2013 Fantasy Football Preview: San Diego Chargers
After missing the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, the San Diego Chargers decided to relieve AJ Smith and Norv Turner of their duties within the organization.
The Spanos Family chose to go in a different direction under the leadership of Tom Telesco and Mike McCoy; each have glowing resumes but neither have the experience to run or lead a franchise.
Telesco has been a part of the Indianapolis Colts front office staff for the last 15 years, including the last six as their director of player personnel. He has a unique approach to rebuilding a football team, as Telesco will use every resource available to add talent to the roster.
McCoy has been the Denver Broncos' offensive coordinator for the last four seasons, so he understands what it takes to win in the AFC West. His main task will be rejuvenating an offense that has been rapidly declining over the last three seasons.
The Chargers averaged 27 points-per-game in 2010, which suddenly dropped to just under 22 points in Turner's final season as head coach. If the offense is going to be more dynamic, then McCoy must first fix the strugglling game of Philip Rivers. He has proven in the past to tailor the playbook around the strengths and weaknesses of his starting quarterback. Just ask Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning what McCoy has done to further advance their careers.
Quarterback: The downward spiral of Philip Rivers' career has been greatly exaggerated by all. Yes, his turnovers have increased (35 interceptions and 15 fumbles) over the last two seasons, but Rivers still threw 53 touchdown passes during that same time.
The area of concern for fantasy owners should be his passing yardage. Last year, Rivers threw for 3,606 yards, which was significantly lower (4,624 yards) then the prior season. How does an elite quarterback throw the same number of touchdown passes, yet recorded fewer passing yardage in consecutive years?
Well, take a hard look at the protection provided by the Chargers offensive line, as the constant pressure from defenders forced Rivers to dump the ball off to intermediate receivers in the flat rather than taking a sack.
He was never given adequate time in the pocket to stretch a defense downfield with a deep throw. Fantasy owners can expect a rebound season from Rivers, as the front office made quality acquisitions to improve the offensive line and added offensive playmakers to the mix.
Running Backs: Ryan Mathews is an enigma for all fantasy owners, as he has the speed and quickness out of the backfield to be a top ten running back in any league. So, why are owners afraid to draft him?
Mathews cannot stay long enough on the field to become a difference-maker, and he slowly falling into the category of being considered a "bust" by all for taking too many unnecessary hits in games. Here's Mathews' laundry list of injuries, which includes two broken collarbones, a knee, a concussion and various leg ailments.
The Chargers were smart to sign running back Danny Woodhead in free agency, as he will be a valuable third-down receiver coming out of the backfield and could have a bigger role in the running game as the season progresses.
Be wary of choosing Mathews in a fantasy draft because he still haven't proven to be able to stay on the field for an entire season.
Wide Receivers: The wide receiver position may be the deepest and most talented (Malcom Floyd, Danario Alexander, Vincent Brown, Keenan Allen, Robert Meacham and Eddie Royal) unit on this year's Chargers' roster.
Floyd has smoothly moved into the lead receiver position (56 rec, 814 yds, 5 TDs) after Vincent Jackson left via free agency before the start of last season. Alexander is a reclamation project after the Chargers claimed him off the waiver wire, as he showed to be a very productive (37 rec, 658 yds, 7 TDs) player in half a season with the team.
But, injuries have kept Alexander from playing an entire year. Brown and Allen are the future of the franchise, but they could have an immediate impact in the passing game this season. Unfortunately, Royal and Meacham could be competing for one roster spot this preseason, as neither had impressive receiving numbers in 2012.
Tight End: No question that Antonio Gates is approaching the tail-end of a Hall-of-Fame career. Injuries might have taken away his quickness, but Gates still has the technique to create space and get open across the middle of a football field. Often, you'll find him in the back of an end zone due to having great hands in heavy traffic. Fantasy owners should consider drafting Gates in the later rounds, especially if you're not expecting him to start every week.