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Los Angeles Chargers 2020 Fantasy Outlook

As the offseason is now in full swing for the NFL, many teams will evaluate their rosters, while the rest of us will try to predict any major changes.

A lot of teams will have uncertainties among the major skill positions, which will most definitely impact an offense’s fantasy outlook for 2020. The Los Angeles Chargers have an offense that will be employing several new players this Fall.

As part of a new series breaking down question-filled or struggling offenses, let’s start with the breakdown of each Chargers skill-position heading into 2020.

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Veteran Tyrod Taylor is slated to lead the Chargers into the 2020 season, but not without competition. Los Angeles selected Oregon’s Justin Herbert as the sixth overall pick with hopes he serves as the QB of the future. This means Taylor is the bridge QB and his job is never going to be safe. As we have seen before, fans yelling for rookie QBs to get tossed into the game sometimes prevails. Taylor was on the bench in 2019 and though he will be the QB1 come September, coach Anthony Lynn has made it clear Justin Herbert has a chance to snag the job.

The last time Taylor played close to a full season was with the Buffalo Bills in 2015-17, where he amassed 275, 270 and 222 points PPR while posting a 20:6 TD/INT ratio in 2015, 17:6 TD/INT ratio in 2016, and a 14:4 TD/INT ratio is 2017. The QB is now 30 years old, and his sample size is only from a small three-season span. Not to mention that he last played close to a full season three years ago.

One thing to note is that’s Taylor’s QBR was in the 60s during his stint in Buffalo. However, the veteran is known for his rushing capabilities, and his dual-threat status could make him more appealing in fantasy should he receive decent playing time. He did rush for 568, 580, and 427 yards on the season in 2015, 2016, and 2017, respectively.

Standing at 6’6”, Justin Herbert is a prototype QB. At Oregon, he improved his pass yards each of his four seasons, culminating in 3,471 yards last season. Where the Oregon product excels is his accuracy. He had a 95:23 touchdown to interception ratio in his college career, throwing no more than eight interceptions in one season. He also brings a reasonable 64 percent completion percentage from college.

On top of that, Herbert threw for 32 touchdowns last season. What makes him a promising prospect is his displayed improvement throughout college. Here are his passing yards from all four years in chronological order: 1,936, 1,983, 3,151, 3,471. Now here’s his pass TD numbers: 19, 15, 29, 32.

The only downside to Herbert is his lack of rushing abilities. The 22-year-old rushed for 560 total yards in college, never getting more than 183 in a season.

Because we don’t know whether Taylor will even be playing the entire season, it’s best to avoid him in fantasy. The same thing applies to Herbert. We don’t know whether he’s going to play the entire season, so he’s also not a worthy pickup in redraft leagues. Though both Chargers QBs could offer success in a couple of weeks during the season, it is not reasonable to expect consistency.


Running Back

Backup running back Austin Ekeler will be the featured back in 2020 after Melvin Gordon moved to divisional foe Denver. Ekeler proved he is of significant fantasy value on this offense mostly through his receiving abilities. The RB gained 217 fantasy points (7th among RBs) in 2019 and had 557 yards rushing with three touchdowns in addition to 993 receiving yards with eight touchdowns.

Ekeler’s rushing stats leave much to be desired. Though he averaged 4.2 yards per rush attempt, the third-year player only received 8.3 rush attempts per game and ended up with a meager 34.8 rushing yards per game average. The 24-year-old only received seven rushing attempts inside the five-yard line and had 33 percent of the carries here. On the other hand, the Colorado native had 108 pass targets and 92 total receptions, while averaging 5.8 receptions per game, 10.8 yards per reception, and 62 receiving yards per game.

This proves Ekeler is more valuable in the passing game and is best viewed as a pass-catching back and not a workhorse in fantasy. However, now that Gordon is gone, Ekeler will likely see more carries as the lead back and could finally become a workhorse who shows his true potential as a rusher and pass-catcher. He should be considered a low RB1 at the worst and RB1 at the best.

The only real competition to Ekeler’s share is Justin Jackson, who should also see an uptick in volume since Gordon has left. The 24-year-old played modest snaps in 2018 and 2019, but one notable stat is that he averaged 6.9 yards per rush in 2019 compared to 4.1 in 2018. Given his extremely low playing time, Jackson was only able to average 28.4 rushing yards per game because he received only four touches on average. He finished with a total of 200 yards rushing and 22 yards receiving in 2019 and 206 yards rushing and 135 yards receiving in 2018.

He seems like a “little bit of both” type of back and can honestly be more productive if the team lets him play. However, given his limited sample size and unspecified playing time, Jackson doesn’t merit fantasy consideration heading into the season.

The team also drafted Joshua Kelley out of local school UCLA. He shows some promise, as he rushed for over 1,000 yards in his two college seasons, while also scoring 24 touchdowns. The RB averaged 5.1 yards per carry, and offers modest pass-catching abilities, as he had 264 receiving yards in two seasons. At this point, Kelley is not fantasy-relevant because he needs to adjust to the NFL system, and Ekeler/Jackson are considered the starter backs. Unless Kelley proves to deserve a larger role or there is an injury on this unit, he should not be on anyone’s fantasy radar.


Wide Receiver

Heading into an offseason full of quarterback uncertainty may impact the fantasy value of the Chargers’ receivers. From a fantasy perspective, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams remain the top wide receiver options on the team. Allen has solidified himself as a WR1, gaining 157 fantasy points in 2019 on 1,199 yards and six touchdowns.

Only 27, Allen is still in his prime and received his highest amount of career targets and receptions in 2019 at 149 and 104, respectively. It can be expected Taylor/Herbert will throw Allen’s way, so his fantasy value shouldn’t be too affected compared to other receivers on the team. The former Cal player is a beacon of fantasy reliability. He has been averaging nearly six receptions and 75 yards per game in his career. He’s only had four and seven dropped passes in the past two seasons, and is averaging 12 yards per reception in his career. On top of that, he was on the field for 88 percent of the snaps during games he played.

Williams had 1,001 yards receiving with two touchdowns equaling 112 fantasy points. The former Clemson receiver remains a classic boom-or-bust type of player who can still merit relevance in 2020. The large receiver’s targets were up to 90 in 2019, and he averaged a whopping 20.4 yards per reception, symbolizing his role as the” big play” guy.

Williams did average 16.6 yards before catch per reception. However, with all the perks these types of players bring in fantasy such as long touchdowns and such, it’s important to be wary that the third-year player only averaged 3.3 receptions per game and 66 yards per game.

Williams is a hit or miss type of guy and most of his fantasy numbers come from those big plays. His inconsistency is apparent, and one example of this is when he compiled three receptions for 69 yards in Week 8 and three receptions for 111 yards in Week 9. Another instance of this is when the tall receiver finished with five receptions for 117 yards in Week 13 only to get two receptions and 63 yards in Week 14.

One encouraging sign to look forward to in 2020 is Williams’ progress towards a more stable role on this offense. He was on the field for 80 percent of the snaps in the games he played in 2019.

Aside from these two, the other WRs on this team in 2019, Dontrelle Inman, Travis Benjamin, Andre Patton, and Geremy Davis, received only 49 of the 288 total targets on this team, equal to 17 percent. Allen and Williams chewed up a whopping 83 percent of targets. Depending on who is slinging the ball, Allen is still a WR1, while Williams could be a WR2 or WR3.


Tight End

Hunter Henry remains the unquestioned TE1 on the team and is a strong fantasy asset on this offense once again. The large TE eclipsed 95 fantasy points in 2019 on 652 yards receiving and five touchdowns. Keep in mind that Henry only played 12 games due to a knee injury, but he still ranked eighth in fantasy points among tight ends.

The 25-year-old received 76 of the 98 targets for TEs on this team, equaling nearly 78 percent. There is no doubt that Henry’s playing time will be significant on the Chargers in 2020 and he should be in the TE1 tier in fantasy. For one, the former Arkansas Razorback had a career-high 55 receptions last season and averaged 54 yards per game. He has also been averaging 12.6 yards per reception during his career.

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