By the end of September 2017, we were wondering if the Los Angeles Chargers were headed for a total rebuild of their roster. But by the end of December 2017, we were wondering if the Chargers would slip into the postseason as one of the hottest teams in the NFL. After starting the 2017 season with an 0-4 record, Los Angeles went 9-3 over their next 12 games, and narrowly missed out on making the playoffs.
With an offense that finished in the top half of the NFL in points scored per game, and among the top four teams in the NFL in passing yards per game, LA could easily build on last year’s momentum and become one of the more intriguing teams during the 2018 season — both from a competitive standpoint, and a fantasy football standpoint.
Quarterback: Even though the team struggled in the early part of the season, quarterback Philip Rivers — who turned 36 years old last December — had another fantastic year, nearly from start to finish. Rivers finished with 4,515 yards passing last year, which was the second-most in the NFL, and threw for 28 touchdowns (tied for fifth-most in the league). Entering his third year in offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt’s system, Rivers appears to have complete command over the offense, and showed no sign of slowing down last year. Considering he’s often drafted outside the top 12 quarterbacks in most fantasy drafts, he’s one of the best bargains available in all of fantasy football.
Running Back: The yards might not come easily, but Melvin Gordon has quietly been one of the more productive running backs in the NFL over the past two years. Gordon touched the ball 342 times last year, combining for over 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns total. Even though Gordon isn’t the biggest running back out there, the Chargers’ staff seems completely fine with giving Gordon as many carries as he can possibly handle, making him one of the safer bets in fantasy football. Undrafted free agent Austin Ekeler emerged as the change-of-pace back in LA, and might spell Gordon in obvious passing situations, but with a grand total of 74 touches last year (that’s less than five per game), he’s worth little more than a late-round handcuff. Expect to see rookie Justin Jackson on the field in quite a few passing situations as well.
Wide Receiver: After years of struggling with injuries, wide receiver Keenan Allen broke out in a monstrous way, catching the 4th-most passes in the NFL last year (102) for the third-most yards in the NFL (1,393). Allen was among the top five receivers in targets last year, and given the rest of the guys at this position for the Chargers, it’ll likely stay that way. Wide receiver Tyrell Williams had less than half the number of targets and receptions as Allen last year, and remains almost exclusively a deep-threat receiver. The same can be said of Travis Benjamin, whose stats have steadily declined in each of the last three years. Wide receiver Mike Williams, the team’s top pick in the 2017 NFL Draft that missed all of last season recovering from a back injury, might be worth a late flier in deeper leagues (or keeper-based leagues), but he likely faces a steep learning curve entering the NFL.
Tight End: The one major hit the Chargers took this offseason is when tight end Hunter Henry tore his ACL in organized team activities this spring. Heading into this third season, many people pegged Henry as a potential breakout player. His absence will leave a big hole at the position, which means we may see the return of an aging Antonio Gates. Until then, Virgil Green will be hard-pressed to fill the void Henry’s injury creates.