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2023 Player Outlooks: Los Angeles Chargers

By HC Green | 8/1/23 |

Justin Herbert

QB Justin Herbert
(2022 QB Rank: No.8, 20.7 FPTs/G)

After passing for 5,014 yards and 38 touchdowns in his second season, Herbert appeared poised to enter the upper echelon of fantasy quarterbacks alongside names like Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. Instead, the Oregon product experienced significant statistical regression across the board, posting 4,739 yards passing, 25 TDs, and 10 INTs. He also stopped running, dropping from a two-year average of 268 yards and 4 TDs on the ground to a paltry 147 yards and no scores.

The Chargers noticed the dip in production, and doubtless it helped lead to the dismissal of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who was replaced by former Dallas Cowboys OC Kellen Moore. How well Moore meshes with Herbert figures to go a long way in determining how strongly the newly minted “highest paid player in the NFL” bounces back. Dak Prescott put together some strong years under Moore, and it certainly appears that Herbert has a higher ceiling than his Dallas counterpart.

There aren’t many teams out there that offer more offensive weapons than the Chargers, and LA spent a first-round pick on Quentin Johnston, giving the Bolts one of the NFL’s most talented top-four receiver groups. There is all manner of upside with Herbert, but coming off a disappointing 2022, you should view him as more of a midrange QB1 rather than a top-tier selection.

RB Austin Ekeler
(2022 RB Rank: No.1, 22.3 FPTs/G)

Any concerns that Ekeler’s breakthrough 2021 performance was a fluke were resoundingly allayed last year when he racked up 1,637 yards and 18 touchdowns while appearing in all 17 games. The Chargers balked at handing the 28-year-old a new contract, which led to a trade request, but ultimately LA tweaked the final year of his deal to bring back their No. 1 back. In a mild surprise, the team made no notable additions at the position, so unless someone takes a major step forward there’s little reason to believe we won’t see a heavy dose of Ekeler again in 2023.

That “little reason,” however, is the hiring of Moore, who oversaw a two-headed backfield in Dallas over the past few seasons and may want to divvy up the touches a bit more. Again, though, it’s far from clear that LA has anyone on roster capable of handling a Tony Pollard-sized role. Unless someone emerges during the preseason, operate under the assumption that Ekeler will be the bell cow again this year and value him accordingly. He’s an option to be the first back selected, and one could argue he carries fewer question marks than other names in the discussion: McCaffrey and Barkley (durability), Jacobs and Taylor (contract), and Bijan Robinson (inexperience).

RB Joshua Kelley
(2022 RB Rank: No.64, 5.4 FPTs/G)

A pair of former fourth-round picks in Kelley (2020) and Isaiah Spiller (2022) should compete to be the No. 2 back in Los Angeles. Spiller got more of the buzz as a possible handcuff for Ekeler a year ago, but it was Kelley that wound up filling the role, finishing second on the team in carries (69) and yards (287) while Spiller managed an 18-41-0 line while frequently being a healthy inactive. As it stands, neither back offers any standalone value, though whoever locks down the RB2 spot could be a late-round target for Ekeler owners looking to secure their investment.

WR Keenan Allen
(2022 WR Rank: No.38, 16.6 FPTs/G)

A model of consistency over the previous five seasons when he caught at least 100 balls four times and topped 1,000 yards four times, Allen missed the better part of two months dealing with a hamstring injury, leading to a 66-752-4 effort that was his worst since 2016 when he missed all but one game due to a torn ACL -- on the bright side, Allen’s per-game production remained strong, as his 17-game pace was 112 receptions, 1,279 yards, and 7 touchdowns.

At 31, Allen is entering the latter stages of his career, though elite athleticism was never his calling card, as he’s more of a route technician with great hands, both of which are skills that should continue to serve him well. Allen does have a lot of mileage on his body, however, having now played 10 seasons in the NFL, and though he’s not a full-fledged durability risk, he hasn’t played an entire season since 2019. Target him as a middling WR2 to mitigate your risk.

WR Mike Williams
(2022 WR Rank: No.33, 13.6 FPTs/G)

While he has definitely had his moments, Williams’ body of work in six seasons since being the seventh overall pick leaves something to be desired. Durability continues to be front and center, more so than just the number of games missed would suggest, as the Clemson product seems to be dinged up constantly, which serves to undermine his consistency; that’s how you end up with things like 10- and 15-yard games sandwiched around a 113-yard effort to open last season.

His size, raw talent, and ability to make contested catches have made him a dangerous weapon in the red zone, though his yards per catch have dropped three straight years, going from 20.4 YPC in 2019 all the way down to 14.2 a year ago (that was his worst number since he caught just 11 balls as a rookie). It’s hard to imagine Williams’ inability to string together productive efforts week in, and week out, didn’t play a role in LA targeting a receiver in Round 1, thus lessening the degree to which they’ll need to rely on the 28-year-old wideout this year.

Rewind the clock to 2022, and it felt like Williams was pushing for a spot as a top-20 receiver. Now, he’s better suited as a decent No. 3 fantasy wideout that could carry you one week and kill you the next. If you’re OK with that type of feast/famine from your WR3, make the pick. If you want steadier value, Williams isn’t the best choice.

WR Quentin Johnston

Despite some real shortcomings defensively in 2022, the Bolts elected to use their top pick on another weapon for Herbert in the form of Johnston, a 6-foot-3, 208-pounder out of TCU. While the Chargers already had real talent at the position, they didn’t have anyone who could stretch the field the way Johnston can with his excellent speed. In that way, the rookie fills an immediate need and should be a nice match for Herbert, who boasts one of the better arms in the NFL.

Two things will determine Johnston’s value in 2023: 1) his ability to learn Moore’s offense, and 2) how many opportunities he gets when both Allen and Williams are healthy. If Johnston can pick things up quickly, he should see a lot of work, but if he struggles it might be more of a situation where he’s used on a limited route tree to loosen things up underneath. If you’re looking for a late-round option with some upside, Johnston could fit the bill as a WR5.

WR Josh Palmer
(2022 WR Rank: No.37, 10.5 FPTs/G)

With Allen and Williams spending a fair amount of time in the training room last year, Palmer emerged to finish second on the club in both receptions (72) and receiving yards (769), more than doubling his rookie output in both areas. His potential value took a massive hit with the selection of Johnston, but Palmer did enough in 2022 that he could be placed on your watch list in case the Allen/Williams combo are beset by injuries again (or Johnston is slow to transition to the pro game).

TE Gerald Everett
(2022 TE Rank: No.12, 9.2 FPTs/G)

Playing for his third team in as many seasons last year, Everett matched or established career highs across the board in 2022 with 58 receptions, 555 yards, and 4 touchdowns. While not a field-stretching threat, the veteran was a reliable presence underneath for Herbert, who threw a ton of short passes. Despite his numbers trending up, there are reasons to be down on Everett for 2023, most notably the hiring of Moore, who figures to install more vertical routes, and selection of Johnston, who gives Herbert an exciting group of receivers on the outside.

If you’re in a large enough league and are looking for a steady backup tight end, Everett is someone to consider. In standard formats he’s more of a watch-list candidate in case his role turns out to be larger than expected under the new offensive coordinator.

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