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Los Angeles Chargers – 2019 A Look Inside

Contributions from Joshua Hudson, Chris Molina, Chris Tyler, & Joe Zollo

The Chargers stood pat with their picks and let the draft come to them. And it worked. Jerry Tillery is a standout defensive tackle with moves to help in both stuffing the run and rushing the passer. Snagging Adderley in the second round was huge. A small school player with first round talent, Adderley is a former corner that made the move to safety. He has range and coverage skills that should play well opposite last year’s first round pick, S Derwin James. Some depth at linebacker and a developmental quarterback in the form of Easton Stick make this a pretty strong class. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson

The Chargers are a high profile offense with plenty of standout fantasy options. Philip Rivers has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league for more than a decade, and a consistent presence as a top 12 fantasy QB. Melvin Gordon has been a top 10 fantasy running back the last three seasons and is currently holding out for a long-term contract. In his place, the Chargers will lean on nominal third down back Austin Ekeler and last year’s seventh round pick, Justin Jackson. While neither are Gordon, they’ll be serviceable and be, at worst, solid FLEX options throughout the season. Keenan Allen is the unquestioned target hog on the team (26.6% market share in 2018), but third year wideout Mike Williams is primed for a big leap in targets and production — 23% of his receptions last year went for touchdowns. The departure of Tyrell Williams to rival Oakland and the “retirement” of Antonio Gates leaves 110 targets up for grabs. Some should go to Williams and some will go to Hunter Henry, the young tight end that missed all of 2018 with a torn ACL. With so many weapons, Rivers and Chargers may not miss Gordon if he sits out all year. Or they will and will have to throw more. Either way, you’re in for some fantasy goodness in Los Angeles. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson

When 23% of your receptions go for touchdowns, it’s easy to expect regression the following season. But amid an offseason that saw 110 targets leave town, and the team’s star running back threatening a hold out well into the season, there’s plenty of reason to think that Mike Williams has nowhere to go but up from his WR31 finish in 2018 and even improve upon his current ADP of WR22.

Per Pro Football Reference, there have been 25 instances where a team has placed two teammates in the top 20 in PPR scoring at wide receiver since 2010. Every year since 2014, there have been three teams to place two teammates in the top 20. In this pass happy league we live in, what teams have that opportunity in 2019? Last year, it was Pittsburgh (Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster), Minnesota (Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs), and the Los Angeles Rams (Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks). The Vikings and Rams should remain as their top options return. The Steelers traded Brown and as much upside as guys like Donte Moncrief and/or James Washington have, the top 20 is a bit of a reach. Who could be that third team?

The Falcons throw a ton- Julio Jones is a perennial top five candidate and Calvin Ridley had 10 touchdowns his rookie year. The Bengals just missed the cut a year ago- A.J. Green was top 20 in fantasy points per game and Tyler Boyd took a leap into the top 20. The Bucs have a new pass happy head coach with Bruce Arians at the helm- Mike Evans is a stud and Chris Godwin is primed for a leap in production. And then there are the Chargers- Keenan Allen is a target monster and Mike Williams was a top seven draft pick who made a big leap in his second season.

Philip Rivers tied for the fifth most touchdown passes in the 10-zone last year with 15. Six of them went to Mike Williams, who tied for the league lead in 10-zone receiving touchdowns. Last season, Rivers threw his fewest pass attempts since 2009. It’s not crazy to assume he’ll throw closer to his career average (as a starter) of 536. Couple that with the departures of Tyrell Williams and Antonio Gates, and there could be upwards of 140 targets up for grabs. Allen, over his last three healthy seasons, has 21.1%, 27.3%, and 26.6% of the target share. If he gets, say, 24% of the targets in 2019, that would leave 410 targets up for grabs (assuming Rivers throws 540 passes). If Williams sees 18% of the targets, that would put him around 97 targets. At a 65% catch rate, Williams should be around 63 catches for 913 yards. (I lowered his yards per reception to 14.5. I honestly think Williams can maintain his 15.4 YPR from a year ago as he’ll be the main deep threat in the Chargers offense after Tyrell Williams’ departure.) Williams was ninth last year in contested catch rate, per Pro Football Focus. He also had 5 TDs on contested catches (next closest receiver had 2). Rivers has the sixth highest QB rating since 2006 when targeting Mike Wiliams. Maybe he doesn’t see 10 touchdowns from a year ago, but Williams saw 40% of Rivers’ 10-zone touchdowns. I think 12 would be his ceiling with the increase in targets, but I’ll give him the low end at 8. A 63-913-8 line would give Williams 202.3 fantasy points. In comparison to last year, that would be good for WR22, which is where he’s being drafted at.

You’ll see in the next section why people are overrating Hunter Henry’s return. Williams’s TD potential remains high and he could easily see 100 targets in this offense, only increasing his ability to reach 1,000 yards. Only one player who eclipsed 1,000 yards did not finish in the top 20 (per Pro Football Reference) and that was Kenny Golladay. Only two receivers who had 10 or more touchdowns didn’t finish in the top 20- Williams and Calvin Ridley. Only one player in the top 20 had less than 60 catches, and that was Tyler Lockett. Williams should be in line to hit all three, which makes his upside potential a worthy gamble. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson

The Chargers have a great offense. They are loaded at every position with guys like Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Melvin Gordon, and Hunter Henry; and Phillip Rivers is as consistent as ever. That’s why I wasn’t happy when I drew the short stick and was charged with writing the downside article for this team. However, when I started diving into Hunter Henry, I came to the conclusion that there is a ton of downside for where he is being drafted right now. There is some upside here as well, but I will be highlighting the risk of drafting him.

Hunter Henry played two seasons for the Chargers before tearing his ACL and missing the entirety of the 2018 season. In 2016, Hunter Henry only had 36 receptions on 53 targets for 478 yards. Despite also scoring eight touchdowns, he still only finished as the TE19 from weeks 1-16. 2017 yielded more targets and receptions, but his touchdowns were cut in half. He finished 2017 with 45 receptions on 62 targets for 579 yards and only four touchdowns. He was the TE12.  These numbers were pre-ACL tear, without Keenan Allen the entire 2016 season, with a rookie Mike Williams only having 11 receptions in 2017, and with Melvin Gordon still on the cusp of becoming a fantasy superstar. There might not be as much upside as Henry’s ADP is suggesting.

His current ADP has him going as TE6 in the sixth round (6.04). The TE6 last year had 151.3 fantasy points (PPR) between weeks 1-16 last year. The TE6 from 2017 had 163.5 fantasy points in the same window. In Hunter Henry’s two pre-ACL tear seasons, he only had 126.9 and 115.5 points in the weeks 1-16 window. In fact, if you apply those seasons to the down year at the TE position this year, Henry would have been either TE13 or TE15. That’s 2-3 points fewer per game than where he is being drafted right now. There may not be that much room for improvement, either.

Phillip Rivers targeted the TE position on 14% of his pass attempts. If he throws 550 passes next season (threw 508 last season), that’s only 55 receptions on 81 targets. Austin Hooper was that TE6 last year and caught 71 passes. There’s also no guarantee Hunter Henry becomes a beast in the red zone again. Gates had nine red zone targets (two receptions). Rivers had 44 red zone completions last year, but 12 of them have been vacated. Even if Hunter Henry goes above and beyond the nine red zone targets from Gates, he likely won’t have double-digit receptions in the red zone.

Right now, Henry’s ADP has him sandwiched in-between WRs Tyler Boyd and Alshon Jeffery. A.J. Green was carted off the field with an ankle sprain on the first day of training camp. Carson Wentz is fully healthy, and the Eagles look poised to fly high on offense again. Henry is also going in the same round that sees the massive upside potential of WRs Dante Pettis and Robby Anderson. Therefore, not only are you paying a high price for Hunter Henry’s potential in the Chargers offense, but you are passing on four WRs that have a great chance to be WR2s. I would likely draft one of those receivers in that situation and let someone else roll the dice with Henry. He could be the TE6, but could also finish outside the top 12 at the position. It’s much easier to find a TE1 in the double-digit rounds of your draft than it is to find a WR2.

*A disclaimer to all of the readers.* As of this writing, Melvin Gordon is holding out of training camp until he gets a new contract or gets traded. The closer it gets to the regular season without Gordon suiting up, the more you should pivot from Hunter Henry being the Chargers’ downside candidate to Melvin Gordon. Those targets could easily go to the TE in that case, and this includes in the red zone. Therefore, keep your eyes on this situation. – Chris Molina

With Melvin Gordon being a giant question mark going into the season, there is no question Philip Rivers is the undoubted Trust Fall for the Chargers. Honestly, Rivers could even be a sleeper with where he is being taken so far in drafts. It blows my mind that with the consistency Rivers shows year in and year out, he is always overlooked as a QB1. Currently, Philip Rivers is being taken as the 15th QB off the board, which is in the same conversation as Jameis Winston and Dak Prescott. Yes, Jameis Winston and Dak Prescott are being taken in the same area as Philip Rivers. Here is why that is complete and utter nonsense.

Over the past two seasons, Philip Rivers has finished at QB10 both seasons and has consistently put up good numbers, finishing just three games last season under 20 points. He isn’t the flashiest guy like Patrick Mahomes or Russell Wilson, and he doesn’t have the pedigree someone like an Aaron Rodgers or a Drew Brees has. But something he does have is his incredible consistency of being a QB1. Rivers has not seen great playoff success in his career, but he consistently performs well in the regular season. And that is when fantasy football counts.

Looking at the guys who sit ahead of Rivers, there is no doubt I would want some of them as my starters, but the value Rivers brings for being drafted QB15 is unmatched. If I asked you, “Would you rather have Patrick Mahomes or Philip Rivers?,” There is no doubt everyone would say Patrick Mahomes at this point. But if I added in that you would have to take Patrick Mahomes as your second or third round pick, or you could take Rivers as your eleventh or twelfth round pick, does that change your mind? It certainly does for me, considering I know exactly what I am getting out of Rivers, and because I do not have to waste a second or third round pick on a QB (sorry everybody, Mahomes is not scoring upwards of 500 points again this season). I know Rivers isn’t flashy or a young gun or someone that anybody thinks of when you hear “starting QB” in fantasy, but trust me, it worked for me last season and it can work for you this season. – Joe Zollo

It’s sad to say that we are closing in on the Philip Rivers era, and his potential replacement? Easton Stick from North Dakota State. Now, a little background for those of you who don’t know. During his four years at NDSU, he threw the ball for a career 8,693 yards with 88 touchdowns and completing 61.0% of his passing attempts while rushing the ball 427 times for 2,523 yards and 41 touchdowns. Impressive? I think so. He does need some tweaking to his overall mechanics, but he has a solid arm. When looking at the Chargers’ quarterback depth, we see Tyrod Taylor and Cardale Jones in the mix as well. But with Taylor having up and down years, and Jones, well sucks, I don’t believe Easton Stick will have a problem climbing his way up there. Give Easton Stick some time to work on his mechanics, and he’ll be a stud in the league. – Chris Tyler

If Melvin Gordon is going to hold out and not play this season, Justin Jackson has some good fantasy value as a sleeper. Jackson’s current ADP is RB67, and that could very well change if it becomes more evident Melvin Gordon won’t play. For the time being, Jackson is a steal. He was a seventh round pick last season out of Northwestern, but he showed up when Melvin Gordon was out. Jackson managed multiple double-digit games and found the endzone twice last season. While Ekeler will most likely do all of the receiving for the running backs, Jackson can still work in the passing game, proving his worth in week 16 against the Ravens with seven receptions for 47 yards. If you are drafting Melvin Gordon, it is a no brainer that Jackson should be handcuffed to him. But if you aren’t drafting Gordon, still take Jackson, because the worst-case scenario is you drop a third-string guy and pick up a starting guy. – Joe Zollo

As good as Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are, they sadly have no fantasy value since they do not rack up enough total tackles. If it was a sack driven fantasy position, then they would rival for Top 10 potential. Los Angeles has no Linebackers (of note), so that leads us to the secondary with one of the best young safeties in the league — Derwin James. It still baffles me how many teams passed on him in the 2018 draft, but you better not pass on him in your 2019 fantasy football drafts. In his rookie season, James’ 204 points led to a DB5 finish. It only took one season for him to prove his fantasy dominance, and you best believe you should be eyeing him in the upcoming draft. I truly feel he will be overlooked and could come at a cheap price, but don’t wait too long because he is a lock for over 200 points. – Joe Zollo