QB Philip Rivers – Over 12 seasons as the starting QB for the Chargers, Philip hasn’t missed a game in the regular season leading to a 106-68 record. He’s averaged 4,491 passing yards over the last five seasons with 153 TDs and 73 Ints. Rivers attempted over 600 passes only once in his career (2015 – 661), which led the league in addition to his career-best 437 completions. In 2017, Philip passed for 4,515 yards with 28 TDs and only ten Ints. His offensive line allowed a league-low 18 sacks. He has talent and depth at WR, but Rivers did lose his top TE in mid-May. The Chargers would love to run the ball with more success to take the pressure off the passing game and create a ball control offense. Overall, his floor should be 4,000+ yards with 30+ TDs. The development and health of Mile Williams will be the key to Philip’s value in 2018. More of a QB2 with matchup value.
RB Melvin Gordon – For the first time in his career, Gordon played 16 games. He finished with a career-high 344 touches for 1,560 combined yards with 12 TDs and 58 catches. As great as his season looked, the Chargers gave a piece of his pie to Austin Ekeler mid-season leading to some lost TDs (5) and catches (27). In the end, Melvin may have lost about ten percent of his potential opportunity to Ekeler. With same RB structure in LA, Gordon will again have a slight thorn in his side thus creating a step back in draft value. Melvin has the talent to be an elite three-down back, and he did play through some injuries last year. Gordon needs the Chargers’ offensive line to be much better in run blocking (3.8 yards per rush in 2017). LA should move closer to league average running the ball this year, and I do expect better play on the offensive line. Melvin has never gained over 3.9 yards per carry for a season in his three years in the NFL. Possible 350+ touches for 1,600+ yards with double-digit TDs and 50+ catches. Nice steady RB1 who can’t match the explosiveness of the top RBs in the game over a full season.
RB Austin Ekeler – In his rookie season in the NFL after not getting drafted, Ekeler finished with 539 combined yards with five TDs and 27 catches. Over the first three weeks of the season, Austin only had three catches for 24 yards. The Chargers didn’t give him a touch in Week 16 or Week 17. His best game came in Week 10 vs. the Jaguars (119 combined yards with two TDs and five catches). From Week 7 to Week 13 covering six games, Ekeler averaged 8.7 touches per game. Over four seasons at Western State, Austin rushed for 4,957 yards with 63 combined TDs plus 115 catches for another 1,215 yards. Ekeler is the top handcuff for Melvin Gordon heading into 2018.
WR Keenan Allen – After two injury-plagued years, Allen finally had a chance to show his full-season value to Fantasy owners. He set a career high in catches over 20 yards (18) and 40 yards (4) leading to 102 catches for 1,393 yards and six TDs. In 2017, Keenan had seven games with over 100 yards receiving highlighted by a special four-game stretch over the second half of the year (12/159/2, 11/172/1, 10/105/1, and 6/111). Over his last seven games, Allen had 58 catches for 797 yards and five TDs on 79 targets. His success over eight games in 2015 (67/725/4) supports Keenan final stats while also showcasing another level in the game. His next step is finding a way to produce more scoring value. In 2018, Allen has a chance to push his way to 120+ catches for 1,500+ yards with mid-level TDs. Great foundation WR who will offer steady value from week-to-week while owning explosiveness as well in the right matchups.
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WR Mike Williams – His resume is a bit scarred after missing most of the 2015 season with a neck injury. He played at a high level in 2016 for Clemson (98/1361/11) in what I would call a very good offense. Mike has size (6’4″ and 218 lbs.), and Philip Rivers has a way of making the players around him better. Talent wise, Williams should emerge as the WR2 in this offense. Before doing my research, I had a mindset of Michael developing into a better version of Malcom Floyd with a chance to be a better version of Vincent Jackson. Williams has great hands, and he is going to be a factor at the goal line. The Chargers will get him the ball everywhere on the field. I see Demaryius Thomas in his game. Williams suffered back and knee injuries in 2017 leading to a wasted season (11 catches for 95 yards on 23 targets). Mike should be the second receiving option in the Chargers’ offense with a chance at 80+ catches for 1,200+ yards and a team-high in TDs.
WR Tyrell Williams – Despite 16 games played, Williams had a sharp decline in his opportunity in 2017 (43/728/4 on 69 targets) after delivering a strong sophomore season (69/1059/7 on 119 targets). Tyrell had 16 catches for 228 yards and one TD on 24 targets over his first four games, which put him on reasonable pace to match 2017. Over his last 12 games, Williams had three catches or fewer in ten games with one playable game (4/132/1). With no real threat at TE in 2018, the WR3 job for the Chargers should have a higher value. Tyrell falls more into a deep threat with some scoring value. I’ll set his bar at 50+ catches for 750+ yards and a handful of TDs.
WR Travis Benjamin – Travis saw his stats (34/567/4 on 65 targets) regress for the second straight season after posting the best year of his career in 2015 (68/966/5). His catch rate (52.3) was unimpressive with the Chargers, but he did add more length to his catches (16.7 yards). Over the last three seasons, Benjamin has 33 catches over 20 yards and 14 catches of 40 yards or longer. In 2017, he had three games of value (5/105, 5/64/1, and 4/96/1). Tough Fantasy option without an injury based on the top two WRs on the Chargers’ roster.
TE Virgil Green – The injury to Hunter Henry crushes the Chargers’ offense at TE in 2018 with Antonio Gates retiring as well. Last year the TEs in this offense caught 81 passes for 943 yards and seven TDs on 119 targets. Green has never had over 22 catches in a season over his seven years in the NFL. Over his last 44 games, Virgil has 48 catches for 401 yards and three TDs on 74 targets. There isn’t enough paint in his resume to finish a winning portrait In the Fantasy market. Starting names don’t win Fantasy championships, so I would avoid Green on draft day this year.
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TE Dylan Cantrell – With no viable pass-catching option on the Chargers’ roster at TE, I wonder if they could consider using Cantrell as a modified TE in 2018. Over his last two seasons at Texas Tech, Dylan caught 129 passes for 1,491 yards and 15 TDs. His hands grade well, and Cantrell will win many jump balls. He has a wide catch radius with scoring value in the red zone. As TE option, Dylan will have risk in blocking while creating mismatches if Rivers’ chooses to give him targets. For now, just a name to follow this summer.
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