Dynasty Capsule: Los Angeles Chargers

Jeff Miller

Every year we give our premium content members a team-by-team, player-by-player look at the NFL season that was. The coverage will be in-depth, but because the Dynasty Capsule series begins immediately after the regular season, we won’t use it to discuss free agency or the draft. Come see us in early May once Mr. Irrelevant is off the board for another 32-article series giving you the same detailed discussion you’ll see below.

Buckle up dynasty fans, because you’re about to be reminded why our motto is, “There is no off-season.”


Philip Rivers

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As summer raged on, the Chargers’ offense looked locked and loaded with Keenan Allen, Stevie Johnson, and Travis Benjamin ready to catch passes from Rivers. The plan started to unravel early in camp with Johnson the first to go down with a torn meniscus that necessitated surgery, putting him on the shelf for all of 2016. Things got worse from there when, during the first game of the regular season, Allen tore his ACL. Without his top option, most expected Rivers to struggle as he had in 2015 following Allen’s lacerated kidney. Fortunately for his fantasy owners, things didn’t go down that way.

For the eighth time in nine seasons, Rivers ended the season as a QB1 by continuing his three year run of being the QB11 or QB12. It has been a remarkable showing of consistency despite calling signals for perhaps the most injured offense in the league over that stretch. Allen, Johnson, Antonio Gates, pretty much every running back, and approximately 197 offensive linemen have missed significant time the past 36 months. The training staff has spent more time triaging than taping ankles. Yet here we are, at the end of another fine season for the veteran quarterback.

Now 35, it is fair to wonder if he can repeat his 4400 yard, 30 touchdown season in 2017. A nine year low completion percentage of 60.4 is potential evidence Father Time is starting to catch up to the fourth overall pick in 2004. Despite his recent words to the contrary, there is also a question of whether Rivers even wants to be with San Diego, errrr, Inglewood, errrr, Lost Angeles. Up until an interview in mid-January, he’d been pretty staunchly opposed to a move north.

With the emergence of Tyrell Williams and the return of Allen, I’m not too worried about all that. I strongly suspect Rivers has at least another two or three seasons of QB1 production left in him.

Running Back

Melvin Gordon

Mehlvin, eh? Not so much.

Despite playing only 13 games, Gordon slotted in as the RB7 on the year via scoring the fifth most points per game among those with at least 100 touches. A gob of that production came on the shoulders of ten touchdowns the first seven weeks of the season, setting the second year player up for cries of, “He can’t continue this pace. Sell, sell, sell!” from the fantasy community. The same naysayers cited a rather disappointing 3.34 yards per carry (YPC) in their continued rhetoric. A counter argument revolved around the revolving door that was the Chargers offensive line. For the second straight season, the injuries and ineffectiveness mounted, taking Gordon’s production with them. Despite all this, he managed 19.9 PPG those first seven contests.

Around the time mid-season rolled around, things got a bit better up front. Gordon also gained the carry-to-carry consistency that had eluded him previously. From week eight through 13, Melvin scored a whopping 22.1 PPG despite tallying only two touchdowns; end zone trips are superfluous when you can hang 531 yards on only 113 carries, a rate of 4.7 per. There was also an uptick in receiving production as Gordon caught 21 passes for 244 yards those six games versus 20 for 175 the previous seven.

The only real blip came week 14 in the form of a hip strain and knee sprain suffered against the Panthers. It looked bad at the time as he was carted off, but if reports are to be believed, Gordon was close to returning at the end of the year. Perhaps if SD had been in the playoff hunt, he would have.

Gordon is currently DLF’s fifth ranked running back with very little variation amongst those of us who rank (he is either the RB5 or 6 for each of us). The future is bright for the youngster and the days of Mehlvin are long gone.

Danny Woodhead

Unfortunately, there isn’t much to say here. Woodhead only got a game and a bit in this year before he suffered a torn ACL. His time on the field was productive as ever with 6.1 YPC on 19 carries and six receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown. As with the aforementioned Allen and Johnson, Woodhead was going to be a massive part of this offense before going down.

About the time you’ll be reading this, the little guy will be celebrating his 32nd birthday. He will also be six weeks away from being a free agent. With Gordon breaking out in a big way, both running and catching the ball, I can’t really say if Woodhead will be back. On the right team, he is a top 16-18 RB for a season or two, but only time will tell if such a scenario will come to pass.

Kenneth Farrow

The second leading rusher on a team that fed Gordon on 67% of its run plays, Farrow saw 73 touches for 262 yards and no scores. His 3.2 YPC is probably about what we should have expected from somebody with just a guy size and athleticism. The NFL agreed last spring when he went undrafted.

I don’t see much a future for Farrow based on what we saw during his late-season starting stint, but he could stick around as Gordon’s backup, especially if Woodhead moves on.

Ronnie Hillman

The thing about Hillman is that he isn’t good. My suspicion is after a 41 carry, 131 yard, 3.2 YPC season where his biggest opportunity (26 touches from weeks 15-17) came after Gordon got hurt and Farrow faltered, Hillman will need to fight for the final roster sport somewhere next fall.

Andre Williams

I can’t believe I am going to say this, but I thought Williams, a guy I have savaged regularly the last three years, looked pretty good week 17 against the Chiefs. In his only game action of the season, the former Giant bust (pun intended) put up 87 yards on 18 carries. As with Farrow, it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see Williams back in a back-up role in 2017.

Wide Receiver

Keenan Allen

I covered Allen’s injury when I wrote about Rivers above, so I’ll take a brief moment to comment on this whole, “injury prone” thing. I get that he has missed time each of the last two seasons. But let’s think critically here for a second (it’s hard, I know).

I’m not a doctor, but to me, at least, a lacerated kidney isn’t the same thing as persistent concussion issues (Jordan Reed) or lower body soft tissue issues (Jordan Reed). It also isn’t a history of foot problems (Julio Jones) or multiple bone breaks (Tony Romo). So that leaves us with the torn ACL and a broken collarbone. None of this screams of anything more than the down side of variance.

There has also been grumbling about a torn PCL his final college season in 2012 that caused Allen to miss the last few games of the year. Again, we aren’t talking pulled muscles, head injuries, or a history of slow recovery.

I very much understand that there are some razor close calls to make when ranking the top 15-18 wide receivers, and it is difficult for me to explain why Allen is still in my top ten in a way that would convince anybody. So all I will say is, if you are discounting him on this notion he is injury prone, your analysis, in my humble opinion, is lazy and needs some tweaking. Use it as a tie breaker if you insist, but stop trying to find a label for bad luck and embrace the potential value proposition that is Keenan Allen.

Tyrell Williams

119 targets, 69 receptions, 1059 yards, 15.3 yards per reception (YPR), and seven touchdowns. Not bad for a guy whose August ADP of 225 saw him sandwiched between Jace Amaro and Rashad Greene.

It is impossible to downplay the season Williams had. It is also impossible to argue it was anything but legit. I don’t want to sell Williams short, but I’m not sure what else I can say that the first sentence of this section hasn’t already.

The big question for 2017 is if he can approach that same production with Allen back in the fold. I’m not sure he can repeat those touchdowns, but the 70 reception and/or 1000 yard threshold is certainly achievable.

Travis Benjamin

In the interest of full disclosure, I thought Benjamin was going to be a very good WR2 following Allen’s torn ACL. At the time, the Chargers appeared to have nothing else at the position, so it stood to reason. Despite my disappointment, Benjamin did have a fairly solid season, posting 47 receptions, 677 yards, and four touchdowns. Perhaps things would have gone more smoothly had he not suffered a knee injury in week six. Reinforcing that notion, Benjamin caught 28 passes for 394 yards from weeks 1-5 and only 19 for 283 the rest of the year.

Benjamin should be back in SD as the third man on the wide receiver totem pole in 2017, but with Hunter Henry also demanding targets and the potential for a Woodhead return, it’s hard to see the former Brown as anything more than a WR5 with weekly upside.

Dontrelle Inman

The quintessential reliable third or fourth option type, Inman should have secured himself a solid NFL future with a very nice 2016 season: his 58 receptions and 810 yards both ranked second on the team. Add in four touchdowns and you have a not-too-shabby 10.2 PPG from the third year pro.

Inman is an RFA who I’m sure the Chargers would like to bring back. His price should be reasonable and he could absolutely push Benjamin for the WR3 role. But as with the little speedster, Inman would need another injury somewhere in front of him to be anything more than a WR4/5 type.

Stevie Johnson

Johnson has a deal with SD for 2017 at a fairly friendly cap number ($4.5 million). That said, the Chargers can save $3.5 million by cutting him. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the street sometime soon. At 30 years old and struggling to stay healthy the last four years, Johnson’s days as a viable fantasy asset are likely in the rear view.

Tight End

Antonio Gates

Now approaching 37-years-old, it sounds like the future Hall of Famer will be back for one more go. As excited as I am for that, Gates will be hard pressed to repeat his 53-548-7 TE12 line from 2016. It seems as though Hunter Henry is going to be the guy at the position with Gates playing the complimentary role.

Hunter Henry

Whoever said tight ends are supposed to start out slow forgot to send Henry the memo. The 36 receptions isn’t great, but 482 yards and 13.4 YPR topped off by eight touchdowns has me all in a lather. It isn’t just the stats, either. Henry looks like the next coming on film. He has a knack for getting open, amazing hands, and good enough speed and athleticism. That he is also an effective run blocker keeps him on the field on all three downs and in every game situation.

Henry is my dynasty TE4 and I fully expect him to post numbers in 2017 similar to what Gates did this past season. Once the old guy is gone, 800-1000 yard, 8-10 touchdown seasons will follow.


jeff miller