Chargers Fantasy Football Primer – June Edition

Running back Melvin Gordon (left) and wide receiver Keenan Allen (right) should be the first two Chargers off the board in fantasy drafts.
Running back Melvin Gordon (left) and wide receiver Keenan Allen (right) should be the first two Chargers off the board in fantasy drafts.

It’s time to get an early start on fantasy football.

As summer approaches, let’s take a look at five Chargers with high fantasy value entering the 2019 season.

Preseason rankings were compiled from NFL.com, ESPN’s Matthew Berry (PPR) and Yahoo Sports. Thoughts from Yahoo’s Matt Harmon – who was a guest on the latest episode of Chargers Weekly – are also listed below.

QB Philip Rivers

Table inside Article
NFL ESPN Yahoo
Preseason Ranking QB No. 13 QB No. 18 QB No. 16

Let’s begin with the obvious: fantasy quarterback vs. reality quarterback are two entirely different conversations.

Rivers finished last season as the 11th-best fantasy QB according to NFL.com – less than one fantasy point from cracking the top 10. He had over 20 points in five of his first seven games, but his numbers dipped during the fantasy playoffs. Rivers averaged 11.78 points from Weeks 14-16.

With a dynamic running game led by Melvin Gordon, there could be weeks where Rivers’ passing numbers take a back seat. Second-half leads could also result in fewer scoring opportunities and chunk plays through the air.

On most weeks, Rivers is a top-tier quarterback. For fantasy owners willing to wait on a QB, he’s best used in tandem with another quality starter. The one with the more favorable matchup should get the nod.

Harmon’s take: “Personally, watching Philip Rivers, I don’t think he’s lost anything. I think he’s still right up there among one of the few difference-making quarterbacks in the NFL, and this offense right now is still stacked with a lot of good players around him. … If you’re drafting in a start-one-quarterback league, it just doesn’t make much sense to spend high equity on a quarterback when they do have just so many replaceable options out there.”

RB Melvin Gordon

Table inside Article
NFL ESPN Yahoo
Preseason Ranking RB No. 5 RB No. 6 RB No. 6

Few players were as good as Gordon to start 2018. The dual-threat back posted at least 22 fantasy points in five of his first six games in PPR formats. His 14 total touchdowns were a career high despite missing a quarter of the season. He averaged 18.75 touches per game. Gordon likely would have led several teams to fantasy glory had a knee injury not derailed the back half of his year.

Gordon is a first-round lock in any format. Whether or not he’s your RB1, scooping Austin Ekeler in later rounds also makes sense. There will be weeks where both backs have starter value. Keep an eye on Justin Jackson and Detrez Newsome, too.

Harmon’s take: “[Gordon] is part of a top group of running backs right now that it’s really hard to parse out in this second tier. I think the first four picks are locks for everybody: It’s Ezekiel Elliot (Dallas), it’s Saquon Barkley (New York Giants); it’s Alvin Kamara (New Orleans); it’s Christian McCaffrey (Carolina).”

WR Keenan Allen

Table inside Article
NFL ESPN Yahoo
Preseason Ranking WR No. 9 WR No. 8 WR No. 11

For the second straight year, Allen played in all 16 regular-season games. His numbers were fairly consistent despite a slight drop in targets:

2017 season: 102 receptions (159 targets), 1,393 yards, six touchdowns

2018 season: 97 receptions (136 targets), 1,196 yards, six touchdowns

It’s reasonable to assume that a healthy Allen will continue this type of top-10 fantasy production. There’s no shortage of offensive firepower with the return of tight end Hunter Henry, the emergence of wide receiver Mike Williams, and the backfield combo of Gordon and Ekeler. Still, Allen remains L.A.’s top option in the passing game.

Harmon’s take: _“This is the beautiful part about the wide receiver position this year because I was talking about that second tier of running backs – with your Melvin Gordons, your David Johnsons (Arizona), your Le’Veon Bells (New York Jets) – that it’s creating a lot of value at the wide receiver position. Right now, Keenan Allen kind of goes around the tail end of that wide receiver one range. … If you get a top-four pick this year, you could take one of those tier-one running backs and then you come back on that two-three turn, and you’re able to stack … an A.J. Green (Cincinnati) and a Keenan Allen or a Stefon Diggs (Minnesota) and a Keenan Allen. That is a very possible collection of your top-two receivers, and that’s going to be tough to beat.” _

WR Mike Williams

Table inside Article
NFL ESPN Yahoo
Preseason Ranking WR No. 31 WR No. 30 WR No. 27

Williams ranked tied for fifth last season with 10 receiving touchdowns – on just 66 targets. Tyrell Williams’ departure for Oakland this offseason means Mike’s targets will likely go up.

So, what’s in store for the former Clemson All-American in year three?

According to preseason rankings, Williams is still looked at as a WR3. He should be available in mid-to-late rounds of fantasy drafts, which is a risk worth taking if last season is any indication of what’s to come with an increase in opportunities.

Harmon’s take: “[Williams] has a clear dominant trait. He saw a contested catch attempt on a third of his sampled targets in Reception Perception and maintained an outrageously high 84.6 percent conversion rate. That’s top-20-type numbers in that metric over the last five years.”

TE Hunter Henry

Table inside Article
NFL ESPN Yahoo
Preseason Ranking TE No. 5 TE No. 5 TE No. 6

Fantasy tight ends are a crapshoot. In 2019, it’s anyone’s guess after Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, San Francisco’s George Kittle and Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz.

Despite missing the 2018 regular season, Henry is viewed as a surefire TE1 and a candidate to be next off the board depending on preference. Though it’s a small sample size, Henry had eight touchdowns his rookie season in 2016, finding instant chemistry with Rivers. In year two, he hauled in 45 receptions for 579 yards and four touchdowns.

Not everyone can consistently touch the football in the Chargers’ offense, but Henry has shown to be a reliable target in the red zone. Eleven of his 12 career touchdowns have come from 20 yards and in. A healthy Henry is a threat to score each week.

Harmon’s take: “If you want to pay up for a tight end in that second tier, Hunter Henry [is] probably right up there with O.J. Howard (Tampa Bay) in terms of my favorite options.”

Sound off below with your thoughts on these preseason rankings!

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