Faceoff - WR Keenan McCardell, San Diego Chargers
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Upside - by Aaron Rudnicki
McCardell’s career numbers of 13 seasons, 755 receptions, 9763 yards, and 53 TDs are pretty impressive, but his 2003 season is probably when he finally solidified his place as one of the better WRs over the past decade. Throughout the earlier part of his career, he was always more of a secondary option, with his best years occurring during his time in Jacksonville when Jimmy Smith was generally the #1 WR. In Tampa in 2003, Keyshawn Johnson began the year as the #1 option, but was suspended midway through the season and McCardell wound up finishing as a top-10 fantasy WR. While he will be 35 years old when the 2005 season starts, he is only 1 year removed from that top-10 season and still has the ability to be a very productive wideout. After a prolonged holdout last year, he was traded to San Diego and made a significant impact right away with 15 catches, 209 yards and a TD in his first 3 games. His experience, great hands, and consistency as a route runner should allow him to take on the #1 WR role in San Diego this year, and the presence of Ladainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates should ensure that he faces very few double teams. McCardell may have lost a step or two, but he is still a quality WR who is perfectly capable of having one last big season if things break right.
Downside - by Jason Wood
If you want to draft McCardell as your 4th or 5th receiver in the latter rounds of your draft, you’ll get no argument from me. After all, he’s probably got the best chance of leading the Chargers in receiving yards of any WR on the roster. That said, given McCardell’s production over the years, I’m betting at least one owner in every league is going to draft McCardell earlier than his 2005 outlook warrants.
The Chargers ranked 28th in passing attempts last season, meaning there aren’t many passes to go around. And when the Chargers do throw the ball, it’s often not to the wide receivers. Last year, the Chargers WR corps accounted for only 50.8% of the team’s receiving yards, 3rd lowest in the league. When you have one of the league’s best receiving backs (LaDainian Tomlinson) and tight ends (Antonio Gates), the best McCardell can hope for is emerge as Brees’ third most targeted option.
Not only do the Chargers not throw to their wide receivers much, but McCardell has to compete with Eric Parker, Reche Caldwell, Vincent Jackson and Kassim Osgood for targets. Caldwell and Parker, in particular, played well in stretches last season and could easily emerge as Brees’ preferred options.
At 35 years old, playing on a team with several better red zone options, in a scheme that doesn’t call for a lot of passing attempts, McCardell isn’t the most compelling option as a backup fantasy receiver. Could you do worse? Certainly but you can absolutely do better.