3-Point Stance: Chargers offense packs plenty of fantasy oomph
As the mercury rises, Brad Evans and Liz Loza will tackle pressing fantasy questions tied to every NFL team. Read, ponder and get a jump on your offseason research. Friday’s topic: The Los Angeles Chargers.
Last fall, Melvin Gordon did his best Undertaker impersonation and choke-slammed the Wisconsin RB curse. His 16.4 points per game average in standard formats tied LeSean McCoy for fourth among ball carriers. Entering Year 3, are you BUYING or SELLING he finishes inside the RB top-five?
Liz – SELLING, is not the “right” answer, but it is my answer. On paper Gordon is a sure-fire top-five finisher. All of Brad’s points are spot-on. From Anthony Lynn’s ownership of the offense to the Chargers’ lack of depth at the position, the evidence leans heavily in Gordon’s favor.
But here’s why I’m not buying… before going down with ankle and hip injuries in Week 14, Gordon was on pace to carry the ball 336 times. For reference, no back has tallied that many totes since DeMarco Murray’s epic 2014 season. And Murray wore down significantly as that year worn on. Understanding then that Gordon has already undergone microfracture surgery, and noting his struggles with efficiency, I don’t believe he’ll have the juice to top his 2016 effort.
Furthermore, a large part of Gordon’s success had to do with the injuries that befell the rest of the offense. With so few receiving options, the Chargers were forced to run and rely on Gordon as a pass-catching weapon out of the backfield. But even with an RB specialist like Lynn at the helm, there’s no way this offense won’t attempt a more balanced look in 2017. After all, they used their first round pick this past April on a wideout. Right now Gordon’s stock is at peak value, leaving little room for a potential regression, which is why I won’t have him on any of my redraft squads come the fall.
Brad – BUYING. Harsh sentiments expressed about Gordon this offseason are from Bitter Bobs who refused to buy into the rusher last year, a total #TeamRaisins move. He’s a quality talent fixed in an every-down role, and, according to LA head honcho Anthony Lynn, is “growing like a weed.” The coaching staff as a whole steadfastly believes they can launch Gordon’s game to the next level. In a high-octane Chargers offense, which includes a reinforced offensive line, that wish will undoubtedly become a reality.
Dullards will continue to point to the back’s unsavory YPCs (’15: 3.5; ’16: 3.9) as the primary reason to avoid investment. But his 77.4 percent opportunity share, which could rise with zero competition for touches on roster, and top-12 ranking last season in yards after contact per game, total evaded tackles and breakaway runs (bolts of 15-plus yards) prove otherwise. To be fair, it’s unlikely he’ll repeat his near TD per game average, however, volume is king in fantasy and Gordon dons a jeweled crown. If he holds up physically over 16 games, he finishes near 1,800 combined yards with 11-14 TDs.
Don’t listen to the lamebrains. He’s every bit an intelligent Round 1 pick.
Philip Rivers is the Antonio Cromartie of quarterbacks. The man fathered eight kids. Prolific. With that number in mind, BELIEVE or MAKE BELIEVE: Rivers finishes QB8 or better in standard Yahoo leagues.
Brad – BELIEVE. Rivers is in the same class of ‘sneaky hot’ as Tina Fey. He may not be in the same realm as drop-dead beauties Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Drew Brees, but look past the demonstrative antics, loud barks and bolo ties and he’s quite gorgeous. Without earning much fanfare, the consistency king tucked inside the QB top-12 nine times since 2006. Still, people continuously, and unfairly, discount him.
A perfect storm is brewing in SoCal for the 35-year-old Rivers. The offense is overloaded with playmakers (Allen, Williamses, Gates, Henry, Gordon), is balanced and will attack the opposition aggressively. He needs to cut down on mistakes (21 INTs in ’16), but improvements in completion percentage and possibly YPA (7.9 last year) are likely in the cards. Outside Marcus Mariota, there isn’t a prettier option at the position after pick No. 100 in early drafts (117.4 ADP, QB14). Bank on 4,300-plus yards and 32-35 TDs.
Liz – BELIEVE. Producing QB1 numbers nine of the last eleven seasons, the Chargers QB has been one of the most consistent and underrated gun-slingers in the league. Closing out 2016 among the top-eleven fantasy producers at the position, Rivers passed for 33 TDs, which was the fourth most among QBs. Considering the carnage that the Chargers’ offense suffered last year, the numbers that Rivers was able to put up are nothing short of heroic.
Heading into 2017, Rivers is poised to dominate again. With Keenan Allen reportedly healthy and running routes at full speed, a successful running game established, the addition of big-bodied rookie WR Mike Williams, and on-field rapports established with tyros Dontrelle Inman and Tyrell Williams, a top-eight finish should be cake for the 14 season vet.
Not to mention, a relocation to Los Angeles and a new stadium that offers a more intimate setting could be key in rejuvenating the six-time Pro Bowler (who has already dropped 10 pounds in advance of the team’s move to La-La Land). Currently the sixteenth QB coming off the board, Rivers’ value is hotter than a bolo tie at a square dancing convention.
OVERVALUED/UNDERVALUED/PROPERLY VALUED: Keenan Allen (31.8 ADP, WR18), Mike Williams (100.6, WR45) and Tyrell Williams (110.4, WR49). Also, please provide brief justifications.
Liz – OVERVALUED. Enough already. Over the past two seasons, Allen has started a total of nine games. Furthermore, he hasn’t been top-twenty fantasy option since his rookie campaign. Yes, he’s flashed, but an inability to stay healthy and/or focused (remember when music was his passion back in 2014?) has prevented him from fulfilling his potential. Given the emergence of Tyrell Williams and the addition of Mike Williams, Allen’s days as a warranted fantasy darling should be numbered. He’s ranked just outside of my top-twenty wideouts, behind cheaper options like Davante Adamas and Donte Moncrief.
OVERVALUED. Mike Williams has great size, but not much speed (4.59) or burst (32.5” vertical). And while I like his long-term potential, the Clemson product figures to be outpaced by veteran DBs at the start of his pro career. A raw route runner, he needs time to put it all together. There’s no way he should be selected in redraft formats ahead of Tyrell Williams.
UNDERVALUED. Gifted with athleticism and opportunity, Tyrell Williams became one of last season’s hottest waiver wire adds. Philip Rivers’ favorite target in 2016, the Western Oregon alum averaged over 13 fantasy points per game, posting a 69-1,059-7 stat line. Impressing after the catch, Williams burned DBs for 439 yards once the ball was in his hands, ranking among the top-eight WRs in this statistical category.
His current ADP has been depressed for two reasons: 1) Keenan Allen’s potential return and 2) the addition of Mike Williams. To be clear, Tyrell’s targets will go down, but the rookie is not a threat to the vet’s workload (not yet, at least). With less defensive attention and a stellar catch radius (in tandem with his aforementioned ability to excel after the catch), Williams should conservatively produce WR3 fantasy numbers. FF: 60-850-7
Brad – PROPERLY VALUED. Every year I fall into the Allen bear trap. When the injury imp doesn’t feast on his obviously delicious flesh, he’s one of the premier PPR studs in the league. He’s an exceptional technician who runs smooth routes, shields off defenders and plucks passes cleanly (85.7 catch% in ’15). If, and that’s a oversized IF, he played 16 games, a 100-1300-8 line wouldn’t be out of the question. However, given the risks involved (9 total games played since 2015), he’s appropriately valued. Resist the temptation, Evans …
OVERVALUED. There’s no disputing Williams’ raw talents. He showcases an NFL body, fantastic downfield playmaking ability and adjustment skills to log abundant explosive pass plays. Downsides, though, do exist. For starters, he isn’t the most polished route runner and is more of a deep-pass threat. In other words, he’s a DeSean Jackson/Mike Wallace type. Already well behind the eight-ball due to a back injury, it’s possible he’ll only contribute sporadically, unless, of course, Allen breaks a nail. There’s also no guarantee he surpasses the other Williams (Tyrell) or Travis Benjamin come Week 1. Bottom line, better options exist after pick No. 100 (e.g. Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Kenny Britt and Ted Ginn).
UNDERVALUED. Tyrell was one of the biggest shocker specials of 2017. After Allen succumbed to injury, the long drink became a favorite Rivers weapon. He attracted a respectable 21.1 percent of the targets share and tallied a 69-1059-7 line (WR22). Most impressively, he averaged 15.2 yards per route and finished top-11 in contested catch rate. It seems unlikely he’ll suddenly take a backseat to the rookie post-breakout. Williams is the franchise’s new Vincent Jackson. His absurdly discounted ADP is an absolute gift. I’m confident he comes close to matching last year’s numbers.