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San Diego Chargers: Fantasy Football 2016 Preview


Today we finish our look at the AFC West from a fantasy football perspective as we turn our attention to the team that almost joined the Rams in Los Angeles: The San Diego Chargers. The Chargers have a couple of young fantasy football options for you and a couple of completely undervalued veterans. Overall, there is a good amount of players who will be fantasy relevant in 2016. Let’s take a look as we wrap up the AFC West.

Quarterback
Outside of Tony Romo, you will be hard pressed to find a more unduly disrespected quarterback in the last decade. Since 2005, he is fourth in touchdowns (sixth in TD rate), fourth in passing yards (sixth in yards per attempt), and carries the sixth-best completion percentage among active quarterbacks. He’s one of the more productive quarterbacks of the last decade, and doesn’t show any sign of slowing down now.

Unfortunately for Rivers, the Chargers put too much on his plate. A high interception rate frequently has Chargers fans, and his fantasy owners, decrying Rivers. Unfortunately for Rivers, these interceptions pull him back from the weekly QB1 conversation and into a platoon or matchup play. Currently, Rivers is going as the #11 QB off the board, just ahead of the question mark tier (Romo/Derek Carr/Kirk Cousins/Andy Dalton).


Owners who do this are hoping to bank 15-20 fantasy points per week and are likely snagging Rivers as a security blanket to take an upside play (like Tyrod Taylor or Matthew Stafford). Personally, I would take him a couple of rounds later, but if you are pairing him with a player in the question mark tier to platoon, grabbing him first is a good bet.

Behind Rivers, there are no quarterbacks that would produce any fantasy relevance if he were to go down. Kellen Clemens and Zach Mettenberger lead the way.

Running Backs
There are two fantasy relevant running backs in San Diego, sophomore Melvin Gordon and veteran Danny Woodhead. To say Gordon had a rough rookie campaign is an incredible understatement. The fifteenth overall pick in 2015 had just 833 yards from scrimmage on 217 touches, and zero touchdowns. That is not a typo or an oversight, the Chargers’ first-round pick couldn’t find the end zone in 2015. Obviously, that is going to revert somewhat in 2016, but a big problem with his end zone aversion is usage. Danny Woodhead is the Chargers’ primary red zone back, getting 34 touches for 86 yards and eight touchdowns to Gordon’s 13 touches for 36 yards and zero touchdowns. Furthermore, within the ten, Gordon got four opportunities to Woodhead’s seventeen. Gordon is a high-quality talent but he just doesn’t get the opportunity to show himself as a viable option in the red zone.

Obviously, that is going to revert somewhat in 2016, but a big problem with his end zone aversion is usage. Danny Woodhead is the Chargers’ primary red zone back, getting 34 touches for 86 yards and eight touchdowns to Gordon’s 13 touches for 36 yards and zero touchdowns. Furthermore, within the ten, Gordon got four opportunities to Woodhead’s seventeen. Gordon is a high-quality talent, but he just doesn’t get the opportunity to show himself as a viable option in the red zone.

Given the mess at the running back position, a player who only had 13 red zone touches is somehow the #25 running back off the board by ADP (and he’ll go up to at least 24 with the Dion Lewis news Sunday). That means that by straight definition, a man who doesn’t even get used in the red zone, has never had an NFL touchdown and is in a strict platoon (217 touches to Woodhead’s 204) is going to be someone’s RB2 by definition.

That’s a bit of a steep price to pay for me, but it is a vagary of the rankers’ ranks. He is going in the “timeshare running back” range, with the Miami backs, Duke Johnson and the Cincinnati backs. I don’t think he’s worth that price, given that he isn’t given the opportunity to be the red zone running back. It severely limits his upside and explains the lack of touchdowns.

The running back worth targeting, especially in PPR, is Danny Woodhead. Right now he’s the #84 pick by ADP, meaning he can be had in the sixth round, a great bench RB to have to fill in for bye weeks (in PPR he represents no such value, as his 106 targets last season vault him up to the #20 RB off the board. This is very fair value for Woodhead and given that in PPR leagues, #20 is a mid-fourth round pick, a solid investment for his weekly catches floor.

Wide Receivers
There’s a one-man show in the San Diego wide receiver corps, and his name is Keenan Allen. Allen’s third year was cut short, and he was only play eight games—but what an eight games it was. His full-season pace had him as one of the league’s insane target monsters. He only played half a season, but his full season pace was 134 receptions on 178 targets for 1450 yards and eight touchdowns.

The touchdowns were pretty meager given the rest of the totals, but that’s solid WR1 production, especially given that the 134 receptions gave you a sweet 8+ point base in PPR Week-in and week-out. The passing game hasn’t changed too much in 2016. Travis Benjamin replaced Malcolm Floyd, so there’s likely to be more deep shots with Benjamin but given that he is behind Woodhead, Allen and Antonio Gates for targets in 2016, there isn’t going to be much to look at there outside of a bye week fill-in. If Allen goes down again, however, he will be a must-add given his talent and the situation he will enter.

A deep sleeper getting a lot of buzz is Tyrell Williams. He’s a speedster who was last seen burning Aqib Talib in week seventeen last year. He’ll be pretty deep on the targets list, but keep an eye on him if he pops early in the season.

Tight End
Father Time is undefeated, as they say, but Antonio Gates is doing his best to knock him out (though he has gotten some chemical help). Gates is going to be one of Rivers’ top targets once again in 2016 and is going to be TE8-10 more often than not. He will be solid, but unspectacular. His ADP is way off, so he becomes mostly a value play. He’s going between Ladarius Green and Jimmy Graham, which doesn’t make sense since out of those three he’s the only one that is likely actually to be healthy in 2016.

Second-round rookie Henry Hunter will be the heir apparent to Gates, but you can safely ignore him. You can’t go broke betting against rookie TEs, as they are overwhelmingly terrible.

D/ST
The Chargers D/ST isn’t among the top 28 D/STs drafted, and with good reason. They aren’t worth a second look. With #3 Joey Bosa a holdout, that isn’t going to change anytime soon.

Kicker
Much like the D/ST, Josh Lambo is waiver wire fodder. Do not waste your time; there isn’t any value to be mined here.

The current iteration of the Chargers is reaching its end, with Philip Rivers likely only having a few years left and Antonio Gates on one of, if not his last ride. They hope that sophomore Melvin Gordon takes a huge step forward (and you’ll need one, too, if you draft him). The best fantasy player on this roster is Keenan Allen, but there are a handful of players who can offer useful fantasy seasons for you.


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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]