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Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Harris: Williams joins slew of weapons in Big D

By Christopher Harris
ESPN.com

You know, the Dallas Cowboys are a pretty good team. But if only there was a way for them to acquire another mouthy diva who's unhappy with his contract and feels perpetually misunderstood, then I'd really think they were on their way.

What's that? They just traded their first-, third- and sixth-round picks in the 2009 draft to the Detroit Lions for wide receiver Roy Williams? Perfect.

In real-football terms, the return of Williams to the Lone Star State (he played his college ball at the University of Texas) doesn't make a 10-gallon hat's worth of sense. The Cowboys already have Terrell Owens and Jason Witten leading their receiving game, and Patrick Crayton and Miles Austin have been OK this season, catching 27 passes on 46 combined targets. By way of comparison, Williams has caught 17 of 39 targets this year, although, to be fair, balls thrown by Jon Kitna and/or Dan Orlovsky maybe shouldn't count as full targets. Anyway, Owens and Williams do a lot of the same things -- they create size mismatches with defensive backs, they toast one-on-one coverage but aren't true speed-burners, they catch it over the middle and are good in the red zone -- and you have to wonder whether Williams will be anything more than a third option in Big D. I can't help but feel that, given Adam Jones' indefinite suspension and Terence Newman's injury troubles, the team needed a cornerback a heck of a lot more than another prima donna receiver.

In fantasy football terms, this might not be as huge a deal as it first appears. By switching his silvery Lions togs for a silvery Cowboys uni, Williams probably will lose targets and, at least while Brad Johnson is at the helm for Tony Romo (likely at least three games), might lose fantasy viability altogether. (Although again, to be fair, the looming Orlovsky administration was about to do that for him anyway.) When Romo returns, all the passing-game options in Dallas will become more valuable again, but you won't see Williams, for example, match the nutty 18 targets he got in Week 5 against the Bears. Heck, he'll be lucky to see double-digits in a single game the entire season. Romo might get a touch more valuable down the stretch, but he was already pretty valuable, and Owens and Witten could lose a tad of upside, but I wouldn't stress about that. There'll be games, I'd say, when Williams will break into No. 2 fantasy wideout territory, but there'll also be games in which he will be a mere decoy. Crayton probably is the hardest-hit player here; he's left without fantasy value.

Calvin Johnson
Calvin Johnson will see more passes -- and defenders -- headed his way.
In Detroit, this leaves Calvin Johnson as the main dude. But then again, Megatron was already the main dude: Through five games, he had topped Williams in receiving yardage (377 to 232) and touchdowns (three to one). This trade probably solidifies Johnson's status as a fantasy starter every week because he's going to see double-digit targets most games, so his weekly downside is probably limited. But with great attention from a quarterback comes great attention from a secondary, and defenses are going to focus on Johnson more than ever. Who'll line up on the other side of the field? Well, both Shaun McDonald and Mike Furrey have proven they're best working out of the slot, and Brandon Middleton is the team's kickoff return man. McDonald was the No. 3 guy when Williams was in the Motor City, so it's logical to assume he'll get the first crack at being No. 2 and splitting out wide, but again, with Kitna on injured reserve and the Lions going with Orlovsky (and maybe eventually Drew Stanton), it's tough to project anything but deep-league fantasy value for McDonald right now.

Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award winner across all three of those sports. You can e-mail him here.