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Melvin Gordon was a central element to the Chargers offense in 2016, a strong uptick from his struggles as a 2015 rookie. Gordon hit his stride in Week 2 after Danny Woodhead's injury left him out for the remainder of the season. Gordon was among the lead leaders in running back snap rate until a Week 13 injury ended his season. With Danny Woodhead gone to Baltimore, Gordon projects as one of the strongest snap volume plays in the NFL at running back this season. The Chargers did not add any significant back all offseason and offer one of the thinnest depth charts behind their locked-in starter of any team.
The tight end position sees a boost as the chain-moving element for efficient Philip Rivers over the middle of the field. Gates and Henry siphon each other's upside from being in the top-5 fantasy tight end mix when both are healthy. With Melvin Gordon out, Gates moves up in the TE2 with matchup streaming potential zone and Hunter Henry into the weekly starter category.
Allen returns from injury himself this season. In the previous iterations of the Chargers offense, Allen offered dependable short-to-intermediate production moving all over the format. Durability has been Allen's most notable hurdle over the last two seasons, missing more games than he has played after a strong rookie season in 2014. Allen, along with the tight ends, sees a small uptick in volume, boosting his stock near the WR1 area of weekly projections.
Rivers is a true field general, capable of running the offense from the line of scrimmage for drives at a time. Rivers is already a strong bounce-back candidate in 2017 following his lowest completion rate in nearly a decade and a career-high 21 interceptions. Without Melvin Gordon expect Rivers in the shotgun more than ever and relying on the short passing game as a proxy for the traditional Melvin Gordon running plays as a sustaining element of the offense. Rivers would throw more than 600 times on the season without Melvin Gordon.
Williams is the big-play threat of the offense, taking a crease and churning out yard-after-the-catch with regularly in his expanded opportunity in 2016. With Keenan Allen in the lineup, however, Williams will transition into more of an ancillary option than target magnet he was with Allen out last season. Williams will be a hold, bordering on a sell recommendation, with Melvin Gordon out of the lineup in 2017.
2014 was Oliver last meaningful stretch of impact, logging nine games with 12 or more carries, including two games of 100+ rushing yards. Oliver is undersized, but a two-way player as he runs bigger than his size on the interior. While not a long-term lead back option, Oliver offers upside to be the 1A if needed for a stretch of games. Oliver is returning from an Achilles injury last preseason, but like Ben Watson of Baltimore with a similar injury, reports are positive Oliver is on track to be impactful this season if needed. Oliver turns into a mid-to-low RB2 in PPR scoring if Melvin Gordon is out and a veteran stopgap (like Rashad Jennings) is not added.
Farrow was the last man standing late in the Chargers' 2016 season which saw Danny Woodhead and Melvin Gordon on the sidelines to close the season. Farrow saw 70% of his snaps in 2016 over a three-game stretch from Week 14 to Week 16. His results were minimal averaged 3.2 yards-per-carry and less than 6.0 yards-per-reception. However, Farrow does have good size and lateral agility. Farrow, or a veteran addition like Rashad Jennings, would be a low-RB2 option in non-PPR scoring with Jennings (or Branden Oliver) possessing more PPR potential than Farrow.
The Chargers running back depth chart is already thin. A Melvin Gordon early injury was put them first in line to add one of the remaining free agent veterans with stopgap lead option potential. Jennings is past his prime but offers enough size for interior work and soft hands to benefit from the Chargers' PPR-centric running back attack. Jennings is the running back signing to monitor as a cascade move for any preseason injury.