A lot of fantasy owners slept on the San Diego Chargers last year, with good reason. In 2012, things fell apart for San Diego. QB Philip Rivers threw for just 3,606 yards, down about 1,000 yards from his 2011 total, and committed 22 turnovers. That performance put a big ceiling on the Chargers' offense. But in 2013, Rivers came back in a big way, throwing for 4,478 yards, 32 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions.
All of those passes have to be caught by somebody. Yet, there hasn't been a lot of talk about the Chargers' receiving weapons coming into this season. But if Rivers is able to pass for more than 4,000 yards again, as he has in five of the past six seasons, fantasy owners may find some WR value on this roster.
Let's take a look at the weapons Rivers will work with as the Chargers seek to recapture their explosiveness on offense.
Allen came out of nowhere in 2013. With stud WR Vincent Jackson leaving the team for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the 2013 offseason, the Chargers' offense looked devoid of solid receiving options. Cue Allen, a third-round rookie. Despite catching just three balls in the Chargers' first three games, he had an incredible first season, taking 71 receptions for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns.
The 6-foot-2 Allen posted a fairly slow 4.7-second 40-yard-dash time at his pro day, and he wasn't a serious deep threat last year. But he was excellent on passes traveling less than 20 yards, racking up 981 yards on such plays. He also was very good in the red zone, scoring six of his eight touchdowns from plays inside the 20-yard line.
Allen struggled somewhat with increased defensive attention in the final quarter of the year, as his yards-per-game average dropped from 70.25 in the first 12 games to 50.75 in the final four. But Allen was able to score five touchdowns during that final stretch, which saved his fantasy value. This year, Allen is the Chargers' clear No. 1 WR. That means he'll need to beat top cornerbacks and double coverage if he's going to repeat his great rookie performance.
San Diego Chargers WR Keenan Allen
As the 11th receiver off draft boards this year, Allen is being taken as a borderline WR1 in fantasy. He'll need to avoid a sophomore slump to justify that valuation. If you can get him as a WR2, Allen is an excellent addition to any roster.
Before the 2012 season, fantasy owners were whispering that Brown might be the successor to Jackson as San Diego's top wideout. Unfortunately for Brown, he broke his ankle in August and missed that entire season. Since then, success has never materialized. Although he was able to play in all 16 games in 2013, Brown caught just 41 balls, an average of 2.5 receptions per game, and he found the end zone just once.
Now, Brown is missing time in Chargers camp with a calf injury. There are rumors that he's on the roster bubble. If he gets healthy, don't expect Brown to be cut. But don't take him in your fantasy draft either, unless you play in a very deep league.
Floyd seemed ready to emerge as the Chargers' WR1 early last season. The 6-foot-5 receiver amassed 149 yards in the first two games and looked like Rivers' go-to receiver. Then a scary neck injury in Week 2 left Floyd to be carried off the field on a stretcher and wonder publicly whether he would ever play football again.
But Floyd has received full medical clearance to play this season and was reportedly very impressive during OTAs. He'll turn 33 in September, so the likelihood of a full comeback is in doubt. But with his height and speed, Floyd has the potential to fill a big role as the Chargers' deep threat.
Royal, like Floyd, looked like he had a shot to be San Diego's No. 1 WR in the early going last season. He caught five touchdowns in the first two games and was the top fantasy WR in the NFL going in to Week 3. Then the bottom dropped out. Royal scored just three times in the final 14 games, recorded just 39 catches and averaged less than 37 yards per game over that span.
Royal has been in the league for seven years now, and he's never come close to 1,000 yards since his rookie season, when he gained 980 yards on 91 receptions. It's safe to say that Royal will never be a stud WR in the NFL. His best-case scenario this year is 800 yards and double-digit touchdowns, and both of those numbers are a stretch.
Use Royal as a bye-week stand-in when your team is thin. He'll likely have a few big weeks, as most WRs do throughout the season. Draft him in the later rounds as a WR5. But don't treat him as a consistent fantasy starter, because he's proven he can't be relied upon.
Seyi Ajirotutu, Dontrelle Inman, Tevin Reese
These three players are fighting for the fifth and sixth WR spots on San Diego's roster. The veteran Ajirotutu is on the roster bubble, according to several team beat writers. Inman was a standout in the Chargers' first preseason game, catching three balls for 107 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown catch. Reese was less impressive, with just one grab for 17 yards. Both have reportedly had a good camp, but give Inman the slight edge at this point. However, neither player is likely to hold much fantasy value in 2014.
There's only one receiver on the Chargers' roster who owners should really want on their fantasy teams, and his name is Keenan Allen. Even though he'll face tougher coverage this year, Allen proved last year that he's a solid possession receiver and a red zone threat. He's fully valued at his current third-round ADP.
Floyd and Royal will have games in which they explode, but good luck trying to predict when those will come. Both may have some value as bye-week substitutes, but you shouldn't be starting them every week unless you're playing in a very deep league.
If Inman continues to have games like the one he had last week, he'll garner some sleeper talk. Keep an eye on him moving forward, but don't draft him just yet. The same goes for the Brown, Ajirotutu and Reese. Maybe one of these guys will emerge as a complementary threat to Allen, but lightning doesn't often strike twice.