The great thing about the NFL is that there are so many positions that every year, there is almost always at least one player who has a breakout year on every team, no matter how good or bad the team is. This is one part in a 32 part segment detailing one potential breakout player (rookies don’t count) for the 2013 NFL season on each NFL team. For the San Diego Chargers, that player is wide receiver Danario Alexander.
Alexander had a very productive career at the University of Missouri, especially in his senior year, when he caught 113 passes for 1781 yards and 14 touchdowns. However, in spite of that, Alexander went undrafted in 2010 due to serious concerns about his left knee, which had been operated on 4 times. Alexander spent 2 years in St. Louis after making the practice squad as an undrafted free agent and he had some big games, including 5 games of 72 yards or more.
However, he struggled with injuries to his knee and hamstring and played just 18 games in those 2 seasons, catching a total of 46 passes for 737 yards and 3 touchdowns. After he had a 5th knee surgery before the 2012 season, Alexander was waived/injured by the Rams and became a free agent. Despite his natural ability at 6-5 217, his collegiate production, and the fact that he flashed on several occasions in St. Louis, he lasted as a free agent until October 18th, when he was signed by the receiver desperate Chargers.
With the Chargers, he began playing serious snaps by week 9 and became a starter by week 10. In 9 games with the team, he caught 37 passes for 658 yards and 7 touchdowns, which extrapolates to 66 catches for 1170 yards and 12 touchdowns over 16 games. Those 658 yards on 314 routes run equaled 2.10 yards per route run, 17th in the NFL among receivers who played as many snaps he did. He caught those 37 passes for 658 yards and 7 touchdowns on 54 targets and only 2 passes intended for him were intercepted, good for a QB rating when thrown to of 134.1, best in the NFL among receivers who played as many snaps as he did. For comparison, Philip Rivers’ overall QB rating was 88.6
This off-season, he was slapped with an original round tender, which means anyone could have signed him to an offer sheet and not had to surrender draft pick compensation (the Chargers had right of to match any deal, however). Though several teams reportedly considered doing so, none did, likely scared off by his history of knee injuries and the commitment that comes with a multi-year deal. That’s also probably why San Diego didn’t slap a higher tender on him. His history of knee injuries still is the huge elephant in the room with him. They could creep up at any time.
However, if they don’t, Alexander could have a real chance at having a 1000 yard season and being the Chargers’ #1 receiver. He’s plenty talented and doesn’t even turn 25 until August. The Chargers, meanwhile, have a ton of question marks at wide receiver. Malcom Floyd is a marginal talent who turns 32 this season. Vincent Brown is coming off a lost season with a broken ankle and is still very unproven. Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem combined for 37 catches in the first year of multi-year deals last off-season and might not both make the roster. Keenan Allen, meanwhile, is just a 3rd round rookie. Alexander has the most talent by far. He’ll just need to stay healthy.