Team profiles- San Diego Chargers by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles
On January 15, 2013, Mike McCoy became the head coach of the San Diego Chargers, succeeding Norv Turner. McCoy, 42 years old, is the youngest active head coach in the NFL and the second-youngest in team history. Under HC Norv Turner, the Chargers had a well-publicized history of weak starts to every season followed by a strong finish, then failing to capitalize in the playoffs. In his first year leading the Chargers, HC McCoy was unable to change the “Turner Trend”, losing 7 of the first 12 regular season games, and finishing strong with 5 out of 6 wins. Their 9-7 record was good enough to send the Chargers to the playoffs. They were victorious over the Bengals in round one of the 2013 playoffs, but failed to continue on, by losing to Denver in round two. In 2014, HC McCoy ended the “Turner Trend” by starting out strong with 5 wins in the first 6 games, and ending weak. They lost 3 of the final 4 games of the regular season and missed the playoffs. (A win in their final game would have qualified them for the playoffs.)
2015 Team Outlook– The Chargers play in the AFC West Division, which has been won by the Denver Broncos every year since 2011. QB Peyton Manning has agreed to play for Denver for at least one more year, and despite his age and his decline late last season, the QB and the rest of the Broncos will be the team to beat once again in 2015. Kansas City, Denver, and San Diego all have a chance to win the division this year, with Oakland likely to be too young and rebuilding to have a real chance. The Broncos will win the division for the 5th straight year, with Kansas City and San Diego battling for a playoff spot.
2015 Fantasy Football Outlook–
QB– Philip Rivers has been in the league since 2004. If you want to get a quarterback in fantasy drafts that you know will play, get Rivers. For the past 9 seasons, he has played in all 16 games. His 144 starts ranks 4th all-time in consecutive starts by an NFL quarterback. In 2014, Rivers ranked #6 among all NFL QBs throwing for 4286 passing yards, 31 TDs and 18 INTs. UPDATE: Speculations that Rivers wanted out of San Diego have faded away, and he becomes a strong candidate for another big season in fantasy.
RBs– RB Ryan Mathews was selected in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Chargers with the 12th overall pick. Since being drafted, Mathews has had a history of season ending injuries. In 2013 however, Mathews did not miss a game due to injury for the first time in his career. He led the NFL with six 100-yard games, and set a career-high in rushing yards with 1,255 that season. His career-high was the most yards by a Charger since Tomlinson’s 1,474 in 2007. It was another injury plagued season for Mathews unfortunately in 2014, playing in only 6 games. He is an unrestricted free agent this year and the Chargers will happily let him leave. Undrafted RB Brandon Oliver took over in Mathews’ absence last season and was a waiver gem for fantasy owners. A threat running and receiving, Oliver ended 2014 with 853 all-purpose yards and 4 TDs. Currently listed as San Diego’s #1, he will likely get competition from a free agent pick-up or from April’s NFL Draft. UPDATE: Philadelphia signed RB Ryan Mathews to a 3 yr deal ( before they signed RB Demarco Murray) and the Chargers used their 1st Round selection on Wisconsin’s 6’1″ RB Melvin Gordon, who will immediately project as the new starter.
WRs– The Chargers have no shortage of talented wide receivers on their roster. For fantasy owners, they may have too many WRs and TEs catching passes from QB Rivers, and they just signed WR Jacoby Jones. In 2014, WRs Malcolm Floyd (ranked #32 WR in the NFL), Eddie Royal (ranked #34 WR in the NFL) and Keenan Allen (ranked #45 WR in the NFL) were all key wide receiver pieces to the Charger offense. WR Eddie Royal is a free agent this year, so the Jacoby Jones acquisition may be his replacement. UPDATE: Chargers sign former 49er WR Stevie Johnson to a 3 yr deal.
TEs– Like New Orleans and New England, the San Diego Chargers use their tight ends as offensive weapons as much as any team in the league. TE Antonio Gates, along with retired TE Tony Gonzalez were the first to come into the league and re-define the position. Gates was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2003 and is still playing at a high level, ranking as the #2 TE in the NFL for 2014. He had 821 receiving yards and 12 TDs. Forecasters predicted prior to the 2014 season that Gates production would drop off and that San Diego’s young TE Ladarius Green’s career would take off…but neither was the case. Green ended 2014 with only 226 yards and 0 TDs. Gates is simply too good to be ignored in the offense, leaving blocking duties to a frustrated Green. Gates’ contract expires following the 2015 season. UPDATE: NFL suspended Chargers TE Antonio Gates four games for violating the league’s PED policy. TE Green’s fantasy stock get a huge boost.
K– Nick Novak thanked the San Diego Chargers for the ’13 four-year, $6.6 million contract, with a #3 placekicker ranking that year kicking 34 of 37 field goals and 42 of 42 extra points. Novak did not get as may opportunities in 2014, which dropped his ranking down to #21. Novak has a strong leg and is very accurate, and is a prime candidate to rebound in points for 2015.
DEF– San Diego missed the playoffs in 2014, and a big reason that they did, was their awful defense. The Chargers were 3rd worst in sacks, 4th worst in interceptions, and ranked #27 overall in total defense. They had an aging defense last year, which should make upgrading with younger players the #1 priority for San Diego in 2015.
2014 San Diego Fantasy Surprises– Even with his #2 ranking for 2014, TE Antonio Gates will continue to get drafted in current mock drafts about where he was drafted last season…between the 7th & 12th tight end off the boards. In a draft I just completed with 15 other “fantasy gurus”, Gates was the 6th TE to be selected. At the end of the year, I was surprised to see that WR Malcolm Floyd had a better season overall, than WR Keenan Allen. Despite having 25 fewer receptions than WR Allen, WR Floyd ended 2014 with 70 more receiving yards and 2 more TDs.
2015 Free Agents that San Diego Needs to Address– RB Ronnie Brown- RB Ryan Mathews (signed w/ Philly)- WR Seyi Ajirotutu (signed w/ Philly)- WR Eddie Royal (signed w/ Chicago)- C Doug Legurshy- LB Dwight Freeney- LB Andrew Gachkar (signed w/ Dallas)- CB Brandon Flowers- CB Shareece Wright- S Marcus Gilchrist
2015 NFL Draft– The immediate needs of San Diego are fixing the defense and help on their O-Line. The Chargers finished the 2014 season ranked 29th in the NFL in sacks (DE & DT), San Diego has 2 corners and a safety heading out for free agency (CB & S) and they need younger help on the right side of their O-Line (RT). They also desperately need depth at running back (RB). UPDATE: San Diego’s entire 2015 NFL Draft can be seen at this link- SAN DIEGO’S DRAFT
Did You Know– Originally, 6’4″ Antonio Gates enrolled at Michigan State University wanting to play football under then-coach Nick Saban. He would later chose to pursue playing basketball at Eastern Michigan University. After being told by scouts that he was too much of a “tweener” to make the NBA, Gates arranged a workout in front of NFL scouts and chose to work out first for the San Diego Chargers. Recognizing his potential, the Chargers in 2003 immediately signed him to a contract as an undrafted free agent.
All team reports can be seen at this link- TEAM REPORTS
Team Home Page: www.chargers.com