Philip Rivers returns for his 12th season in San Diego, and he’s not slowing down. In the past two seasons he has posted his third- and fourth-highest yardage totals as well as his second- and third-highest touchdown totals. He’s also finished in the top eight in yards and touchdowns in each of the past two seasons. However, with the plethora of quarterbacks in the NFL who are studs and/or benefiting from a league that favors offense, Rivers may not even be selected as a starter in leagues of 12 teams or fewer. Rivers has been extremely consistent since 2008 passing for at least 26 touchdowns in each season, so if you’re one of the last to draft a signal caller in your league, maybe you can pair him with an upside guy like Colin Kaepernick or Teddy Bridgewater. That way you get safety and upside.
San Diego traded up in this year’s draft to select Melvin Gordon 15th overall. I won’t list Gordon’s college stats, because they don’t mean anything now. He does have outstanding vision and acceleration, and that’s what makes me excited about his NFL outlook. The Chargers produced two top-2o running backs in standard leagues in 2013 and Ryan Mathews‘ 2011 placed him seventh among running backs. There’s room for Gordon to come in and have success, but I wouldn’t want him as an RB1 as there are questions as to how much passing-down work he’ll have and what playing time he’ll lose to Danny Woodhead. But Gordon should be the top rookie running back this season.
Woodhead lost 2014 to an ankle injury, but remember in 2013 he posted 1,034 total yards, 76 catches and eight touchdowns. As long as he’s healthy, Woodhead should be able to repeat those numbers, especially with Antonio Gates being suspended to start the season. He’s an RB3/flex in standard leagues and an RB2 in PPR leagues.
Keenan Allen‘s receiving yardage, yards per catch, touchdowns and catches of 20+ yards all fell dramatically last year, but I’m willing to give him a pass. The 23-year-old did lead the team in catches and targets, and he caught at least five passes in eight of 14 games last season. I think his targets go up this year, so he should come closer to his 2013 stats and have a good bounce-back season. He’s a good WR3 in PPR leagues with the upside to become start-worthy in standard leagues, too.
Malcom Floyd saw a career-high in targets last year, and he arguably had the best season of his career. He led the team in yards and yards per catch, playing in 16 games for just the second time in his career. In three of his last four mostly healthy seasons Floyd has topped 800 yards and he was surprisingly consistent last season. Floyd isn’t startable to begin the season, but he’s worth an early reserve selection at WR. Steve Johnson rounds out the notable names at WR. Last year three Chargers’ wide receivers totaled at least 52 catches and 778 yards, so Johnson could be a decent late-round option/bye-week fill-in in a democratic offense.
Gates will miss the first four games of the season due to a suspension for using a banned substance. Gates scored 12 touchdowns last season, so he has something left in the tank and maybe the four missed games will help keep him fresh down the stretch. I don’t recommend drafting him, however, because if you do I think you’ll want to take a top tight end because Gates is out for four weeks. You wouldn’t want to rely on a lottery ticket for that long. Then when he comes back you’re probably not starting him over your other tight end so he’s basically just a wasted roster spot/draft pick all season long.
Ladarius Green should be the biggest benefactor from Gates’ suspension, but I wouldn’t recommend heading into the season with both on your squad. We’ve never seen Green have sustained success, and even though it’s different now with Gates missing time, he still might not be start-worthy. If you draft a stud tight end early I’d suggest maybe taking Green late, hope he catches fire and then sell to the Gates owner or the highest bidder. He’s a big-play threat, but just how much will he do in Gates’ absence and then what will he do once Gates returns? Too many questions to feel safe with Green.
From a fantasy standpoint there’s not much to be excited about here. The Chargers finished ninth in yards allowed last season and they also finished in the top half of the league in points allowed. But they intercepted only seven passes (tied fourth-worst) and their 26 sacks were also the fourth-worst mark in the league. They added two defenders in the draft who could have an impact this year, and they’ve got several other defenders who are good on the field. But there’s not enough here to make them rosterable.
PLAYER TO WATCH
If you’re in a PPR league, Woodhead should be a huge target. In current ADP data at Fantasy Football Calculator Woodhead is going in the eighth round and 37th among running backs. Several players before Woodhead will have to win their teams’ running back jobs by performance or via injury to come close to meeting their draft-day value, while we know Woodhead’s job. He’s a third-down back who’s going to catch a ton of passes and get some regular work in the ground game. His position is set, while those other backs’ aren’t.
Last year, with all due respect to Donald Brown‘s 31-carry, 62-yard outing in Week 3, Ryan Mathews and Branden Oliver shared RB1 duties in San Diego. They combined for 1,252 total yards and seven touchdowns. Neither one was able to do extremely well on the season, but they were still able to put up decent stats. Gordon is a better runner than either of the other two, and if he’s able to play in all 16 games he should be able to match the San Diego RB1 2014 numbers.