QB Philip Rivers (San Diego)
After posting QB ratings of 100+ for 3 straight seasons from 2008-2010, Rivers saw his QB rating drop into the 80s in both 2011 and 2012. There were rumors of injuries and age, going into his age 32 season, was also seen as a factor. Aging, with just 2 years left on his deal, there was talk that the Chargers could draft a quarterback of the future behind Rivers. He wasn’t supposed to improve going into 2013. Instead, Rivers found the fountain of youth in 2013, completing 69.5% of his passes for an average of 8.23 YPA, 32 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, a QB rating of 105.5, tying his career high. The additions of Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead, and King Dunlap around him really helped, as did the additions of Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt as head coach and offensive coordinator respectively. Whisenhunt is gone and it’ll be hard for Rivers to match the best season of his career at age 33. He’s also a better quarterback in real life than fantasy because the Chargers run a lot, but he’s still a borderline QB1.
4250 passing yards, 30 passing touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 50 rushing yards and 0 rushing touchdowns (269 pts standard)
RB Ryan Mathews (San Diego)
Ryan Mathews will continue being the lead back. Mathews was the 12th pick of the 2010 NFL Draft after the Chargers traded up for him. He had a disappointing first 3 years in the league, struggling to stay on the field (missing 10 games in 3 seasons) and totaling 564 carries from 2010-2012. However, he finally put it all together in 2013, rushing for 1255 yards and 6 touchdowns on 285 carries (4.40 yards per carry) and playing all 16 games. He didn’t contribute much in the passing game (26 catches), but he’s shown pass catching ability in the past (50 catches in 2011). Mathews could have another solid season in 2014, but he could just as easily get hurt.
240 carries for 1060 yards, 7 total touchdowns, 37 catches for 270 yards (175 pts standard)
RB Donald Brown (San Diego)
The Chargers did sign insurance for Mathews in the form of Donald Brown. Donald Brown has never had more than 150 touches in a season since being drafted in the 1st round in 2009. He averages 4.31 yards per carry for his career and he’s a liability on passing downs as he doesn’t offer much as a pass catcher or pass protector. He had a strong contract year, averaging 5.26 yards per carry, catching 27 passes for 214 yards and scoring a total of 7 times. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 20th ranked running back and ranked 1st in elusive rating. That being said, that was on only 102 carries and 379 total snaps and, given his history, it’s a major leap to suggest he could be a consistently successful lead back if needed. He’s probably best off in this backup role, which is what he’ll be in San Diego. He should still carries from Danny Woodhead (429 yards on 106 carries) and could make a couple starts in the absence of Mathews is he gets hurt.
110 carries for 480 yards, 4 total touchdowns, 15 catches for 110 yards (83 pts standard)
RB Danny Woodhead (San Diego)
Neither Brown nor Mathews showed much as a pass catcher last season, but that’s fine because the Chargers have Danny Woodhead as a pass catching specialist. He caught 76 passes last season on 302 routes run for 609 receiving yards, an average of 2.02 yards per route run. He was Darren Sproles 2.0 for the Chargers, a big part of their short, quick throw offense, something they and Philip Rivers had been missing badly since Sproles left. He’s not much of a rusher though. Woodhead had 106 carries last season, a career high, but only rushed for 4.05 yards per carry. Brown will eat into his carries.
70 carries for 300 yards, 4 total touchdowns, 65 catches for 550 yards (109 pts standard)
WR Keenan Allen (San Diego)
Even though he didn’t play at all week 1 and didn’t move into the starting lineup until week 4, Allen still caught 71 passes for 1046 yards and 8 touchdowns as a rookie. Rookie wide receivers aren’t supposed to get it this quickly. Since 2005, 31 receivers have gone in the 1st round. They’ve averaged 41 catches for 558 yards and 3 touchdowns per season. Allen blew those numbers out of the water and he was a 3rd round pick. Allen continued this strong play into the post-season, where he caught 8 passes for 163 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2 games.
Allen did all of this despite “only” running 510 pass snaps and seeing the bulk of the defense’s attention as a #1 wide receiver as a rookie. He averaged 2.06 yards per route run. And it wasn’t like the Chargers were forcing him the ball. Allen’s 101 targets were 31st in the NFL (he caught 70.3% of them) and Philip Rivers had a 118.1 QB rating throwing to Allen. He doesn’t have massive upside like AJ Green or Julio Jones, who were productive as rookies, but he could have a career similar to Marques Colston or Anquan Boldin, who were also productive as rookies, and he should be even more productive this season simply by virtue of the fact that he’ll play more this season. An extra 50 routes run should be another 100 yards.
82 catches for 1160 yards and 10 touchdowns (176 pts standard)
TE Antonio Gates (San Diego)
Antonio Gates turned in a vintage season last year, catching 77 passes for 872 yards and 4 touchdowns, his highest receiving total since 2009 and played all 16 games, something else he hadn’t done since 2009. However, now he heads into his age 34 season and his 2012 season in which he caught 49 passes for 538 yards and 7 touchdowns is still fairly recent and relevant. He also missed 10 games from 2010-2012 and caught just 24 passes for 223 yards and 1 touchdown in the Chargers’ final 8 games of the season, including playoffs.
48 catches for 600 yards and 5 touchdowns (90 pts standard)
TE Lardarius Green (San Diego)
If Gates starts to show his age more, it’ll probably be more snaps for Ladarius Green, a 2012 4th round pick and Gates’ heir apparent. Green only ran 141 routes last season, but impressed, catching 17 passes for 376 yards and 3 touchdowns, an average of 2.67 yards per route run. There’s a lot of off-season buzz around him so he’s worth a late round flier in deeper leagues.
32 catches for 540 yards and 5 touchdowns (84 pts standard)