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Is Tyrod Taylor bad news for the fantasy outlooks of Austin Ekeler, Hunter Henry, and Keenan Allen?

Liz Loza, Scott Pianowski and Dalton Del Don
·6 min read
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The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all 32 NFL teams between now and the eventual start of the 2020 draft season. Here, we’ll tackle pressing fantasy questions, #FantasyHotTaeks, and team win totals. Next up, the Los Angeles Chargers.

Austin Ekeler showed off his dual-threat ability en route to a 6th-place fantasy finish among RBs in 2019. He’s currently being drafted in the middle of the second round — do you think this ADP is just right for him in 2020, too high, or too low?

Liz: As Ekeler himself so savagely pointed out, he is not the prototypical RB1. While he’s only averaged about eight carries per game in back-to-back seasons, his work via the air has significantly boosted his production. Per PFF, he managed the highest receiving grade among RBs (94.3) and 126 receiving yards (RB2) on receptions of 20+ yards downfield in 2019. The question becomes whether Ekeler will see as many looks without Philip Rivers (who looked to his RBs at a rate of 26%) under center.

The likely answer, given Tyrod Taylor’s history and Justin Herbert’s game tape, is that he will not. As the 13th RB coming off the board, however, his value as a low-end RB1/high-end RB2 is perfectly acceptable given his explosive potential and reduced passing opportunities. He may not see 90+ looks, but he’ll draw close to 65, which is solid given his ADP.

Scott: I think the draft value is reasonable. The drop from Rivers to Taylor hurts, especially when we consider the style of those quarterbacks; Ekeler likely will lose a bucketful of Rivers dump-offs. But Ekeler is a remarkable talent as a receiver and a true student of that element of the game; he runs more diverse routes than the average back. I am not necessarily targeting Ekeler in my drafts, but I will not run away from him, either.

Dalton: He was in the bottom-10 in rushing DVOA last year and will no longer have Philip Rivers constantly checking down to him (Tyrod Taylor and Justin Herbert both bring concerns as replacements), so his ADP is a bit high for me. Ekeler is a good football player, and Melvin Gordon is gone, so he’ll be plenty valuable in PPR formats, but his BMI is in the 33rd percentile, and the Chargers’ offense should struggle with a rookie QB and one of the league’s worst offensive lines. Don’t pay for last year’s (awesome) receiving stats.

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Keenan Allen has been a PPR darling throughout his career, with catch volume bolstering his bottom line. But now, he’ll be without Philip Rivers — does this change your trust in him, or do you expect his skill set to translate smoothly to Tyrod Taylor?

Scott: Allen’s posted modest touchdown counts over the last three years, despite heavy volume. Check Allen’s cumulative ranks over the last three years: Fifth in targets, third in catches, fourth in yards — but just 19th in receiving touchdowns.

And now Allen starts all over again, with Tyrod Taylor (and perhaps rookie Justin Herbert) at quarterback. Departed starter Philip Rivers peppered Allen to a fault, and believed in a narrow usage tree. It’s unlikely Taylor will utilize the same strategy. Allen is still a Top 20 wideout in early Yahoo draft results, but a number of receiving options in the 21-27 range look like much stronger values.

Dalton: It’s an atypical preseason, but I’d still bet on a team starting a player sooner rather than later after spending the No. 6 pick on him. Either way, I view both QBs as major downgrades from Rivers, whose biggest problem was interceptions last year, not an inability to move the ball. Even with Rivers, Allen’s TD production was capped, and he’s now fighting targets with Mike Williams, Hunter Henry, and Ekeler to go along with the shaky QB situation, so I have Allen ranked much lower than the market. Don’t forget he was also once viewed as a huge injury risk, and he’ll see a dramatic decrease in accuracy from Rivers to Herbert.

Liz: Allen has gone over 1,000 yards and managed at least a WR12 FF finish for three consecutive seasons. Per PFF he’s also posted the fourth-best receiving grade in the NFL (91.2) since 2017. This year, he’ll obviously be without Philip Rivers for the first time in his career. Like Dalton, I agree that both Taylor and Herbert are downgrades. I don’t think anyone is expecting a career season from Allen, but that’s also why his ADP is depressed. A player with his elite route-running ability and obvious talent reflects a high floor ... and is worth an investment in the fourth to sixth rounds of 12-team exercises. He’s the Yahoo consensus WR21.

Charles Clay was a clear focal point of the Bills offense back when Tyrod Taylor was their starting QB. Does this mean good things for Hunter Henry in 2020, or does his injury history have you looking elsewhere?

Liz: It would not surprise me if Henry led all Chargers in targets. There, I said it. He’s the only pass-catching option with a skill set that could buoy either QB. Tyrod historically targets his TEs, and Herbert will likely need to. Henry’s durability issues limit his upside, but his reliability on the field makes him a fine option inside the top-10 options at the position.

[2020 Draft Rankings: Overall | QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | DST | Kickers]

Scott: Buffalo’s roster had such a different shape to it, I’m not going to take any stock in the Taylor-Clay history. Henry still could be a fine player, but this isn’t a connection I’m going to consider.

Dalton: Given Henry’s durability concerns, the competition for targets in LA, and my expectation of seeing a lot of Herbert, Henry is an easy pass at a loaded TE position. In fact, I barely have him inside my top-15 tight ends.

Los Angeles Chargers 2020 Projected Lineup
Los Angeles Chargers 2020 Projected Lineup

#FantasyHotTaek

Liz: Hunter Henry leading all receivers in targets is the hottest I can get with this squad. However, I think we should talk a bit about Mike Williams. It’s hard to imagine him skimming his ceiling with a checkdown artist like Taylor under center. However, when Herbert — who has a cannon — eventually takes his place as the starter then Williams’ red zone potential should sky. For 2020 I don’t foresee Williams reeling in more than 6 spikes, but for managers in keeper leagues, I’d anticipate double-digit TDs in 2021.

OVER/UNDER on 7.5 Win Total from BetMGM

Scott: I’m surprised the juice leans to the optimistic side, given the Chargers have major questions at the one position you simply can’t have questions at: Quarterback. The Lightning Bolts made just two playoff appearances last decade, the classic example of a team that was mighty on paper, disappointing on the field. I’m not sold on Anthony Lynn as a head coach, either. I can only go UNDER in LA.

Scott: Follow Liz: @LizLoza_FF

Follow Scott: @scott_pianowski

Follow Dalton: @daltondeldon

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