ridiculous 18 catches for 215 yards in Week 3, and also threw Williams his 49-yard touchdown pass.
For our discussion on the best fantasy football breakout and sleeper candidates, listen below:
Allen was already a PPR monster, and he becomes a clear cut WR1 who was likely drafted as a WR2 by many folks this year, which is excellent value. Allen has suddenly burst into top five wide receiver status, and while he was already dominating with Williams on the field, things could get even better for you if you have him on your squad moving forward.
Behind Allen, this immediately thrusts Quentin Johnston into a bigger role. Johnston, who was taken as the 21st overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, has only caught five passes for 26 yards through his first three games in the league in a rather small role on offense. Johnston fills the similar outside receiver role as Williams, though, and will likely assume that role immediately moving forward in Week 4.
Johnston is going to be the waiver-wire darling of the week, but the guy that should be targeted over him instead is Josh Palmer. Palmer caught four passes for 66 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings, and was a decent FLEX play last year as the third option behind Allen and Williams. Palmer is going to receive more targets than Johnston one way or another, and he's the guy you should target on the waiver wire.
It's also worth noting that Austin Ekeler is going to command his fair share of targets once he comes back from his own injury, but the only guy that truly takes away from here is Allen. Ekeler is a PPR monster himself, and he may be needed as a checkdown option more now that Williams is out, but again, this shouldn't provide a massive change in his fantasy status.
Beyond only Chargers options on the waiver wire, guys like D.J. Chark Jr. (4 REC, 86 YDS, 1 TD), and Calvin Austin III (2 REC, 72 YDS, 1 TD) are decent options who will likely continue to have decent-sized roles in their respective offenses moving forward. They are both risky FLEX plays, and the hope is that you have a better wide receiver on the bench, but they can be played if absolutely necessary in future weeks.
Williams' absence stings, but there are always ways to replace top-tier players; it's just a matter of finding the right lineup to accomplish that goal. There are options out there that can certainly be taken advantage of, and while Mike Williams is a stud, his loss is one that fantasy owners should be able to overcome if they play their cards right.