QB Philip Rivers
(2012 QB Rank – #18, 18.0 FPts/G)
There was a time when Rivers was surrounded by plenty of Pro Bowl talent but those days are long gone. While Rivers is just 31 years old, his days as a fantasy starter appear to be behind him, at least until the Chargers replace the Pro Bowl personnel they have lost in recent seasons. Vincent Jackson, Darren Sproles and left tackle Marcus McNeill have left town and tight end Antonio Gates no longer dominates at his position. Surrounded by less talent, Rives has overcompensated over the last two seasons, often trying to do too much and generating far too many turnovers (22 in 2012). Coming off a season in which he threw for just 3,606 yards and struggled to generate big plays, there aren’t many reasons to suggest a career renaissance in 2013. Sure, he may have Danario Alexander for a full season, and the team added wide receiver Keenan Allen and right tackle D.J. Fluker in the draft, but these don’t appear to be enough to get Rivers back into QB1 territory. Consider him a mid-tier QB2 this season.
RB Ryan Mathews
(2012 RB Rank – #30, 8.5 FPts/G; #30 PPR, 11.7 FPts/G)
After the Chargers moved up in the 2010 draft to take him 13th overall, Mathews has had an up-and-down three-year career in San Diego. Injuries held him back in his rookie season but he was solid in 2011 with 1,091 rushing yards, 455 receiving yards and six touchdowns. A breakout season was expected last year, but he had arguably his worst year as a pro, struggling with injuries and ineffectiveness on his way to 707 rushing yards, 252 receiving yards and just one touchdown. He ended up sharing the backfield passing role with Ronnie Brown and proved ineffective as a short-yardage runner. Although he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry, the blame for that low total was shared with the team’s offensive line, which was among the league’s worst. In 2013, the Chargers don’t appear to have a back that will take away Mathews’ goal-line responsibilities, but with Danny Woodhead on the roster and Brown also returning, Mathews seems entrenched as a two-down player entering training camp. Throw in the fact that the Chargers are expected to struggle in 2013, the offensive line remains a question mark, and he has a history of injury and Mathews no longer seems likely to grab RB1 territory. Consider him a low-end RB2, a major risk with a high upside because of his obvious talent level.
RB Danny Woodhead
(2012 RB Rank – #25, 7.8 FPts/G; #24 PPR, 10.4 FPts/G)
After three solid seasons in New England, Woodhead joins the Chargers in 2013 and is expected to emerge as a pass-receiving and change-of-pace back for San Diego. The diminutive Woodhead excelled in that role with 1,199 rushing yards, 982 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns during his stay in New England. With Ronnie Brown having caught 49 passes as the Chargers’ backfield receiving option last season, Woodhead could be in line for a career year in San Diego. While the Chargers would move to a committee backfield approach if starter Ryan Mathews were to be lost to injury, there is a decent change that Woodhead could be a solid flex option in 12- or 14-team leagues this season. He is worth a late-round choice in redraft formats. And he is relatively low risk given his lack of injury history in New England.
RB Ronnie Brown
(2012 RB Rank – #54, 4.2 FPts/G; #38 PPR, 7.7 FPts/G)
Coming off a career worst season in 2011, Brown carved out a role as a pass-receiving option in the Chargers offense last year, hauling in a career best 49 receptions for 371 yards. He returns in 2013 but his path to playing time is more uncertain with the addition of Danny Woodhead, who is expected to claim the pass-receiving role out of the Chargers backfield. While that may prevent Brown from getting regular playing time, starter Ryan Mathews’ injury history and Woodhead’s limitations as a lead back could see Brown earn a role at some point in 2013. He isn’t worth grabbing on draft day, but Brown could be a solid option on the waiver wire if (when?) Mathews is lost to injury.
WR Danario Alexander
(2012 WR Rank – #40, 10.8 FPts/G; #49 PPR, 14.5 FPts/G)
Product Warning Label: I am a big fan of Danario Alexander, having described him in the past as a poor man’s Calvin Johnson. After a pair of injury-plagued seasons in St. Louis, Alexander found himself as a man without a job before the Chargers pulled him off the scrap heap and gave him an opportunity last season. Alexander saw the field for the first time in Week 8 and by Week 10 had emerged as the team’s biggest threat at wide receiver, accumulating 597 receiving yards and seven touchdowns over the Chargers’ final seven games. His 12.7 PPG over that span ranked behind the season average of Demaryius Thomas (12.8) and just ahead of A.J. Green (12.6). Impressive. Not so impressive are Alexander’s knees, which the Rams described as being degenerative. While the Chargers claim that isn’t the case and Alexander says San Diego has him on a program that can keep him healthy, fantasy owners should remain skeptical of his ability to stay on the field. Of course, the potential he displayed last season makes him an obvious boom–bust option, and the Chargers clearly view him as their top receiving option in 2013. Consider him a WR3 with a huge upside but a major injury risk.
WR Malcom Floyd
(2012 WR Rank – #36, 8.0 FPts/G; #35 PPR, 12.0 FPts/G)
After nine years in the league, the Chargers know what they have in Floyd, and so should you. He’s probably going to miss a few games, he’s going to get 700-800 receiving yards, and he’s going to find the end zone five or six times. Of course, that production can only happen if Floyd gets solid playing time, and that might not be the case in 2013. With the Chargers appearing to be in a reloading phase, Floyd may not get the same amount of playing time that he has since becoming a starter in 2009. Danario Alexander is now the team’s top threat at wide receiver, rookie third-round pick Keenan Allen could challenge him for a starting spot at some point this season, Robert Meachem is still around, and both Eddie Royal and Vincent Brown could challenge for targets out of the slot. While Floyd has been a solid WR4 over the past few years, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards this season. Go for a player with more upside.
WR Keenan Allen
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
The Chargers used a third-round pick to acquire Allen in this year’s draft and, by all accounts, San Diego may have a draft day steal on their hands. Injury concerns caused the California product’s draft status to fall, but he was a solid producer in college who has good hands, nice size at 6’3” and 210 pounds, and has displayed solid route running. With the aging Malcom Floyd ahead of him on the depth chart and the disappointing Robert Meachem apparently out of the Chargers plans, Allen has a clear path to playing time in 2013. Did we mention the team’s top wide receiver, Danario Alexander, has a history of knee problems? Allen is a solid prospect in dynasty formats and could be worth a flier in redraft formats, provided he has a solid preseason.
WR Vincent Brown
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
Entering his second season in the league in 2012, the Chargers felt they had an emerging slot receiving weapon in Brown. A preseason ankle injury derailed those plans, however, causing Brown to miss the entire season. While Brown lacks size and speed, his solid route running and outstanding hands could help his cause in 2013. The issue for Brown is the wide receiver depth chart in San Diego, which includes four players capable of playing outside and another slot receiving option in Eddie Royal. Even if you like Brown, his upside seems to be in the 500-yard range, and that makes him waiver wire material.
WR Robert Meachem
(2012 WR Rank – #104, 3.6 FPts/G; #111 PPR, 5.1 FPts/G)
If you’re looking for one of the key reason the Chargers fired A.J. Smith after a lengthy run as the team’s general manager, look no further than his decision sign Robert Meachem rather than meet Vincent Jackson’s contract demands. Despite Meacham’s failing to top 45 receptions in each of his first five years in the league with the Saints, Smith signed him to be the Chargers’ lead wide receiver in 2012 and he failed miserably, missing seven games and catching just 14 of his 32 targets on the season for 207 yards and a pair of touchdowns. While Meachem was truly awful last year, he returns to training camp as a Charger in 2013 because of the guaranteed money the team owes him for this season. With Danario Alexander emerging as the team’s top receiver, Malcom Floyd a solid second option, and rookie third-round pick Keenan Allen on board, the team doesn’t seem to have an open role for an outside receiver, so Meachem is on the outside looking in when it comes to playing time.
WR Eddie Royal
(2012 WR Rank – #105, 3.2 FPts/G; #102 PPR, 5.5 FPts/G)
After ending his four-year career in Denver on a disappointing note, with 19 receptions for 155 yards and a single touchdown, Royal joined the Chargers in 2012 hoping to revive his career. Let’s just say the revival failed to materialize, as Royal missed six games and caught just 23 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown. With a crowded depth chart at wide receiver, Royal will likely struggle to get targets in 2013. And it seems all but certain that he will never again approach his rookie production of 980 yards and five touchdowns.
TE Antonio Gates
(2012 TE Rank – #12, 6.4 FPts/G; #13 PPR, 9.7 FPts/G)
Not only are Antonio Gates’ days as an upper-tier fantasy TE over, so are his days as a starting fantasy TE. His PPG of just 6.4 in 2012 was the second-lowest of his 10-year career, only his rookie season being worse. Although he remained healthy (missing just one game) after two injury-marred seasons, Gates was targeted just 80 times, hauling in 49 receptions for 538 yards and seven touchdowns. The touchdown count juiced his fantasy totals, allowing him to finish the season as the 12th-ranked TE. But looking to 2013, a bounce back season seems unlikely, as Gates caught five or more passes in just two games and topped 60 receiving yards just once last year. With three or fewer receptions in 10 games, it is clear the former coaching staff felt that Gates no longer displayed the big-play ability that warranted more looks. Don’t expect that to change under new head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Gates is an upper-tier TE2.