2017 Los Angeles Chargers Fantasy Football Team Outlook
Under contract until 2019 and void of a quarterback being taken in this year's draft, the Chargers seem more than confident with Philip Rivers leading the charge for the foreseeable future. It's the same storyline basically every year with Rivers. Experts tell you he's undervalued and a great late round quarterback, backed by a bunch of numbers and blah blah blah. Over the last four seasons, the Chargers QB has averaged just under 4,500 passing yards and 31.25 passing touchdowns a season. which are really impressive numbers given the injury luck he's had with his weapons. While the overall numbers look good, Rivers has faded over the second half of the season in each of the past few years, averaging 24.9 fantasy points per game in Weeks 1-9 versus 16.7 points per game the rest of the way over the past three years. Rivers had just a single top-10 finish from Week 6 on last year (11 games). The fact that he hasn't missed a game since 2015 boosts his overall finishes every season. But on a points per game basis (min. 11 games played), here are his finishes over the last three seasons, starting from 2016: QB15, QB15 and QB13. While he has a really nice supporting casts around him, led by the return of Keenan Allen, emerging TE in Hunter Henry, breakout candidate Tyrell Williams and 7th overall pick Mike Williams from Clemson. Rivers is currently the 13th QB off the board, pick 121. I don't hate him there, but there are plenty of options I'd rather have than him if I'm waiting on a QB, there's just not a lot of upside with him.
So let's talk about all of these weapons. You can't spell Chargers without Keenan Allen knee injury. Shoutout public high school education. Allen played in just a single game last season and nine over the last two. When he's on the field, he's one of the NFL's most productive chain movers. Since entering the NFL back in 2013, Allen has averaged 8.5 targets and nearly 6 receptions a game. In 2015, Allen drew double-digit targets in 5-of-8 games, three of which getting 15 or more. Insane numbers. The concern here is obviously his injury history. All reports from not only players but reporters pencil Allen back to full health and in "pre-injury" form. While undeniably talented at his craft, my concern, besides the injury history is that he's not returning to the same team that he managed all his previous success with. They didn't have Tyrell Williams posting 1,000 yards. They didn't have an up-and-coming tight end in Hunter Henry snagging balls over the middle. They didn't have a top-10 rookie wideout entering the mix. And they certainly didn't have an all-you-can eat workhorse in Melvin Gordon. With all the Williams' (Tyrell, Mike) manning the outside, Allen should occupy the slot and continue to see a buttload of targets from there but his touchdown upside is capped with all of the weapons around him. I think his price tag at WR17, OVR34 is about right if you're willing to risk it, but I probably won't own him unless he slips to me a bit later.
Going back to dem Williams boys, Mike Williams, the former Clemson standout is monstrous at 6-4, 218 pounds. His size gives Rivers a great target near the endzone and as a deep-ball threat, ranking 6th in the nation last year catching 52% of those targets. His 4.56 speed, and his massive frame would make you mistake him for Alshon Jeffrey or Dez Bryant if they were in neutral jerseys. But, given the depth already at this position for LA, and him missing some crucial developmental time already in OTAs, Williams has an uphill battle for major playing time. Reports surfaced, then denied, that he his herniated disc would require season ending surgery. No one is really sure when/if he'll be back on the field. The Chargers already announced he'll miss all of training camp and HC Anthony Lynn was non-commital on whether or not he'll play football this season. Either way he's missing crucial time, which is huge in terms of development, timing and chemistry for rookies. He's being taken at pick 154, WR52 right now. These injurt reports, make him absolutely undraftable in redraft leagues. Definitely hurts a lot in dynasty, most players who've seen especially over recent years, do not fair well when missing their rookie seasons with injuries, I.E. Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, etc. etc. Therefore, the other Williams, Tyrell, who quietly had a major breakout season in 2016, finishing as WR11 in standard leagues with a 69/1059/7 line, is atop the depth chart for outside receivers. Like the other Williams, he has the makings of a #1 WR. It's being said that Tyrell was playing with a torn labrum for most of last season, which I'll take with a grain of salt because I feel like if you ask 100 NFL players if they were playing with a break or tear of some sort in the previous year, 200 will say yes. I wrote about Tyrell, of house Williams, in my top-3 breakout candidates article. I'm super high on him, especially given the injury reports to his counterpart. If the rookie misses games, which he almost certainly will, Tyrell easily becomes the Chargers number one outside and deep threat. At pick 100, WR40, look for T-Will to return MAJOR value in one of the heavier volume passing offenses over the last two seasons.
Dontrelle Inman had himself a solid year in Allen's absence as the Chargers second leading receiver (810 yards) but he'll realistically be their 4th or 5th receiving option in the offense, taking him off my draft board entirely. The same thing goes for Travis Benjamin as he recovers from offseason knee surgery. He's not much more than a deep threat on a team with 78 of them already. They've both seen plenty of playing time and glimpes of productivity in this offense, but won't receive enough opportunity to stay relevant.
Hunter Henry is among the fantasy communities fastest rising tight ends this offseason, but his ADP is still somewhat of a mystery to me (TE8, 94). Don't get me wrong, he has all the makings of a future breakout tight end and I'm sure his time is coming but.....
Antonio Gates is still on the team and Keenan Allen returns as the slot guy to take a massive number of underneath targets. Henry should be considered THE tight end in this offense over Antonio Gates, but I think he's one season away from making that top-5 jump at the position. I still like Jack Doyle, Delanie Walker and probably Eric Ebron more than Henry. As for Gates, it was clear he's breaking down. He'll likely be used situationally in the redzone where he's dominated his entire career and proved that he's still got some juice left after seven (7) TDs in 2016. Both tight ends saw 7 targets inside the opponent's 10-yard line and I wouldn't be surprised to see a similar split in 2017.
There's not much to discuss when it comes to Melvin Gordon this year. He was the undisputed workhorse in San Diego last season, seeing almost 300 total touches, scoring 12 times and racking up over 1,400 total yards. The only argument I had against him entering 2017 was Danny Woodhead's return hurting his workload, but he's in Baltimore now and the Chargers did nothing to add to their backfield depth this offseason. With new coach Anthony Lynn, who was a former running back's coach, they'll implement a zone-scheme for their ground game, which Lynn believes will only benefit Gordon. Melvin, who only averaged 3.9 yards per carry, his second consecutive, sub-4.0 ypc season, should again see enough volume to counter inefficiency if it indeed happens again. Gordon should again dominate early-down, goal-line and receiving work. He's a tier behind Le'veon, David Johnson and Zeke, but the Chargers back is highly regarded as top-10, first round pick in fantasy drafts, currently going 10th overall as RB5, sandwiched between LeSean McCoy and Devonta Freeman. I'd be happy with any of the three as my RB1. Behind Gordon is a trifecta of Brandon Oliver, Kenneth Farrow and Andre Williams. I don't care much for the latter two, but I legitimately think Oliver has the potential to post Darren Sproles numbers if he can stay healthy after tearing his achilles in 2016. I'd bet he wins the back-up role for the Chargers and surprises in PPR formats.