With NFL 2012 training camps in full swing, not to mention the first preseason game now complete, we are starting to get down to brass tacks. NFL Week 1 action is just over four weeks away! As our tour of all 32 NFL clubs continues, today we head to sunny San Diego to check in on the Chargers. The Lightning Bolts had a player in the top ten in all four offensive categories during the 2011 fantasy football season. One of them has moved on, one is a rising star, and two of them are getting a little long in the tooth. It's Super Bowl or bust (read fired) for Chargers head coach Norv Turner, so let's see what's shaking at the Murph!
San Diego Chargers Quarterback Fantasy Options
To finish the thought on Norv Turner, I am shocked that he is still the head coach in San Diego. He must have pictures of someone – doing some thing. If the Bolts get off to a rough start, he will be the first coaching casualty during the NFL 2012 season. The player Turner is most counting on to save his bacon is Charger QB Philip Rivers. Though he was shy of the numbers posted by the top five fantasy quarterbacks, Rivers had a sneaky season in 2011. That said, with his ADP being rather lofty in many drafts, more was certainly expected.
Depending on where he went in your draft, Rivers' numbers weren't Championship good – or Toilet Bowl bad. Take away his inordinate number of INT (20 in 2011 after he tossed 22 total the previous two seasons) and his 4,624 pass yards with 28 total TD were solid mid-range QB1 numbers. Nine of the 20 INT were intended for departed diva WR Vincent Jackson who had a history of giving up on plays.
Chargers QB Analysis: The biggest challenge facing Rivers is finding a new go-to wide receiver. As a fantasy owner who watched Jackson give up on a number of plays the last couple of years, yours truly knows how Rivers felt about VJ (who is now in Tampa Bay). Scanning the FFTB wide receiver cheat sheet, one has to go all the way down to #28 before you find a Charger WR on the list – newly acquired WR Robert Meachem. Still, view Rivers as a midrange QB1 in 2012.
San Diego Chargers Running Back Fantasy Options
Now a full two years removed from the LaDainian Tomlinson experience (Happy Retirement LT2), not mention one year out of the Darren Sproles era, third year RB Ryan Mathews looks prepared to take the reigns of the Bolts backfield. Having shaken off LT2 and Sproles, Mathews won't be sharing touches with RB Mike Tolbert this season either as the big fella has moved on to Carolina.
Mathews, who posted 1,546 total yards and six touchdowns last season, is sitting high on the Chargers' depth chart ahead of newcomers RB Ronnie Brown and FB Le'Ron McClain. RB Jackie Battle, comes over from the Chiefs, but his role will be on special teams first and foremost. If he pans out though, he could take on a mini Darren Sproles role for the Bolts.
Chargers RB Analysis: At the time of writing, Mathews is ranked 6th overall with a 7.55 ADP here at FFTB.com and will be a hot commodity on draft day. While he has the skill set and will receive plenty of rushing and receiving touches, Mathews has reached a lofty ADP perch in his third season. He will need to post about 110 fantasy points over the 190.6 he registered last season to back up the hype. Personally, I would love it if Mathews was available coming back in round two; that's not going to happen though.
San Diego Chargers Wide Receiver Fantasy Options
Things get a little dicey when it comes to the wide receiver position(s) in San Diego. We mentioned that Vincent Jackson is now a Buccaneer, and that WR Robert Meachem has come over from the Saints to replace him. After four years of playing second, third, and even fourth fiddle in the Bayou, Meachem has an opportunity for a career year in San Diego.
It's hard to believe that WR Malcom Floyd is entering his eighth NFL season (all in SD) but he is, and he will start opposite of Meachem. Always an injury risk (as various nicks hampered him in weeks 9-12 last season), Floyd finished the year with a flurry. Coming out of the sick bay he hauled in 455 receiving yards and four TD over the last five weeks of the 2011 NFL campaign.
Former Denver Broncos WR Eddie Royal, who is already nursing a tender groin, is battling for the slot receiver role. A flash in the pan in 2008, Eddie has been a Royal pain to fantasy owners ever since. Hometown hero, former San Diego State star WR Vincent Brown , is also in the mix here. Brown is said to be catching on very well in his first full NFL training camp.
Chargers WR Analysis: One can't help but have more questions than answers when it comes to the Bolts' wide receiver cast and crew. Remember, TE Antonio Gates will probably lead the team in targets, catches, and touchdowns. Watch how they fall, but I like Meachem and Floyd as mid range WR2 candidates. Stay away from Royal and keep an eye on Brown during camp.
San Diego Chargers Tight End Fantasy Options
Knowing that tight ends can seemingly play on forever (I'm looking at you Tony Gonzalez), we aren't sure the same can be said for Chargers TE Antonio Gates. A total stud when healthy (and the Bots are fully charged), Gates has been anything but reliable lately as he's missed nine games over the past two seasons. That makes him a lightly red flagged risk vs. reward candidate.
Chargers TE Analysis: If one is to believe SD teammate S Eric Weddle, move Gates to the top of your draft board. Weddle, who covers Gates in practice, recently said this "The best. You can't guard him...I know there are a lot good tight ends coming up in the league, but Antonio is the best. He looks that good." While I have a few tight ends ahead of him on my list (cough) if he stays healthy (and Rivers does as well) Gates will be a beast during his century season in San Diego.
San Diego Chargers Fantasy Bottom Line: For the first time since Rivers became the Bolts' starting QB back in 2006, there seem to be more questions than answers in the Chargers Nation down on Friars Road. Being as I personally like to select a QB in round five or six – Rivers may fit that mold. Mathews will probably go off the board too early for my liking. I will be watching where the wide receivers fall and would love it if I could get Gates – again in round five or six.