Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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Chargers Fantasy Preview

Monday, July 10, 2017


Chargers Offensive Profile Under Ken Whisenhunt

2013, 2016 Pass Attempts Rank: 22nd, 15th
2013, 2016 Rush Attempts Rank: 6th, 22nd
2013, 2016 Play Volume Rank: 12th, 17th
2013, 2016 Yards Per Play Rank: 5th, 13th
Unaccounted for Targets from 2016 (Rank): 33 (30th)
Unaccounted for Carries from 2016 (Rank): 45 (20th)

Projected Starting Lineup

QB: Philip Rivers
RB: Melvin Gordon
WR: Keenan Allen
WR: Tyrell Williams
TE: Hunter Henry
TE: Antonio Gates
LT: Russell Okung
LG: Dan Feeney
C: Matt Slauson
RG: Forrest Lamp
RT: Joe Barksdale

Passing Game Outlook

Philip Rivers hasn’t missed a start since 2005 and has topped 25 touchdown passes in nine straight seasons. He has exceeded 4,000 passing yards in eight of the last nine years. Rivers has led the NFL in interceptions in two of the last three years, however, becoming increasingly turnover prone with age while showing a tendency to fade in the second halves of seasons, 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. Working in Rivers’ 2017 favor is a deep and explosive supporting cast which top to bottom may be the best of Rivers’ career. Working against Rivers is a brutal Weeks 1-10 pass-defense schedule that includes Denver twice, Kansas City, the Giants, New England, and Jacksonville. It is a definite concern that Rivers faces a slew of tough early-season defenses and has a tendency to slip as years progress. While Rivers remains a solid QB1/2 pick in best-ball leagues, he won’t be nearly as attractive as an early-season re-draft or DFS play. Rivers is a conservative quarterback pick at his QB13 (FF Calculator) and QB14 (MFL10s) ADPs.

Keenan Allen flamed Chiefs top corner Marcus Peters for most of his 6-63-0 receiving line in the first two quarters of Week 1, only to tear his right ACL just before halftime. Allen estimated he was 85 percent in April and ran full-speed routes at OTAs. One of the NFL’s premier wide receiver technicians, Allen entered the league with a balky left knee and has missed 25-of-48 games the past three years due to a variety of freak, hard-luck injuries, including a broken collarbone, lacerated kidney, and last year’s non-contact knee-ligament tear. Allen does have a 116/1,217/10.5/8 stat line over his last 16 games, which would have made him last year’s PPR WR5 behind only Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, Mike Evans, and Odell Beckham. Allen’s 2017 health remains a question mark, however, and his role could be scaled back somewhat amongst a plethora of receiving options. While risky at his WR15 (FF Calculator) and WR17 (MFL10s) Average Draft Positions, Allen remains capable of returning value if he gets better injury luck.

Thrust into a full-time role following Allen’s Week 1 injury, second-year UDFA Tyrell Williams emerged as Rivers’ top wideout with team highs in targets (119), catches (69), and yards (1,059), playing 84% of San Diego’s offensive snaps. A vertical receiver at 6-foot-4, 204 with 4.43 speed, Williams also led San Diego in average depth of target (11.6) and paced the NFL in Football Outsiders’ “YAC+” metric, doing his best work on in-breaking shallow crosses after the catch. Although the Chargers’ first-round selection of Mike Williams initially threatened Tyrell’s playing time, the former Williams missed almost all spring practices with a herniated disc in his back and will enter training camp in a race for early-season snaps. Tyrell’s 2017 target volume remains likely to take a hit with Allen returning, but not to the extent reflected in Williams’ too-low ADP. A particularly compelling best-ball target because of his big-play and big-game potential, Williams is a value pick at his WR45 (MFL10s) and WR49 (FF Calculator) costs.

Even before his spring back injury, No. 7 overall pick Mike Williams entered an unideal fantasy situation in a Chargers offense brimming with weapons and missing the NFL’s third fewest team targets (33) from last year. A big (6’4/218), physical, my-ball receiver who made his living on contested catches and back-shoulder throws from Deshaun Watson at Clemson, Williams suffered a “mild disc herniation” in his lower back at rookie camp and is uncertain to be ready for training camp. Whereas Odell Beckham was the exception in 2014, over the past two years fellow first-round WRs Breshad Perriman, Josh Doctson, Kevin White, and Laquon Treadwell turned in rookie zeroes due at least partly to various pre-season injuries from which they were slow to recover. Short of a squeaky-clean, fast recovery, Williams may be in danger of following a similar path. While Williams’ WR48 Average Draft Position on Fantasy Football Calculator is especially egregious, I would be loath to draft Williams at his WR58 ADP in MFL10s, as well.

Also in the hunt for Chargers wideout snaps are 2016 free agent flop Travis Benjamin and slot man Dontrelle Inman, the latter of whom quietly led all San Diego pass catchers in playing time (90%) last season. Benjamin topped 80 yards in three of the first five games, then failed to reach that mark the rest of the way due to persistent knee problems that required arthroscopic surgery. As his role on offense is likely to be minor, the Chargers plan to try Benjamin on punt returns. Inman is a steady Mohamed Sanu-level talent who logged 63% of his 2016 snaps in the slot and set career highs across the board (58/810/14.0/4), but now has an uncertain role with Keenan Allen returning as San Diego’s top between-the-numbers wideout. Inman underwent “core muscle surgery” in May and missed all spring workouts. He could still reemerge as the Bolts’ third receiver if Mike Williams doesn’t come on quickly.

Despite playing only 53.8% of the Chargers’ 2016 offensive snaps in a timeshare with Antonio Gates and failing to clear 45 yards in each of his final nine games, Hunter Henry tied for the NFL lead in tight end scores (8) by turning 7-of-16 red-zone targets into touchdowns. Henry also graded positively as a run and pass blocker at Pro Football Focus and looks to have a bright future as an every-down tight end, even if it’s probably not happening in 2017. Although beat writers have projected an expanded role in Henry’s sophomore year, the returns of Gates and Allen are concerns for Henry’s target volume and snaps in a Chargers offense that ran two-tight end “12 personnel” on just 18% of its 2016 plays, which ranked 19th in the NFL. Likely to remain a part-time player, Henry has one of the most egregious ADPs in the month of July as the TE8 in MFL10s and TE10 on FF Calculator, ahead of Zach Ertz, Eric Ebron, and Jack Doyle. MFL10 drafters are selecting Henry over Delanie Walker and Martellus Bennett, as well.

Despite missing two early-season games with a hamstring injury, Antonio Gates outscored Henry by 18 PPR points and out-snapped Henry on a per-game basis 41.8 to 38.2. The Chargers went out of their way to get Gates to Tony Gonzalez’s all-time tight end touchdown record (111) – he led the team in red-zone targets (18) – but Gates only tied Gonzalez’s mark and should break it early this year. Although Gates’ usage figures to diminish to at least some extent, he is expected to remain a big part of the offense on passing downs and in the red zone, and his longstanding rapport with Philip Rivers should ensure Gates stays involved until he retires. All but forgotten in terms of ADP, Gates is going off the board as the TE26 in MFL10s after finishing as last season’s PPR TE12. While highly unlikely to be a re-draft asset, Gates’ touchdown-scoring prowess should keep him relevant as a best-ball TE2/3.

Running Game Outlook

Melvin Gordon was sprung into every-down work when Danny Woodhead tore his ACL last Week 2, going from between-the-twenties early-down back to full-blown workhorse. Until Gordon suffered his own season-ending injury in Week 14, he averaged 25.3 touches over an 11-game sample and was the PPR RB3 during that stretch. Gordon averaged the NFL’s sixth-most yards per carry (4.69) against eight-man boxes (Next Gen Stats), although he finished 26th among 43 backs in Football Outsiders’ Success Rate, a middling 24th among 53 RBs in Pro Football Focus’ Elusive Rating, and 30th in yards after contact per attempt. Gordon didn’t blow the doors off in terms of effectiveness, but he was a fantasy difference maker on volume, scoring-position chances, and pass-game usage. After logging just 11 red-zone carries in 2015, Gordon handled the third most in football (50) in 2016 and drew eight additional red-zone targets. Gordon’s PCL sprain healed with rest and rehab, and he was full go at OTAs. The Bolts made no meaningful backfield upgrades, setting up Gordon for bellcow usage again. He’s deservedly the RB5 in Average Draft Position behind David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, and LeSean McCoy.

The Chargers will hold a three-way camp battle at No. 2 running back between Branden Oliver, Kenneth Farrow, and Andre Williams. Oliver is the favorite, but he tore his right Achilles’ last preseason and was not tendered as a restricted free agent by Los Angeles, later re-signing on a one-year, near-minimum deal. When healthy, Oliver is an efficient receiving back with limited inside-running skills. Farrow made last year’s roster as an undrafted rookie, only to struggle in two late-season starts before suffering a year-ending shoulder injury in Week 16. Ex-Giant Williams got the Week 17 spot start with Farrow and Gordon on the shelf and rushed for 87 yards on 18 carries against the Chiefs in San Diego’s season finale. While Oliver, Farrow, and Williams offer zero standalone fantasy value, this is an underrated competition to monitor behind Gordon, who missed multiple games in each of his first two NFL seasons.

2017 Vegas Win Total

The now-Los Angeles Chargers have a Win Total of 7.5, conservative for a team with a loaded offense and ascending defense which can rush the passer and fields one of the NFL’s premier cornerback duos in Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett. Last year’s Bolts were extreme underachievers, netting a 5-11 record despite a 7.6-7.7 Pythagorean Win Expectation in another injury-ravaged year. They lost a whopping nine one-score games, including five by four points or fewer. This year’s Bolts have the NFL’s 14th-easiest schedule according to Rotoworld SOS analyst Warren Sharp. The slate becomes particularly soft after Week 10, setting them up for a fast finish if they can get there relatively healthy, which of course has been a major problem for recent Chargers teams. Regardless, I’m favoring the over on Los Angeles’ 7.5-game Win Total and see them as a sleeper for double-digit victories.



Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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