Williams missed almost all of the Chargers' offseason activities after suffering a herniated disk in his lower back. The injury appeared bad enough that head coach Anthony Lynn told reporters in July the possibility Williams could miss the entire 2017 season was at least on the table.
Chargers fans got somewhat optimistic when the team removed Williams from the physically unable to perform list (PUP) prior to the start of the regular season. By doing so, it appeared Los Angeles was confident he'd be back before Week 7 against the Denver Broncos, since keeping him on the PUP list would've ruled him out for the first six weeks at minimum.
"It's crazy. It wasn't how I had this planned out, but I'm just going with the flow," Williams said in September, per ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams. "Everything happens for a reason. I'm just trying to learn the offense right now, get in shape and be ready to play when my time comes."
The Chargers shared a brief clip of Williams working on the practice field Sept. 21:
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported October had always been the general target date for Williams' return:
There's no question Williams is likely to be rusty when he steps on the field. Jumping into the fray in the middle of the year without the benefit of offseason practice would be difficult enough for a veteran; the transition is even harder for a rookie who's getting adjusted to the NFL and learning his team's playbook.
The Chargers used the seventh overall pick on Williams to help address a passing game that had regressed in recent years. Los Angeles was also without a bona fide No. 1 wideout. Tyrell Williams eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in 2016, but he also ranked 23rd in DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement) among qualified receivers, per Football Outsiders.
"Williams uses his size to gain separation on corners, creating large throwing windows for quarterbacks," Miller wrote. "He shows solid route-running ability, consistently beating his man on slants, posts and down the field. Williams also consistently beat double teams and bracket coverage, becoming a security blanket for his quarterback."
Los Angeles may be content to receive relatively marginal returns from Williams in his first season. Following their 0-4 start, the Chargers are already long shots for the playoffs, so it's likely too late for Williams to make a significant difference in 2017.
The focus instead may be easing him into the offense to get him ready for 2018 and beyond.