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Fantasy Football Offensive Evaluation: San Diego Chargers

There should be a saying that goes something like "It's not November yet if the Chargers are still losing!"

Last season the Chargers started 2-5 and finished 9-7.

In 2009 they started 2-3 and finshed 13-3.

They started 4-8 in 2008 before rallying to win the division at 8-8.

And the year before that they started 5-5 and finished 11-5.

Basically, the Chargers refuse to do anything good to start the season and therefore must always go on some ridiculous run to make the playoffs. They haven't made a Super Bowl during their last 7 seasons, but they've finished top 5 in scoring in each of those years. They remain one of the most relevant NFL teams to fantasy owners because they've remained a high-octane offense under Norv Turner and Philip Rivers.

Last season was their first without LaDainian Tomlinson since 2000, and the heir apparent failed to step up in his rookie season, but will that change in 2011? And how will the wide receiver corp change up with the return of their number one?

Here's a look at every important offensive player on the Chargers roster...


Philip Rivers

I am still fascinated by the 2004 draft day trade that involved the Chargers getting Philip Rivers and the Giants getting Eli Manning. The Chargers wanted Manning, but the feeling wasn't mutual so instead they got Rivers, Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding. So the Chargers won the deal big time, right?

Well, Rivers has turned into the much better quarterback, but the Giants won a Super Bowl so they have nothing to complain about. Manning is a good but not great QB who has done just enough to maintain faith in him, but what would have happened if Eli didn't demand a trade? Would Rivers be a Super Bowl champion in New York? Would they have even drafted him? There was talk before the draft of Rivers going to Pittsburgh at 11, where they drafted Ben Roethlisberger, what would the fallout have been then?

It's funny how things work out. The Chargers should consider that day a huge win for them, but they're still left without a Super Bowl appearance since. Rivers led the NFL in yards per game, yards, and yards per attempt. He threw 30 touchdowns against 13 interceptions and had a QB rating above 100 for the third straight season. He is amongst the NFLs elite quarterbacks and if he has a full season from Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson, he could put up the best numbers in the league for QBs. He's a QB1 and a solid pick early on draft day.

Billy Volek

There are apparently people who back up Rivers, who has started 80 straight games since Drew Brees left.

Running Back

Ryan Mathews

Some of the most overdrafted players in fantasy history are rookie NFL running backs. Despite the fact that they haven't proven a thing in the NFL, if they are put into a good situation and came into the NFL with solid credentials, we assume that they will blow up right out of the gates in their rookie season. Of course, some of the biggest steals in fantasy drafts, are rookie running backs. We just don't have a good way of telling one from the other.

Ryan Mathews falls into the category of "rookie bust." He was going to the Chargers, he was a top rated back going into the draft, he was going to a top 5 offense and replacing LT. He rushed 20 times for 78 yards in week 1 and that would be his highest yardage and carry totals of the season until the final game of the year. He was far less valuable than the backup and played in just 12 games. However, in the season finale he rushed 26 times for 120 yards and 3 touchdowns. This year, he's going 37th on average in fantasy drafts, still making him a top choice for fantasy owners as a RB2, hoping he'll build off of what he did in the last game of 2010. Its tough to make heads or tails of which Mathews will show up this year; the one drafted 12th overall who gets 20-25 carries per game, or the one who will split carries and lose goal-line touches to the backup. For me, he's like a "starting sleeper" who could have a huge year or disappoint once again.

Mike Tolbert

While Mathews disappointed, 3rd year, undrafted pro Mike Tolbert shined. Tolbert is a big, burly, big-bootied back that totaled almost 1,000 yards from scrimmage and 11 TDs. He scored a touchdown in all but 5 games last year and topped 100 yards 3 times. While Mathews is going in the third round of most fantasy drafts, you can grab Tolbert some 6 or 7 rounds later and still potentially be getting the better option. Of course, he comes with some risks as on paper, he's the far less talented back and isn't your classic "#1 running back" option, but he could still potentially steal 10 or more touchdowns at the goal line. He's one of the top handcuff running backs in fantasy leagues.

Jordan Todman

He was a 6th round pick out of UConn where he was the Big East Offensive Player of the Year. Mathews will see action on downs 1 and 2, Tolbert will see action on third down, Todman will see action only if something happens to Tolbert. Because the Chargers have been so good at finding talent deep in the draft and those who went undrafted, he's one to watch only if a spot magically opens up.

Wide Receiver

Vincent Jackson

As a wide receiver, I am a fan of Jackson. He's big, fast, has good hands, and has averaged over 17 yards per catch over his career. Rivers is an elite QB and Jackson is the best wide receiver he's ever had to work with. I'm not a fan of Jacksons attitude however, and its cost him games and he's not yet convinced me that he's matured past all of those off-the-field incidents (2 DUI's) and 2010's holdout to make me trust that he's going to play 16 games a season. When he's on the field, he can be a #1 WR amongst the leagues best. Probably not in the Larry Fitzgerald/Calvin Johnson camp, but at the very top of tier 2. That's what makes him a WR2 in fantasy for me. I think he's good for 60 catches, 1,100 yards, 10 TDs over the course of a full season. Right now he's going 8th amongst WRs in fantasy, and that's just too rich for my blood no matter how much I like him. He's going ahead of players like Reggie Wayne and Miles Austin, and even if he's more talented at this stage in his career, he's not reliable enough for me.

Malcom Floyd

Another undrafted rookie free agent, another gem for the Chargers. If they were as good at playing in September as they were at scouting, they'd win 14 games every year. Floyd filled in nicely for V-Jax last year and against Oakland in week 5 he caughts 8 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown. Floyd played in 10 games, caught 6 touchdowns and had 717 yards. Over the course of a full, healthy season opposite Jackson, Floyd could be a good WR3 in fantasy capable of 900 yards and 5-7 touchdowns.

Vincent Brown

While he's going to be deeper on the roster than some other wideouts, Brown is just a little bit more interesting. He played college ball right there at San Diego State and the Chargers drafted him in the third round this season. But a quad injury has held him back early in training camp this year and he hasn't made an impact. He's a rookie, he's behind, he's low on the depth chart, so don't expect much out of Brown this year. But down the line he could make an impact so now you know the name...

Patrick Crayton

This is his 7th season in the league, so if Crayton hasn't made a major breakthrough by now, why should we expect him to start? He topped 100 yards twice last season, so if the Chargers find themselves in a situation where Crayton has to start and they're playing a creampuff defense, you might spot start Crayton as an emergency.

Seyi Ajirotutu

The 2nd year pro had one big game last season: 4 catches for 111 yards and 2 scores against Houston. Fans love him and everybody loves a guy with a crazy-ass last name that nobody pronounces correctly. He's young, which makes him more interesting than Crayton, but he's going to have to fight for PT. He's not draftable, again, but he's one to keep an eye on.

Tight End

Antonio Gates

You can tell me pretty much anything you want about NFL tight ends for fantasy and make arguments for or against this guy and that guy as the top tight end in football. It won't change my mind that Gates is the best. No matter the situation, the opponent, whatever you want to throw at me, it won't change the fact that he's been the most talented NFL tight end since 2004 and until that stops being the case, I'm not going to change my stance that all tight end rankings for me start with Antonio Gates. If a player like Jermichael Finley wants to prove me wrong, that's all he has to do: He has to prove me wrong. He has to do that by playing a 16 game season where he tops 1,000 yards and 10 TDs. Jason Witten has more catches, and puts up the same kind of yards but there's a major difference: Gates averages 10 touchdowns a season and Witten averages 5. This is fantasy, and touchdowns matter.

Randy McMichael is the backup again and his best days are long gone.