2019 Chargers fantasy team preview: Melvin Gordon's holdout dominates storylines
The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all 32 NFL teams between now and the end of July as training camps open. We’ll tackle pressing season-long fantasy questions, Best Ball tips (new on Yahoo for 2019) and team win totals. Next up, the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Chargers were a very fun team last season. Their new head coach, Anthony Lynn, was nearly Coach of the Year. They suffered through a litany of injuries to key pieces and still managed to tie the Chiefs for the division and the best record in the AFC. Unfortunately, the Chargers eventually fell to the New England Patriots in the playoffs.
With that said, this was supposed to be about how the Chargers have great fantasy options, but arguably their best is claiming to not only hold out for the season, but also to demand a trade if his demands are not met. Yes, stud running back and first-round fantasy draft pick Melvin Gordon wants a new contract. What does it mean for his value?
Gone in a FLASH
Play oddsmaker, what do you feel is the percentage chance RB1 fixture Melvin Gordon (8.8 ADP, RB6), who recently demanded a new contract or be traded, misses a single regular season game?
Brad: 12 PERCENT. This is equal to the percentage chance yours truly purposely dodges multiple free samples when visiting Costco. Gordon and his agent are posturing at the right time. The two sides have plenty of time to work out their differences. His demands are fair and its reasonable to think a deal gets done. The organization has the cap wiggle room — $10 million this year and $50 next. Offer Gordon a handsome salary boost on the $5.6 million owed on his last contracted year, extend him to a long-term deal and a crisis is avoided.
Listen, fraidy cats, this isn’t Le’Veon Bell the sequel. Gordon isn’t an aspiring hip hop artist who wants to pour his energy into elementary rhymes. He’s made it very clear he wants to remain a Charger. And, most importantly, there’s no franchise tag history. On the surface, the situation isn’t contentious. Even if the holdout drags into August, don’t panic. Instead, prey on investor skittishness. It’s not like Gordon needs to log a single touch in the preseason. All he needs is a week or two of practice reps to work himself into game shape. And, remember, the man has been one of the most consistent fantasy producers in recent years. Over the past three seasons he’s finished RB7, RB5 and RB8 in PPR scoring among RBs. His 23.4 missed tackle rate a season ago was also eye popping.
Bottom line, each passing day without a resolution is sure to inch Gordon closer to Round 2 in 12-team exercises, if he’s not there already. Those who draft early and are awarded a pick near the turn should view the development as a godsend. Take a chance. Win your league.
Andy: 80 percent? 85? I mean, Gordon has only played the full 16-game schedule once in his NFL career, missing four last season. He’s a poor bet to remain fully healthy, August to December.
But if we’re only talking about a contract-related work stoppage, I’ll say like FIVE PERCENT. Gordon is due to make $5.6 million this year, a huge percentage of his career earnings. He seems to want to remain a member of the Chargers, too. Also, it’s almost impossible to argue that Le’Veon Bell’s holdout was a financial success.
I’m basically in agreement with Brad on Gordon’s value. I’d take him at the back end of Round 1 if we were drafting today. It’s highly unusual — despite last year’s situation with Le’Veon — for these situations to extend into the regular season.
On the HUNT
Back to full strength after shredding an ACL over a year ago, TE Hunter Henry (61.5 ADP, TE5), many believe, is poised for an enormous season. Project the line. The plus-sized Charger finishes with ____ receptions for ____ yards and ____ touchdowns.
Brad: 68-750-6. Henry declared himself “full go” back in April and should rebound quickly to last year’s misfortune. His large build, clean hands and efficient routes could cast him as the new Antonio Gates. When rotating with Gates two years ago, he netted a sensational 2.05 fantasy points per target. Additionally outstanding, Philip Rivers recorded a 123.0 passer rating when throwing to him. Sans Tyrell Williams, Henry is the definitive No. 3 behind Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. A top-five campaign is a very possible outcome.
Liz: 61-729-5 While Henry didn’t record a single catch in 2018, he did manage to take the field for the Chargers once during the playoffs, logging 14 snaps. Heading into the fall, he’ll be more than a year removed from the ACL tear that forced him to sit for all of last year’s regular season. With 64 targets vacated by Tyrell Williams (who moved to Oakland) and Antonio Gates (46 looks in 2018) entering his age thirty-nine season (if he even signs), Henry figures to finally ROI. With sure hands and plus athleticism, the Arkansas standout posted top-14 fantasy numbers in 2016 and 2017 while Gates (9.1 percent target share in 2017) was still very much in the fold. The 24-year-old is in line for a promotion. He’s my TE5.
Player Pick ‘Em
Of LAC’s remaining fantasy standouts, which possesses the most profit potential according to their average draft position in .5 PPR: Keenan Allen (25.9, WR10), Mike Williams (56.4, WR25) or Philip Rivers (135.5, QB16)?
Liz: MIKE WILLIAMS. After laboring through his rookie season with a back injury, Williams showed well in his sophomore campaign. Utilizing a massive catch radius, the Clemson product converted 11 of 12 twelve end zone targets, posting the fourth most scores at the position and managing a top-11 contested catch rate percentage. He also averaged an impressive 15.4 YPR (WR16) and over 10 YPT (WR14).
Talked up by Tom Telesco and expected to draw an uptick in opportunities, Williams could see as many as 100 targets in 2019. With Tyrell Williams gone from L.A. and Keenan Allen averaging just 8.7 YPT for the second straight season, Williams figures to work as the Chargers’ primary downfield receiver. The return of Hunter Henry could eat into Williams’ red zone looks, but his increased volume makes him a solid No. 2 wideout for fantasy purposes.
Andy: Allen is certainly a decent value, as he’s already delivered a top-three positional finish (2017) and he hasn’t missed a game in either of the past two seasons.
If we’re purely talking value, however, gimme RIVERS. He’s ranked better than QB16 in each of the past six seasons and in 12 of the past 13. He’s averaged 30.8 passing touchdowns per year from 2013-2018, including 32 last year. He also hasn’t missed a game since 2005. Without question, you can win a fantasy league with Rivers as your QB1. Players like him are the reason we generally urge you to wait until the later rounds to draft your fantasy quarterbacks.
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Best Ball Bargain Bin
Brad: JUSTIN JACKSON. As discussed above, best guess is Gordon doesn’t miss a game. Still, the decorated rusher has played in all 16 contests once in four years. Odds are substantial Jackson will get some useful run over a 2-3 game stretch. Another effort or two similar to what he achieved as the primary power back Week 15 at KC (85-1) is plausible. Equally impressive, he forced a missed tackle on 20.0 percent of his overall attempts in his rookie year.
As Austin Ekeler showed last season, he’s best suited for a complementary role. Jackson is the backup to target.
Liz: TRAVIS BENJAMIN. Evans is keeping it 100 about the possibility of this turning into #JustinJacksonSZN, but don’t sleep on Benjamin. Hampered by a foot injury for most of last year, the Chargers deep threat wasn’t able to fully display his 4.3 speed. Back to health and challenging Ted Ginn to a foot race, the speedster could certainly put up some highlight worthy scores of 40+ yards, especially with Ty Williams out of the picture.
Mad Bets (From FanDuel Sportsbook): Los Angeles Chargers 9.5 wins OVER (-160) or UNDER (+135)
Brad: OVER. At -160 (Bet $160 to win $100), the value on the over has evaporated, but it’s the proper call. The Chargers’ versatility on defense and talent suggest it will replicate it’s top-10 total D finish from 2018. Combine that with an electric offense, assuming the Gordon pickle is resolved, and LAC hits double-digit wins. Also keep in mind, the Chargers own the 17th-toughest schedule according to projected Vegas win totals.
Andy: OK, here’s one I’d actually be willing to bet myself. Gimme the OVER. This team’s offense ranked in the top-third of the league in terms of both yardage and scoring last season, and the defense did the same. Yes, the Chargers were overshadowed by the division rival Chiefs, but they nonetheless had a damn fine year. This is a loaded team that can win pretty much any style of game. I’m a believer.
More Fantasy Team Previews
AFC East: Bills | Dolphins | Jets | Patriots
NFC East: Cowboys | Eagles | Giants | Washington
AFC South: Colts | Texans | Jaguars | Titans
NFC South: Buccaneers | Saints | Panthers | Falcons
AFC North: Bengals | Steelers | Ravens | Browns
NFC North: Lions | Vikings | Packers | Bears
AFC West: Chiefs | Chargers | Raiders | Broncos
NFC West: Rams | Cardinals | 49ers | Seahawks
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