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Offseason Primers: San Diego Chargers

by | Senior Fantasy Writer
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Fantasy owners didn't get a lot of value from the Chargers in 2012. In fact, most of their main options turned out to be busts.

Philip Rivers was drafted as the No. 10 quarterback on average (ahead of Tony Romo, Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, among others). He finished as the No. 20 quarterback in standard leagues.

Ryan Mathews was drafted as the No. 13 running back on average (ahead of Jamaal Charles, Trent Richardson and Doug Martin, among others). He finished as the No. 31 running back.

Antonio Gates was drafted as the No. 3 tight end on average (ahead of Aaron Hernandez, Jason Witten and Greg Olsen, among others). He finished as the No. 12 tight end.

And we won't even mention Robert Meachem and his miserable season.

2012 Touches Leaders
939 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
Ryan Mathews 223 (184 car., 39 rec.) 23.7%
Jackie Battle 110 (95 car., 15 rec.) 11.7%
Ronnie Brown 95 (46 car., 49 rec.) 10.1%
Malcom Floyd 56 rec. 5.9%
Curtis Brinkley 51 (39 car., 12 rec.) 5.4%
All Others 404 43.0%

Things fell apart right away for the Chargers when Mathews broke his collarbone in training camp, and he never appeared to recover. Vincent Brown was also lost for the year with a broken ankle. Rivers had one of the worst years of his career, and Gates -- despite playing 15 games -- barely finished as a No. 1 tight end thanks to three meaningless touchdowns in the final three weeks of the season.

The lone bright spot was Danario Alexander, who signed with the Chargers in Week 7 and had an amazing stretch run. In nine games, Alexander had 37 catches for 658 yards and seven touchdowns. He had double digits in Fantasy points in five games and scored at least 19 points in three outings.

We hope Alexander continues to play at a high level this year, and he should be considered a No. 2 Fantasy receiver worth a mid-round pick. We're still going to give Mathews another chance even with the addition of Danny Woodhead, but you should let him fall to you in Round 4 or 5 instead of reaching for him. Gates, based on a lack of talent at the position, remains a No. 1 tight end, and hopefully he can have a rebound year. And Rivers is now a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback, but maybe the coaching change from Norv Turner to Mike McCoy will help.

The Chargers no longer have the Fantasy firepower they did just a few years ago when Rivers and Gates were stars, LaDainian Tomlinson was the best running back in the NFL and Vincent Jackson was a standout receiver. But the guys in place now -- even a fading Rivers and Gates -- still have potential, and we hope they can bounce back this year.

Ryan Mathews -- Let him fall to you

2012 Target Leaders
528 pass attempts
Malcom Floyd 85 16.0%
Antonio Gates 80 15.1%
Danario Alexander 62 11.7%
Ronnie Brown 59 11.1%
Ryan Mathews 56 10.6%
All Others 186 35.2%

Mathews has a lot of work to do before Fantasy owners can trust him. In 2012, Mathews was expected to be an elite Fantasy option. Instead, he was among the biggest busts of the year. A broken clavicle in training camp derailed the start of his season, and he never recovered before suffering a second broken clavicle in Week 15. He finished the year with 184 carries for 707 yards (3.8 yards per carry) and one touchdown and 39 catches for 252 yards. In 2011, Mathews looked like a star in the making when he had 222 carries for 1,091 yards and six touchdowns and 50 catches for 455 yards -- an average of 12.4 Fantasy points per game. But now health is again an issue for him, as is his level of talent, which wasn't helped playing behind a poor offensive line. The Chargers also brought in Woodhead and kept Ronnie Brown, meaning Mathews will likely come off the field on passing downs. Still, based on potential, Mathews should be considered a low-end No. 2 Fantasy running back, and he's worth the risk with a pick in Round 4 or 5 in the majority of leagues.

Vincent Brown -- Late-round flier

A lot of Fantasy owners view Brown as a potential star, and he has the chance for a big role in the Chargers offense this year. Brown missed the 2012 season with a broken left ankle, but McCoy said he's hopeful Brown does well in 2013. As a rookie in 2011, Brown had 19 catches for 329 yards and two touchdowns in a limited role. Since the Chargers need help at receiver, Brown could contribute right away. He is expected to be featured in three-receiver sets with Alexander and Malcom Floyd. If Brown plays up to his potential, he could overtake Floyd as a starting option, and keep in mind that Alexander has a long injury history going back to his collegiate days at Missouri. We love Alexander's upside this year, but Brown could be the breakout receiver of this group. He is worth a late-round flier in all leagues, and we hope Brown doesn't disappoint you if you consider him a future standout option.

Philip Rivers -- Coaching impact

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Philip Rivers 155-163 overall
Ryan Mathews 48-53 overall
Danny Woodhead 148-153 overall
Danario Alexander 75-80 overall
Malcom Floyd 151-159 overall
Vincent Brown Undrafted
Antonio Gates 80-86 overall

Rivers had the benefit of working with Turner for the past six seasons, and most of them were good. But he probably needs a change and to hear a different voice, and the additions of McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt will help. McCoy, especially, should have a good influence on Rivers since the past two years he's had to adapt his coaching style after working with Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning in Denver. He will likely have a variety of ideas to help Rivers, and he needs it after his play the past two years. Rivers is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career in 2012 with 3,606 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The passing yards and touchdowns were his lowest totals since 2007, and he's trending in the wrong direction. Hopefully we can see McCoy change that. But Rivers has a lot to prove, and not many Fantasy owners are counting on him. He should be considered a No. 2 quarterback on Draft Day, and he should only be selected with a late-round pick. If he rebounds then you have a steal, but don't overvalue him based on name recognition.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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