NFL free agency started on March 18th, but technically does not end until the end of the season. However, after a firehose of news the first week, and another run the second week, things quiet down to a trickle. There are still big names out there, but it’s going to take some time to get them signed, sealed and delivered.
With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at where teams stand after the early rush of free agency and what it means for fantasy football. We’re going to take a look at the skill positions, breaking down what the starting lineup and reserves will look like to assess fantasy value heading into August drafts.
Today, we’re taking a look at the Los Angeles Chargers. The biggest change you’ll see with the 2020 Chargers is the absence of Philip Rivers. Rivers has started 16 games in 14 straight seasons for the team formerly known as San Diego. Melvin Gordon went to Denver in free agency while Austin Ekeler signed an extension, solidifying his place in the offense. They did lose OL Russell Okung, but signed OL Bryan Bulaga to help out on the line.
Defensively, they added CB Chris Harris to an already stout defensive backfield and DE Linval Joseph to help out Joey Bosa and company. Their defense is going to be strong in 2020.
Starter: Tyrod Taylor
Backups: Easton Stick
This picture has yet to be filled out, as the Chargers will more than likely grab a quarterback in the draft. Who that is is up for debate and likely won’t be a player that leads this team to the playoffs his rookie season. The team could go with Tyrod Taylor as a bridge between Rivers and their next franchise QB hopeful.
Starter: Austin Ekeler
Backups: Justin Jackson
The Chargers re-upped Ekeler, who will be the lead back in 2020 after a great 2019 fantasy season, where he finished as the fourth-best fantasy running back in ESPN scoring despite splitting time with Melvin Gordon for much of the year. On 224 touches, he totaled 1,550 yards and 11 touchdowns, giving him 6.9 yards per touch after a 2018 season where he averaged 6.6 yards per touch and just missed 1,000 total yards. Now, with Gordon gone, he should get on pace for his 2019 numbers in 2020. Of course, no Rivers could hurt, but Taylor, if that’s who starts the season at quarterback, has shown good enough ability to keep Ekeler’s upside high.
Justin Jackson, if the team doesn’t bring in good competition, should still see a decent workload, as Ekeler has never ran the ball over 132 times in a season and likely won’t be a bell cow on the ground. Last season with Gordon holding out for four games, Ekeler averaged 14 rushing attempts and 6 receptions per game. That’s a good workload and when extrapolated to 16 games, would give him 224 carries and 96 receptions. Last season Jackson only had 29 rushing attempts but did average 6.9 yards per carry. If he can be a capable backup, his rushing attempts should see a big bump and carry some value in deep leagues while also being the handcuff for Ekeler.
Starters: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams
Backups: Andre Patton, Jason Moore, Tyron Johnson, Jalen Guyton
The Chargers have a good 1-2 punch in Allen and Williams. Allen finished as WR6 in fantasy last season, catching 104 passes for 1,199 yards and six touchdowns. Williams remained an inconsistent deep threat and was hurt by Rivers’ poor 2019. His upside remains much higher than his 47 receptions for 816 yards and four touchdowns he accumulated last season.
The team needs depth at receiver and will likely find some before training camp, but the focus will remain on Allen, Williams, Ekeler and Hunter Henry, without much action to the depth on the team. Four good receivers will still spread the targets out too much if the offense falters under Taylor or a rookie quarterback, but it should keep us from straying from the Top-4.
Starter: Hunter Henry
Backups: Virgil Green, Andrew Vollert, Stephen Anderson
The Chargers gave Henry the franchise tag and will hopefully get a longterm deal done before the season starts. But, we know he’s playing this season and should be the No. 2 or 3 target behind Allen and Ekeler, with extra work in the red zone. He would likely need one of those two to miss time to truly reach for a Top-3 fantasy finish, but his ability should keep him as a Top-10 player at his position with upside for Top-5.