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Los Angeles Chargers Writers
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Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi comes from the Sean Payton offensive school, and it shows. The Chargers offense wouldn't have looked out of place in New Orleans being run by Drew Brees in his prime. It starts with extreme pass volume, with passes to the running back out of the backfield replacing many of the more traditional run plays. Then at the second level, the passing game runs through high-percentage passes over the middle supplemented with occasional deep shots to keep the defense on its heels.
Herbert's meteoric rise continued in his second season, right into the upper ranks of NFL passers and fantasy options. Boasting a massive arm and impressive control of his offense, Herbert topped 300 yards in half the Chargers' games and threw multiple touchdowns in 13 of them. His 5,014 yards and 38 touchdowns on the year shattered franchise records. With another 303 yards and 3 scores on the ground, Herbert closed the year as fantasy's QB3, and his arrow continues to scream upward. The team has prioritized keeping his dynamic set of weapons together, with seven of Herbert's top eight pass-catchers from 2021 back in the fold. (The eighth - tight end Jared Cook - was replaced capably with signee Gerald Everett.) Luring back free agent-to-be wideout Mike Williams on a team-friendly deal was one of the offseason's best moves. Herbert and his weapons drive this exciting team, and he enters 2022 with as much proven upside as any quarterback in football.
Daniel remains a rock-steady, though rarely-used, backup at age 35. He makes for a great veteran presence behind Herbert, though the team will likely take another preseason look at dynamic youngster Easton Stick, who offers a Taysom Hill-like skillset.
Ekeler turned in another explosive fantasy season in 2021, finishing as PPR RB3 in the process. The electric dual-threat suited up for every game but one, averaging 94 scrimmage yards (third-most among running backs) and finding the end zone 20 times. The greatest fantasy asset for a running back is an explosive, high-scoring offense, and Ekeler runs with one of the league's best. As smaller backs age, it's natural to wonder about his workload, which has already been expressed publicly this offseason. Both Ekeler and the team have commented on the need to keep him fresh and healthy, even if that means scaling back last year's 17 touches per game. Still, there's little dynamic talent on the bench, and none of it is proven. Last year Ekeler accounted for 65% of the group's touches when healthy, accumulating 72% of the total yardage. With the draft bringing only minimal changes to the depth chart, Ekeler can still be safely chased as a PPR RB1.
Mercifully, the Chargers look poised to upgrade on plodding retreads Rountree and Kelley as Ekeler's relief. Together they made up the NFL's least-inspiring cavalry in 2021, combining for just 189 yards at 2.7 per carry. The team could always call back free agent Justin Jackson, who averaged 5.0 yards per carry for the team over parts of his four seasons. Jackson has often produced when called upon but has never been healthy long enough to sustain a dependable role. More likely, they'll look to fourth-round pick Spiller to seize the No. 2 role. It's not a high bar to jump, and Spiller produced over 3,500 yards at Texas A&M. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him command a fantasy roster spot as Ekeler's handcuff by August.
Nabers means something to the Chargers, but not to fantasy players. The massive blocking specialist has touched the ball just 13 times over his 26 NFL games.
Allen looks like one of fantasy's more clear-cut candidates to disappoint in fantasy, by at least a bit. The slot specialist can still accumulate PPR numbers, but he's no longer the Chargers' surefire WR1 from week to week, even from a volume standpoint. Over the final four weeks of 2021, as the Chargers pushed hard for the playoffs, Allen saw his target share dip from 26% to 20%, which doesn't befit a fantasy WR1. And Allen has never been long on upside, posting just 11.1 yards per catch and 26 touchdowns over the last four years. If he can't be projected to a sure-thing 100 receptions, he'll tumble well out of the WR1 ranks. Williams may always frustrate fantasy players with his inconsistency; in 2021, his best season as a pro, he still landed below 50 yards in 6 of his 16 games. The team was able to bring him back without paying him like a WR1, which would seem unlikely if both sides felt there's a real WR1 outlook here. The fantasy world will have to settle for Williams' bursts of prodigious talent, which is nothing to sneeze at. The downfield dynamo averaged a 6-97-1 line in his other 10 games last year, and he'll continue to see gobs of touchdown opportunities in this offense. But it may be a stretch to expect WR1 production beyond those occasional spurts, making him more of a WR2 option to target.
The Chargers don't involve their backup wideouts much. Last year, Allen and Williams commanded 73% of the depth chart's targets despite both missing games with injuries. Guyton is clearly valued by the team, who was tendered to return in his marginal deep-threat role. He's caught just 59 balls over his three years with the Chargers but has averaged 16.3 yards and found the end zone on 6 of them. He's locked into a specific niche and would need a starter's injury (or two) to make a fantasy impact. Palmer is the much more intriguing prospect as the No. 3 wideout. He took advantage of injuries as a third-round rookie to produce 18 catches and 3 touchdowns over the season's final five weeks. Palmer brings size, speed, and rough-and-tumble SEC experience to the table. His redraft outlook isn't draft-worthy, even if he wins the No. 3 job outright, but an injury to Allen or Williams could make his value soar. Carter was signed purely to help on special teams. With just 58 receptions over his four seasons, there's little chance he makes a dent in this well-stocked offense. Reed will again try to carve out a special-teams roster spot of his own.
Everett has alternated great, dynamic play with shaky inconsistency dating back to his Rams days. No longer an intriguing size/speed prospect, Everett doesn't boast TE1 upside in this stacked offense, which works very heavily through three other players. Still, he won't be valueless in an air attack that threw 674 passes last year - 137 of them to tight ends. Jared Cook managed to post a 48-564-4 line as an auxiliary weapon, and Everett could top his 57% snap rate. The fantasy world continues to salivate over the 6-foot-8 Parham, who's turned 6 of his 30 NFL catches into touchdowns. But when Cook left town, the team immediately brought in Everett as an established starter. It's unlikely Parham carves out more than situational value in this loaded offense, even if Everett were to miss time. Parham caught just 20 balls over 14 games in 2021 despite a solid 44% snap rate. There likely isn't much more opportunity available for the team's TE2, if any. McKitty was a third-round pick last year but is clearly only viewed as blocking help.
- LT Rashawn Slater
- LG Matt Feiler
- C Corey Linsley
- RG Zion Johnson
- RT Storm Norton
- Jamaree Salyer, Trey Pipkins, Will Clapp
This top-three line has gone from the depths of the rankings to the very top. Left tackle Rashawn Slater made All-Pro as a rookie and his performance was matched by fellow All-Pro center Corey Linsley. Left guard Matt Feiler and rookie right guard Zion Johnson (First round, Boston College) should be extremely effective. The only question is at right tackle, where Storm Norton will compete with rookie Jaymaree Salyer (Sixth round, Georgia).
The Chargers' kicker woes continued in 2021, as they gave up on camp battle winner Tristan Vizcaino partway through the season to sign Dustin Hopkins, whom Washington had given up on after seven years with the team. Hopkins was a success, making 90% of his field goal attempts, with his only two misses coming from 50+ yards out of three attempts. He lacks a distance leg, but the team was happy enough with Hopkins to sign him to a three-year, $9 million deal this offseason. McCourt, a UDFA from Illinois, has the distance leg, but would have to greatly outperform Hopkins to win the job (or Hopkins would have to collapse), because the team gave Hopkins 4.65 million guaranteed on his new contract.
The Chargers defense looked like it was turning into a force early in the season under Brandon Staley, forcing four turnovers from the Chiefs and holding the Raiders to 213 total yards, but they faded as the season went on, save for a big game with six sacks, four takeaways, and a touchdown. This offseason, they added Khalil Mack to give Joey Bosa a running mate and signed J.C. Jackson, a #1 outside corner, to match up against the likes of Davante Adams and Courtland Sutton. There's a chance Staley and company get it figured out in year two, making this unit more consistent for fantasy. They get the Raiders and Chiefs to open the season, and then the juicy Jacksonville and Houston matchups, followed by Cleveland. The Chargers D/ST probably isn't worth drafting, but they should be on your waiver wire speed dial list if they start hot against their divisional opponents.
That's what's called "aggressively rebuilding a depth chart." The Chargers, sensing a Super Bowl run but in need of defensive help, added three new full-time contributors to the front seven in free agency. Between Khalil Mack and Bosa, who has locked in as an elite edge playmaker, there likely isn't a more imposing bookend set in the league. Bosa has seen his tackle numbers flatline to between three and four a game but was a major difference-maker in big-play fantasy leagues last year (10.5 sacks, 7 forced fumbles). That upside makes him an elite DL1 pick, if an uninspiring LB1 in other settings. Johnson and Joseph-Day should help from Day One as penetrators and run-pluggers in the middle. Neither boasts much of a statistical profile, aside from Johnson's out-of-nowhere 2021 season in New York (72 tackles, 3.5 sacks). For what it's worth, he had never topped 24 tackles or one sack over his first five NFL seasons. The team continues to get modest work from Tillery, and it seems unlikely they'll pick up his fifth-year option, let alone draw real production. Last year's 51 tackles and 4.5 sacks served as career highs for the former first-rounder.
Covington racked up 52 tackles over 524 snaps last year, but he'll now serve as interior depth for this rebuilt line. The same goes for Fehoko, who saw snaps down the 2021 stretch when injuries hit. Fifth-round rookie Ogbonnia should provide versatile depth right off the bat, and he's a candidate to draw rotational snaps away from Covington.
The marquee name from the Chargers' offseason blitz is Mack, who was swiped from the Bears' garage sale for just a second- and a sixth-round pick. Mack is now 31 and lost most of 2021 to foot surgery, but his presence alone is a huge boon to this whole unit. He'd averaged 10.0 sacks over his first three years in Chicago, and while his tackle numbers (just 3.1 a game) limited his fantasy appeal, a third-act resurgence could be in play. With Bosa drawing offensive attention across the field, it would surprise no one to see Mack leap back to his 2018 peak, health permitting. Reeder boasts sneaky end-of-draft appeal of his own. He's been a top reserve for the Rams, averaging 7.6 tackles a game when pushed into the lineup. That said, he could also lose that role entirely to the versatile Van Noy, who was added in May. Van Noy has produced 55+ tackles and averaged 5.3 sacks over the past five seasons.
Murray has largely been a disappointment through his first two NFL seasons, and he no longer even boasts a clear path to the field. He lost time to injury last year, then played sparingly as a novelty-type weapon when he returned. There's a strong chance he spends 2022 in a platoon role, with Reeder and White commanding most of the early-down snaps. Tranquill is a serviceable backup, while Niemann offers some upside as an athletic marvel with versatility. Rumph is capable of rushing off the edge, and he made a handful of splash plays in what was mostly a redshirt 2021. Egbule will find himself fighting off a rookie or two for a roster spot.
James spent the 2021 season mostly healthy, playing in 15 of 17 games, and continued his ascent into the upper-upper tier of NFL secondary men. A true chess piece that can be schemed into making plays from all over the field, James posted 118 tackles (7 for loss), 2 interceptions, 2.0 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 5 pass breakups even while sitting out a pair of games. Provided there's no holdout this summer, he's an upper-crust IDP option in any fantasy format whatsoever. He and Adderley make for a truly imposing safety duo, though the latter isn't much of a fantasy option. Staley's unit is predicated on keeping its playmakers on the field and active, and Adderley is the low man in this secondary. Like Mack, Jackson was a bombshell addition in March, with coach Brandon Staley desperate to add impact defenders for a Super Bowl run. Jackson has been the league's premier ballhawk over the last three years, posting 22 interceptions and breaking up 47 more passes. Jackson is a gambler, always willing to chase the splash play, but he's strong enough in coverage to get away with it more often than not. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him post similar numbers with the Chargers, who find themselves in their share of shootouts. Samuel posted an uneven but promising rookie year, flashing his own blend of playmaking and stout coverage skills. He may be best utilized in the slot, provided Davis can bounce back to his high 2020 level of play.
Callahan, one of the league's premier slot men when healthy, was a surprise addition. He won't be leaned on heavily in this stacked secondary, but the team can be confident in his plug-and-play ability if injuries strike. Campbell is a serviceable end-of-bench guy, but he's clearly tumbling down the depth chart. Third-round rookie Woods boasts a ton of upside and makes for great James insurance. He projects as a playmaker all over the field, and he'll likely jump Gilman easily but will likely spend 2022 learning in a redshirt role.