It’s never a good thing when the biggest story surrounding
an NFL franchise isn’t the team’s draft from April
and isn’t the potential of a deep playoff run in the upcoming
season. What’s worse is when the story involves the franchise
potentially being relocated, especially when the franchise quarterback
has made it clear that he has little to no interest in remaining
with the team if the move does happen. That kind of frustration
and general apathy toward the team rarely breeds fantasy success,
but it’s the exact scenario that is playing out in San Diego
right now with quarterback Philip Rivers.
Rivers, who has not missed a start since becoming the team’s
top signal caller back in 2006, enters the 2015 season with a
whirlwind of speculation surrounding the team and must somehow
figure out a way to match, if not exceed his 2014 output if he
wants to be a top 10 fantasy option.
Although he is coming off of back-to-back seasons where he exceeded
the 30-touchdown mark, Rivers also threw an uncharacteristic 18
interceptions this past season – the second-highest total
of his career. Much of this was due to inconsistencies in the
offense, injuries across the board and a general lack of blocking
from his offensive line. The team did make moves to address the
offensive line by bringing in free agents Orlando Franklin and
Joe Barksdale. While both players should be positives in the running
game, Barksdale was atrocious as a pass protector for the Rams
in 2014. If Barksdale doesn’t make major improvements to
his game, Rivers could be seeing plenty of pressure from the right
side of the offensive line which could again translate into an
abnormally high number of turnovers.
Still, Rivers remains the most important piece of the puzzle
in San Diego. The team should have a more consistent, if not more
productive running game this season which should give the team
more opportunities to score. With a plethora of decent receiving
options but no one elite, Rivers could be the one player who provides
consistent, high-quality fantasy production in this offense.
Rookies are almost always the toughest players to evaluate coming
into an NFL season because while they may have looked amazing
in college, the transition into the NFL doesn’t always happen
smoothly and in today’s NFL, it doesn’t always happen
right away. Such could be the case with San Diego’s rookie
running back Melvin Gordon, who was certainly one of the top prospects
that the position has seen over the past few seasons, but still
has some holes in his game that make him a potentially dangerous
fantasy pick in 2015.
Gordon possesses top-end quickness with good pure speed and great
power, but his vision has been a question mark. Once he hits the
hole, he can make good things happen, but he does not always seem
to find the hole right away. Improvements to the San Diego offensive
line should give Gordon more running room than the Chargers backs
saw in 2014, but chemistry could be a problem for the unit out
of the gate. If they gel quickly and Gordon becomes comfortable
with the offense, he could be one of the best value picks of the
entire fantasy season. However, if the unit struggles and Gordon
does not trust that the holes will develop, he could be just another
name on the long list of disappointing former first round running
Perhaps the biggest concern with Gordon heading into this season
is his ability to play on third down. Most believe that he will
be the team’s primary ball carrier on first and second down, but
third mid-or-longer could see him head to the bench in exchange
for the likes of Danny Woodhead or even Branden Oliver. If he
can develop his pass-catching skills while showing high effort
in pass protection, Gordon could end up being a top-10 fantasy
running back this season, even in PPR formats. Even if he doesn’t,
however, it would be hard to imagine that he won’t break into
the top-20 for the season given his expected workload.
Reports out of Chargers camp are that running back Danny Woodhead
is ahead of schedule on recovering from the broken fibula injury
which cost him the majority of his 2014 season. This bodes well
for the team as his skill set was sorely missed, particularly
in the passing game where he had carved out quite the niche for
himself in 2013.
Woodhead’s 2013 season was the stuff of PPR legend. The
5’8”, 200 lb. back caught 76 passes – second
most among all running backs – and became one a prototypical
Flex starter in fantasy circles due to consistent production.
It is worth noting, however, that Woodhead caught just five total
passes and carried the ball only 15 times, with no touchdowns,
before being injured in 2014.
While most believe that his usage would have increased as the
season went on, the possibility that the offense may be going
in a different direction is worth considering before selecting
him in fantasy drafts. Branden Oliver, who started seven games
for the Chargers in 2014, may be in line for more total work than
Woodhead given his more balanced skillset.
Chargers running back Branden Oliver was almost completely unknown
to fantasy owners heading into the 2014 season, but could have
been a major stop-gap for some teams as he put up some big numbers
for a few weeks before fading back into irrelevance toward the
end of the season.
Oliver, another small-framed back who drew comparisons to Darren
Sproles when he broke out in Week 5 against the Jets, compiled
a total of 447 yards, three touchdowns and 17 receptions over
four-week span from Week 5 through Week 8. Oliver returned to
a complementary role upon the return of the then-injured Ryan
Mathews, but still showed signs of explosiveness and playmaking
ability from time to time.
With Melvin Gordon now on the roster, look for Oliver to again
play a complementary role in the running game while competing
with Danny Woodhead for snaps on third down. The possibility of
an injury to Gordon could give Oliver fantasy draft precedence
over Woodhead as the primary handcuff as he is better equipped
to handle a larger workload.
When both Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead went down to injury
in early 2014, most believed that it would be former first round
draft pick Donald Brown who stepped in and took over as the team’s
primary ball carrier. Although Brown was given a chance, his 2.6
yards per carry on the season were a major disappointment and
led the way for Branden Oliver to get the lead back role until
Now entering his seventh NFL season, Brown is essentially a non-factor
for fantasy leagues. Stuck on the depth chart behind two players
who have already proven to be more-trusted by the team and a rookie
who will be given every opportunity to succeed, Brown is at best
the fourth option in the running game and really can only be considered
a potential fantasy acquisition if at least two of the players
ahead of him on the depth chart get injured.
After a monster rookie season that saw many analysts proclaiming
him as the next big thing, wide receiver Keenan Allen took a big
step back in 2015. Although he actually caught more passes in
his second season than he did in his rookie campaign, Allen finished
263 yards and four touchdowns behind his 2013 totals.
Now entering his third season as a pro, Allen still has a chance
to become a legitimate every week starting fantasy receiver, but
may never live up to the expectations of being a top 10 player
at the position. Reports indicate that there is a real chance
that Allen will spend plenty of time playing out of the slot this
season, which could mean more receptions but will likely mean
an even further decreased YPC and could even mean fewer touchdowns.
Still, for PPR formats, the move to the slot might not necessarily
a bad thing. Eddie Royal, who left in free agency this offseason,
thrived out of the slot in 2014 when he caught 62 passes for 778
yards. Although Royal may be a more prototypical slot receiver,
Allen has far more pure talent at this point in his career and
could inch back closer to the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
Look for Allen to be the team’s best fantasy receiver in
2015, but that will likely only make him a WR2 in most formats.
Be careful of over-drafting him, but do look for an opportunity
to select him if he slips because he could provide some nice,
consistent fantasy numbers this season.
Once considered a viable every week fantasy starter, new Chargers
wideout Steve Johnson may be one of the biggest boom-or-bust receivers
on the fantasy market in 2015.
Johnson eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards for three straight seasons
as a member of the Bills in 2010 through 2012 before an injury-plagued
2013 saw him fail to get to 600 yards. Johnson looked to revitalize
his career as a member of the 49ers in 2014, but could never get
on the same page with quarterback Colin Kaepernick and ended up
finishing fourth in snaps at the position behind Anquan Boldin,
Michael Crabtree and Brandon Lloyd.
A new offense and a more traditional quarterback could do wonders
for Johnson, who will look to get back to where he was in 2010-2012
which made him one of the more valuable fantasy receivers in the
game. Expect him to start as the team’s WR2 and potentially
be a big player in the downfield passing game. If he and Rivers
get off to a quick start, there is no reason why Johnson couldn’t
return low-end fantasy WR2 numbers while costing significantly
less than that to acquire in your draft.
At one point, fantasy owners were looking at Malcom Floyd as
the potential “twin tower” complement to then-Charger
Vincent Jackson in the passing game. When that didn’t happen,
hopes became that he would eventually become a big play receiver
who, despite inconsistency, could give the Chargers some huge
games from time to time. Now entering his 10th season as a pro,
Floyd has become only a bit more than a big body role-player in
the San Diego offense.
Although he did enjoy his best fantasy season as a pro in 2014
when he caught 52 passes for 856 yards and six touchdowns, Floyd
was never really on the fantasy radar for most owners as he eclipsed
90 yards just twice on the season and never caught more than five
passes in any one game. It’s very hard to trust him as a
fantasy receiver and with the addition of Steve Johnson as a potential
downfield threat and Allen possibly moving into the slot, there
will likely be fewer balls that head Floyd’s way in 2015.
Look at Floyd’s 2014 numbers as a ceiling for what he can
do this season, which makes him a WR3 at best, but more likely
a bye-week fill-in when the Chargers have a good matchup.
Super Bowl hero Jacoby Jones was once highly-touted as a big
play threat that could develop into a WR2 next to a high-quality
WR1, but it has never quite panned out that way. Still an excellent
returner, Jones has never quite become a reliable player in the
Now on his third team, Jones is unlikely to finally break out.
Although quarterback Philip Rivers has revitalized the careers
of players like Eddie Royal and brought players like Danario Alexander
into the fantasy conversation, it’s unlikely that Jones
is going to suddenly become a fantasy stud as he enters his ninth
Once the premier tight end in all of fantasy, Antonio Gates has
stuck around and still remains one of the top players at the position
even at age 35. Gates’ 821 yards put him seventh in the
league at the tight end position, but it was his 12 touchdowns
– tied for most among tight ends – that made him an
elite fantasy option once again.
As Philip Rivers’ most trusted target, Gates gets plenty
of looks in the red zone and there’s no reason for that
to change. Among all tight ends in league history, only Tony Gonzalez
has more touchdowns over the course of his career than Antonio
Gates. Look for Gates to close the gap, which is currently 12,
and potentially threaten to overtake that record in 2015 if he
gets out to a hot start.
While backup Ladarius Green appears to be the potential tight
end of the future, Gates is still the man in this passing game
and with the Chargers defense still struggling, look for plenty
of passing from San Diego again this season. Gates isn’t Rob Gronkowski
or Jimmy Graham, but there’s no reason to think that he can’t
once again be in the conversation to lead the pack among the second-tier
of fantasy tight ends, while costing significantly less than many
of the other options at the position.
At 6’6” and 240 lbs, Ladarius Green has the size
and speed combination that make him a real threat to be a big
time fantasy producer in the future. The key word there, however,
Too many fantasy owners fell into this trap in 2014 and still
others will fall into it in 2015. As it stands right now, Green
is not a fantasy option. His lack of usage in the San Diego offense
means that he will not see enough targets to be a weekly starter
even if he does show up with a nice game here or there. At this
point, Green is the tight end version of a fantasy handcuff. If
Antonio Gates goes down, he could be great. But if Gates stays
relatively healthy again, Green isn’t going to see nearly
enough targets to make him fantasy relative.