As part of the premium content package, we’re unveiling dynasty capsules for every team in the NFL all Spring and Summer. This year, we also have a precursor to every team capsule, with more detail on one of our favorite pieces – the dynasty sleeper. We continue our alphabetical journey through the NFL with the San Diego Chargers.
Last year, Rivers was simply the victim of his own success. After all, most owners would be fairly happy with 4,624 yards and 27 touchdowns from their QB1. Unfortunately, players like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford and Tom Brady were blowing up the league and widening the gap between the tiers of QB1s. That being said, Rivers didn’t play his best football last year and there was even speculation that something was wrong with him physically. In the end, he wasn’t hurt and simply didn’t play as well as he has in the past.
Going into this season, there is renewed hope for Rivers. Antonio Gates is finally healthy again and the Chargers receiving corps has been rebuilt with players like Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal to help replace Vincent Jackson. When you throw in the returns of Vincent Brown and Malcom Floyd, along with a (insert hope here) healthy Ryan Mathews, Rivers has an offense full of weapons at his disposal.
Rivers had an off year in 2011 and the interceptions need to go down this season. However, since he currently owns four straight 4,000 yard seasons with at least 27 touchdown passes in each and every one of them, there’s no reason to panic.
After being signed to a big contract to compete to be the Seattle Seahawks quarterback a couple of years ago, Whitehurst quickly finds himself back in San Diego as the backup to Rivers. In the end, Whitehurst entered Seattle with hopes he could be a starting quarterback and exited with a nickname of “Clipboard Jesus” – not exactly the result he was looking for. If Rivers gets hurt, the Chargers are in trouble.
Lee is a major project for the Chargers. He has some talent and there’s a possibility he can ascend to be the QB2 on this team eventually, but that’s not enough to justify having him on your roster.
Where do you start?
We recently posted an article documenting our thoughts on Ryan Mathews’ recent injury and unfortunately, that’s where you have to start.
There’s no shortage of talent or opportunity with Mathews. After all, he had his first 1,000 yard season last year to go along with 50 catches for 455 yards and six total touchdowns in 14 games. That was good enough to place him in the top ten in most leagues and his 4.9 yards per carry was good for third in the league amongst players with at least 200 carries.
The ceiling for Mathews is enormous. He could very easily be a top five running back in fantasy leagues if he can come back healthy and he has every chance in the world to do it with Mike Tolbert out of town.
While most players have questions of talent, it’s just simply not the case with Mathews. Much like Darren McFadden in Oakland, the only thing stopping him from being an elite player is his health.
There was a time when Ronnie Brown was one of the best keepers in all fantasy football and a dynasty league pillar to build around. Unfortunately, 2006 has passed us by. At this point, Brown has clearly lost a step and will be simply counted on to fill in as the probable lead back in a mess of a committee that would fill the void left by any long term loss of Mathews.
Brown’s yards per carry average has gone down in each of the last three seasons from 4.4 to 3.2 as injuries have finally caught up with him. He simply doesn’t have the same burst that made him such a dangerous weapon for the Dolphins years ago. Brown’s career has transformed him from a lead back to an insurance policy and that’s not that desirable in dynasty leagues unless you own Mathews and believe Brown is going to get the lion’s share of the carries if he misses serious time.
We have our doubts.
Battle has bounced around the league from Dallas to Kansas City and now to San Diego. He had his most action as a professional last year with the Chiefs as he rushed for 597 yards and two touchdowns on 149 carries. His yards per carry average of four was serviceable, but it was painfully obvious that Battle is a pedestrian talent. He’s a depth player who really is served best as part of a two or three player committee. There’s just not a ton of upside here.
Brinkley is in a dogfight for a roster spot with the Chargers and is battling Edwin Baker and Battle for a spot on the roster if the Chargers choose to keep three tailbacks. He’s shown flashes before, but that’s just not enough to get too excited.
Baker was a late draft pick of the Chargers (#250 overall), but has been outplayed thus far by undrafted rookie Michael Hayes. Much like Brinkley and a host of others, he’s in a battle for a roster spot.
Hayes played with Case Keenum at Houston last year and had 727 yards and 11 touchdowns and also caught 44 passes for 483 yards and four more scores. He actually started his college career at Blinn College, playing with Cam Newton. Hayes is facing an uphill battle for a spot on the roster, but he has a puncher’s chance.
Remember when McClain was super relevant for the Ravens a few years ago? That was cool. Unfortunately, he’s going to stay at fullback, despite the health issues of Mathews. As such, there’s just no real value here.
The hype train is going at full speed ever since Meachem signed on with the Chargers to replace Vincent Jackson. The coaching staff is saying all the right things to fuel the fire, predicting a 1,000 yard campaign and anointing him as the de facto WR1 in the offense. As it stands, it looks like Meachem and Vincent Brown or Malcom Floyd will start on the outside, with Eddie Royal in the slot.
If there’s one thing Meachem brings to the table, it’s speed. He’s been clocked under 4.4 in the 40 and should replace the deep dimension to the offense the Chargers lost when Jackson left town. If he can catch it consistently and stay healthy, the loss of Jackson could be a much softer blow.
Just beware, though.
Meachem is a player who has struggled mightily with consistency and was never able to put together a 1,000 yard season playing for the explosive offense in New Orleans. In his four year career, Meachem has posted 141 catches, 2,269 yards and 23 touchdowns, but has had opportunities to excel before and failed. Regardless, this is the best chance he’s ever had to carve out a significant role as a WR2 in dynasty leagues.
Floyd stepped up big time last year by posting his best campaign that featured 43 catches for 856 yards and five touchdowns. He also boasted a healthy 19.9 yards per catch average which would equate to about a quarter’s worth of yardage for the Arizona quarterbacks at this point. In other words, that’s not bad.
Floyd may struggle to match those numbers with young Vincent Brown emerging and he has health concerns of his own as he’s missed nine games over the past two years, but he’s also been very productive when he’s in the lineup. If Brown fails to develop as quickly as the Chargers expect and Floyd starts on the outside, he makes for a sneaky play in leagues this year.
We covered Royal in our sleeper spotlight.
If the reports from camp thus far are correct, it’s Brown, not Meachem who has been the star of camp. Brown backed up his solid off-season of development as he led the Chargers with 81 yards and a touchdown on four catches in Thursday’s preseason game. He is a sneaky pick in a start-up draft and his upside is really significant. While it’s likely that Floyd takes the starting job to start the season, don’t count out Brown. In fact, it that happens, Brown would be a nice “buy low” option to begin the season. Eventually, he looks like a starter for the Chargers.
A few years ago, we’d see potential with Parrish. We don’t any longer.
With all the hype surrounding Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski this off-season, Gates has quietly gone about his business and done the one thing he needed to – get healthy. As much as Gronkowski and Graham blew up the record books, it’s been Gates and Tony Gonzalez who have been the model of consistent dominance for the position and the standard by which Gronkowski and Graham will ultimately be judged from a dyntasy perspective. In his nine year career, Gates has posted 593 catches for 7,783 yards and 76 touchdowns.
Entering this year, there is talk from multiple outlets that Gates is as healthy as he’s been in years. If the foot issues are truly behind him, we could see him close the gap on Graham and Gronkowski and post a season like he had in 2009 when he recorded 79 catches for 1,157 yards and eight touchdowns.
Gates just turned 32, so his best years are behind him. However, if you’re a contending team, there are few other players who could be had in a trade from a rebuilding team that could give you type of production and positional point differential that Gates could.
McMichael was once a solid contributor for the Dolphins, but he’s nothing more than a backup at this point and insurance for Gates. Even if Gates gets hurt, it could open the door for Ladarius Green and not Gates.
Green is a raw prospect from Louisiana Lafayette, but the Chargers hope he can develop into Gates’ eventual replacement. Green measures in at 6’6″, 241, with the ability to run a forty in the 4.4’s. He’s a apparently a natural pass catcher, but needs to bulk up to handle blocking duties and work on his route running abilities. He should learn from one of the best in Gates. Green makes for a sneaky pick late in rookie drafts.
We’ll continue our team capsules with the San Francisco 49ers up next.