QB Philip Rivers - Solid/Safe Pick
Philip Rivers was last season's Comeback Player of the Year as named by the Associated Press. His turnaround was assisted by new head coach Mike McCoy and the pair should fair well into the future. Rivers is a reliable option who rebounded statistically after what appeared to be a gradual decline. In 2013, he threw for nearly 4,500 yards with 32 TDs and 11 INTs. This year Rivers will be counting on second-year standout Keenan Allen, a tentatively healthy Malcom Floyd, tight ends Ladarius Green & Antonio Gates as well as some additional support from a great backfield. Rivers has the potential to surprise fantasy owners once again.
Editor's note: Rivers has passed for at least 4,000 yards in five of his last six seasons. For those owners opting to wait for a quarterback, Rivers is certainly one to target. According to our data, Rivers is the 15th QB off the board with an ADP of 125.55. This really illustrates the depth of the quarterback position. Considering Rivers could be drafted as a backup, there should be no pressing need to reach at the position in 10- or 12-team leagues.
QB Kellen Clemens - Not Draft Worthy
Kellen Clemens is an upgrade over last year's backup QB Charlie Whitehurst, but still not draft worthy. Last season, he stepped in for Sam Bradford in St. Louis and performed like a game-manager. Clemens is by no means a guy to rely on at the QB position. If Rivers goes down, Clemens would perform adequately on the field. Unfortunately, fantasy owners will get no use out of that adequacy.
RB Ryan Mathews - Solid/Safe Pick
Ryan Mathews is one of many safe picks to choose from San Diego's offense. After failing to meet the expectations of fantasy owners early in his career, mostly due to injury woes and periods of non-productivity, the former Fresno State back rebounded with a healthy and useful 16-game contribution. Mathews rushed for 100-plus yards six times after Week 5. From Weeks 10 to 17, he averaged about 15 fantasy points per game in standard scoring leagues. That's a really strong push from a guy typically drafted as RB2 or flex. He has shown a burst of explosiveness up to this point, although some of that might be zapped due to him adding nearly 10 lbs. of muscle during the offseason. He claims his weight gain is meant to provide him with durability, a sore subject among fantasy owners, no pun intended. Mathews would benefit from contributing more as a receiver; however, RBs Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown will share that responsibility. After finishing last season as fantasy's 12th-best scoring RB in standard, Mathews' ADP places him at RB21 or more specifically, early in Round 6. The concerns of a fluke season from the Chargers coupled with injury concerns make Mathews an excellent value selection.
RB Donald Brown - Deep-league Only
Since San Diego is calling Ryan Mathews their bell cow, that would make Donald Brown an opportunistic handcuff if he can overtake Woodhead as the Chargers' No. 2 back. If not, he will have to wait for Mathews to miss his annual game or two. Brown's move to San Diego is smart for the franchise considering Mathews' injury issues from years past. Brown can also contribute some value in the passing game. Last season in Indianapolis, he had 27 grabs for 214 yards and two TDs. Brown should earn about five to eight carries per game plus some extra work on passing downs. He will spell Mathews as needed and if he goes down to injury for a game or two (which is likely), Brown can make a fantasy impact in most league formats.
RB Danny Woodhead - Quality Backup
Danny Woodhead is a traditional pass-catching RB who will also carry the ball a handful of times per game. Woodhead can be a quality backup in PPR leagues, and would fit nicely as a flex in your roster. The big question is whether or not head coach Mike McCoy and San Diego will opt to give Woodhead the same workload as last season. Woodhead accumulated 1,034 total yards and scored eight TDs. His 76 receptions were the second-most for a running back in the NFL, trailing only the Saints' Pierre Thomas (77). The addition of Donald Brown is a definite concern, although Woodhead (now 29 years old) is in a contract year so the Chargers may have made the move to plan ahead for the future. The former Chadron State back is the 39th RB drafted with an ADP of 117.62. This makes him a Round 10 pick. Such a spot in the draft is usually reserved for bench players.
Editor's note: Woodhead was a great PPR pick last year. He never rushed for more than 52 yards or gained more than 77 receiving yards in a game; however, his steady yardage as both a runner and receiver made him supremely dependable and safe. With a new year ahead of him and another decent RB in the backfield (Brown), Woodhead has lost some of his luster. Doubt has crept in. Can he really score 8 total TDs again? In the 10th round, Woodhead is worth taking the risk.
RB Marion Grice - Dynasty Only
Marion Grice was San Diego's sixth-round draft pick and was recently signed to a four-year deal. Grice is not likely to see much action (if any) in a backfield with Mathews, Brown and Woodhead. He is not draft worthy unless it is as a late-round look in dynasty leagues. He excelled at Arizona State thanks to his impressive pass-catching skill.
WR Keenan Allen - Stud (low risk)
Keenan Allen enters his second season with much hype and lofty expectations. His 71 receptions for 1,046 yards and eight TDs is close to one of the best rookie receiver seasons ever. Philip Rivers will be sending many passes in Allen's direction, but now that defenses know of him, how will they adjust in order to shut him down? This season he will be targeted by more defenses and may not find as much room to work. Nonetheless, Allen is a fantasy stud-in-the-making who should have enough production to keep him worthy of your WR1 slot. With Malcom Floyd healthy, Allen will have some help to draw defenders away. Allen has the speed, size and natural ability to produce in his sophomore year.
Editor's note: It seems that many consider an even better season for Allen is a foregone conclusion. That may very well be true, but it doesn't always happen that way though. Look at the career arc of New England's Terry Glenn after his amazing rookie season in 1996. Guys fall off a cliff statistically. That's just part of the game. Like with any other pick, make sure you're getting a good value for Allen. The former Cal receiver, according to our ADP data, is the 10th WR drafted with an ADP of 25.05. This puts him ahead of Jordy Nelson, Pierre Garcon and a flurry of other veteran receivers. This isn't a very great deal for fantasy owners and provides little opportunity for him to outplay his ADP.
WR Malcom Floyd - Deep-league Only
Malcom Floyd suffered a season-ending neck injury in Week 2 of the 2013 season and despite some early predictions that he would not fair well in recovery, the former Wyoming Cowboy is progressing nicely. He will likely begin the season opposite Keenan Allen. His best skill, working downfield on some deep plays, should help open up an offense that lacked a consistent deep threat a year ago. Rivers is at his best airing it out and using play-action to give his receivers more time to get downfield. It isn't unreasonable to assume the Chargers can keep two receivers productive enough for fantasy. Floyd's main competition for targets will actually come from tight ends Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green. Until he strings together a few good performances while also staying healthy, Floyd is better off on waivers in standard 12-team leagues. In deeper formats, such as the FFWC Draft-N-Go from June 17, Floyd was drafted in the 22nd round (12 teams).
WR Vincent Brown - Not Draft Worthy
Brown will be the Chargers' No. 4 receiver. Keenan Allen and Malcom Floyd are the starters. Eddie Royal will occupy the slot. This leaves little room for Brown, especially if the Chargers plan on getting Ladarius Green on the field in the occasional two-TE set. Brown had some opportunities last season to step up and shine due to Floyd's injury; however, Brown did not impress. His 41/472/1 stat-line did not make the cut and he has been sliding down the depth chart since his arrival in the league. As he proved last season, even if injuries occur around him and everybody else is playing really well, Brown is unable to contribute significant stats for fantasy owners.
WR Eddie Royal - Deep-league Only
Eddie Royal's eight TDs last season were an anomaly by consensus. He is the primary slot receiver in San Diego and will contribute sparingly. With defenses preoccupied with Keenan Allen and Malcom Floyd, Royal may once again produce the occasional shooting star performance. A healthy Floyd pushes Royal to the fringes of the game, limiting his targets and ultimately his production. Take a pass on Royal unless either Allen or Floyd are sidelined for a number of games.
TE Ladarius Green - Sleeper (undervalued)
Ladarius Green could be a fantasy TE stud by the Week 8. He is more athletic and has more potential than just about any other tight end in the NFL. Until he realizes that potential, he is a risky option especially if drafted to be your team's starting TE. Predictions that he breakout after his promising moments in 2013 are very popular right now. This season, Green should be Philip Rivers' second-favorite target. If this pans out, Green has huge upside. If you wait to draft a TE and the top tier is gone, Green is not a bad pick-up and he with the right amount of playing time, he can eclipse his ADP (TE13, 102.48) and produce like a legitimate TE1.The problem is he may need to wait another season. Antonio Gates is still the starter after all.
Editor's note: Green is the definition of a boom-or-bust sleeper. We have nothing to go on except empty promises and coach speak. Until Green is firmly the starter with more snaps and targets than Gates, fantasy owners will simply have to wait and wonder what he might be.
TE Antonio Gates - BUST (overvalued)
Antonio Gates is over the hill. If you think about him, your knees and ankles hurt on his behalf. At 34 years of old and with Ladarius Green chomping at the bit behind him, Gates should experience a lessened role, although nothing is guaranteed in this game. Gates' production dwindled in the second half of 2013 as the schedule progressed. Despite putting up over 800 receiving yards, Gates scored just four times. The smart money is on Green to overtake Gates; however, there's just no way of knowing how the snaps will be divided between the two.
PK Nick Novak - Solid/Safe Pick
Nick Novak made 92-percent of his field goal attempts last season and 100-percent of his 40-plus yard attempts (11-of-11). He is a borderline stud kicker who should earn plenty of FG attempts thanks to the Chargers' reliable ground game which more easily and predictably earns more first downs than other high-risk offenses.
DST San Diego - Bye Week Fill-in
San Diego's defense has not been very good in many years. The team depends upon its potent offense to win games and while San Diego is slowly adding some young playmakers to the mix, they lack the defensive front to get a consistent pass-rush. Signing free agent corner Brandon Flowers and drafting CB Jason Verrett out of TCU in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft provides instant upgrades to their secondary. Another year of experience should help Manti Te'o.With even a slight improvement to their pass rush from Jarret Johnson and Dwight Freeney, this team might be a decent streaming play or bye week replacement against a lesser offense.