The San Diego Chargers are usually a “close, but no cigar” team. That’s real life, though. In the world of fantasy football mattering, they’re kind of fun to be around. The days of LaDainian Tomlinson are long gone, yet the likes of Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, suspensions and jammed fingers be damned, live on.
And they live strong. This year we also get an exciting rookie rusher in Melvin Gordon, and there is some legitimate hope for guys like Keenan Allen and LaDarius Green to make their mark. Just how big of an imprint they and the Bolts as a whole make, of course, has yet to be determined. That being said, there’s enough logic pointing to a solid enough showing for San Diego in real life, and that should translate to quality fantasy production. Let’s see which Chargers players we can trust in fantasy football this year, who we should jettison into the sun and which ones we need to keep watching:
Rivers is Here to Stay
There was a real fear that ol’ reliable was going to leave after his contract was up, but he’s in San Diego to stay, probably until he retires. That’s a comforting notion for Chargers fans, but fantasy owners rejoice, too, since Rivers has rediscovered his mojo in Mike McCoy’s dink and dunk system. It’s allowed Rivers to get back to his bread and butter – quick reads, short and intermediate passes and accuracy. He’s put up roughly 31 touchdowns and 4,300 passing yards on average in the past two seasons, but last year he dipped thanks to a spike in picks from 11 to 18. If he can keep the turnovers in check, Rivers could threaten to be a top-5 performer again. Even if he can’t, he can still dance around the top-10. That’s good enough to wait to snag him late in drafts as possibly the best true value when it comes to a weekly QB1.
Flash Gordon Leads the Way?
Melvin Gordon is projected to be the guy to replace Ryan Mathews, and fantasy owners shouldn’t doubt that too much since there simply isn’t anyone else to do the job. Donald Brown is awful, and Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver are just scat-backs. Gordon is the only one with the whole package to hold up under a beating on a weekly basis. He does have some ball control and pass protection issues, but he’s the most talented rusher to come out of Wisconsin in forever. The best pro-type runner, at least. Gordon isn’t a Ron Dayne or Montee Ball. He’s legit, and by midseason, you may be glad you took a chance on him.
That being said, Gordon is a low-end RB2 to get 2015 started and Danny Woodhead could be a big reason why he’s not a lot more productive. Woodhead was a menace in this system in PPR leagues two years ago, and may have been again last year had he not broke his leg. A touchdown vulture on a draw play in his first preseason action tells us all we need to know – the guy is healthy, the Chargers love him and he’s going to get touches. I don’t know if he’s as valuable as he once was, but there is PPR Flex appeal for sure and maybe even Flex appeal in standard leagues, as well.
Keenan Allen and the San Diego Misfits
Keenan Allen surprised as a rookie in 2013 and ended up finishing at fantasy football’s 17th best receiver. Naturally, suddenly being Rivers’ top target and balling out as a rookie had many thinking Allen was destined to be a top-10 wide receiver in 2014. That didn’t happen, and his average talent was showcased in a disappointing 48th ranking. Yuck, I know.
But Allen isn’t as good or bad as what we’ve seen in the past two years. He’s somewhere in the middle, and that’s fine. He has the ability and role to be a rock solid WR2, but if you can, you need to draft him safely as a WR3. The loss of Gates for the first four weeks gives him an initial boost, but taking Allen anytime before round five figures to be a reach.
As shaky as Allen could still be, he’s without a doubt the most reliable Chargers wide receiver. Malcom Floyd is still a decent deep threat, but he’s had neck issues and is never very consistent. He and newcomer Stevie Johnson are WR4 options at best, although many are high on Johnson in his new environment. I still am not high on him, but I see the WR3 potential. Ideally, you can land Allen as a WR3 and you fade the other Bolts receivers.
Long Live Antonio Gates
Tight end is a different story, since Antonio Gates was reborn in 2014 and finished as the second best tight end in fantasy football. That could have been on last gasp, but even if it’s not you can’t draft him early thanks to a four-game suspension. On top of that, we’re finally going to get to see what LaDarius Green is capable of. That both spikes Green’s immediate value, and curbs Gates for the season. I still think Gates has a shot at getting back inside the top-10 and he’s a fine late-round stash, while Green is a high upside late-round stash, as well. But in reality, only Gates serves as the strong season long play, while Green is more of a cheap value play in DFS leagues to start the year.
Special Teams and Defense Breakdown
There isn’t much to go over on special teams. Nick Novak has converted on 84% of his field goals or better in each of the last three years, has a solid leg and just signed a new contract. He’s reliable and in a strong system, and he’s also available usually in the final round of drafts.
As for San Diego’s defense, they certainly have some talent with one of the best safeties in the game in Eric Weddle, while Melvin Ingram could be a force on the outside. They lack consistency from top to bottom, though, and at best are a middling fantasy unit. You probably shouldn’t be drafting them, unless there’s nothing else and you plan on streaming the position, anyways.
Overall, San Diego is a safe place for fantasy folks, as you have suitable if not elite options across the board at every position. The best part? If you play your cards right, every single one of their best options can be obtained at solid value.