One of the jobs of a good fantasy analyst is not telling readers
who to select in their drafts, but rather to provide them with as
much relevant information as possible to make sound decisions. After
all, they are YOUR fantasy teams.
Change is one of the few constants in this world and the NFL
(and fantasy football, by extension) is no different in that regard.
To that end, it is often helpful to see if we can identify when
and why a particular event took place in the previous season when
looking ahead to the next one. Unfortunately, false narratives
are often created and certain myths are embraced as fact by the
fantasy community for any number of reasons, including but not
limited to wanting the easy answer to be the right answer.
Over the next two weeks, I'll attempt to see if there is there
some level of truth to the narratives and maybe even debunk some
myths while I'm at it. This week, I am taking a closer look at
four situations in the AFC that require more examination since
they had a dramatic effect on how the season played out last year
and figure to interest fantasy owners again in 2020:
Philip Rivers loves throwing to his running backs and tight
ends. Will that remain the case after leaving the Chargers for
earned a reputation as a quarterback who will lean heavily on
his running backs and tight ends in the passing game. It's hard
to argue that notion based on his career numbers since becoming
a full-time starter in 2006:
For those unfamiliar with typical RB-WR-TE team target shares,
20 percent is on the high end for the running backs and tight
end position groups. Getting to 25 percent at either spot typically
indicates a team has an elite option at the position, and it is
very uncommon for the same team to have running backs and tight
ends each account for 20 percent of the target share. So yes,
Rivers is quite comfortable distributing the ball to running backs
and tight ends. But isn't Rivers the same guy who has enabled
the likes of Malcom Floyd, Vincent Jackson, Tyrell Williams and
Mike Williams to make a living downfield? That is also true. In
fact, the first three names of that quartet rank 2-3-4 among wide
receivers in targets during Rivers' career.
Rivers may be highly reliant on running backs and tight ends,
but we donít have an idea if that is the function of his
style of play or a matter of personnel - even after 14 years as
the unquestioned starter for the Chargers. Rivers has made 224
starts in his career, 191 of which came with Antonio Gates contributing
in some fashion. Even with his recent injury woes, Hunter Henry
has been available to the eight-time Pro Bowler in 41 games. Although
most of us recognize Gates wasn't what he once was in his final
years, it's hard to say Rivers hasn't benefited from above-average
or Canton-worthy talent at that position for his entire career.
He's played with one or both in all but a handful of contests.
The 38-year-old has enjoyed the same luxuries at running back.
Over his career, Rivers has been flanked by LaDainian Tomlinson,
Darren Sproles, Mike Tolbert, Danny Woodhead, Melvin Gordon and
Austin Ekeler. Even Ryan Mathews and Branden Oliver were capable
receivers out of the backfield. The point is that while the Chargers
have rarely lacked for a top-shelf option at receiver throughout
the bulk of Rivers' career, it would have been a gross misuse
of resources for Rivers not to keep his tight ends and receivers
So can we expect him to remain the same kind of distributor in
Indianapolis? For as much hype as Jonathan Taylor has created
this offseason, he and Marlon Mack probably both fit the Mathews'
mold more than any other back I listed above. Is Nyheim Hines
another Woodhead or Ekeler? Through two seasons, Hines hasn't
approached that level of involvement on an Indianapolis team that
has typically lacked multiple weapons at receiver. The 2020 Colts
may have the best combination of playmakers and offensive line
that Rivers has seen since his early days in San Diego, so owners
need to be careful about assuming what has consistently been true
throughout Rivers' career remaining true in Indianapolis.
While Colts' quarterbacks targeted running backs 126 times and
tight ends 168 times in 2019, Zach Pascal was the team's leading
receiver, T.Y. Hilton missed six games and Parris Campbell never
got over the hump after an early hamstring injury. Hilton had
never played fewer than 14 games before last season, so it 2019
could have been an anomaly for him from a durability perspective.
Michael Pittman Jr. figures to absorb Pascal's 72 targets at the
very least, while Campbell could push for the same number despite
what is expected to be a run-heavy offense. It's more than fair
to assume the receivers will account for at least 55 (and even
a more normal 60) percent of the target share with better injury
luck this year.
Jack Doyle has long been a favorite option for Indianapolis quarterbacks,
but he's not in the same class as Gates or Henry, nor is he guaranteed
the 72 targets he had last year just because "Rivers likes
tight ends". A limited athlete to begin with, it's not a
given Doyle makes an instant connection with Rivers. Although
Eric Ebron's departure theoretically opens up 52 looks, Trey Burton
and/or Mo Alie-Cox could take those and then some. The team has
been looking for a way to get Alie-Cox move involved for some
time. It is only a matter of time before the younger and more
athletic Alie-Cox starts to chip away at Doyle's playing time.
In short, it is OK to feel good about rolling the dice on Hines
and Doyle late in drafts. However, it would be a bit much for
anyone to expect either one to emerge as an every-week starter
just because there is evidence Rivers will not adapt to his new
Doug Orth has written for FF Today
since 2006 and been featured in USA Today's Fantasy Football Preview
magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today's hour-long, pre-kickoff
fantasy football internet chat every Sunday in 2012-13 and appears
as a guest analyst on a number of national sports radio shows, including
Sirius XM's "Fantasy Drive". Doug is also a member of the Fantasy
Sports Writers Association.