Philip Rivers is coming off a strong 2016 -- he had the second-most touchdown passes of his career with 33 and his fourth year in a row with at least 4,200 passing yards. He finished as the No. 6 Fantasy quarterback in standard leagues, but it could have been even better if he didn't have a career-worst 21 interceptions. Since Rivers has been at 15 interceptions or fewer in three of the past five seasons, we expect him to cut down on the turnovers this year. A strong receiving corps should go a long way in helping him accomplish that goal -- not only will he have Keenan Allen back in the fold after he suffered a torn ACL, but Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, rookie Mike Williams (who should play at some point this season), Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates are sure to help him out. It might be the best group Rivers has ever had. There is the concern of Rivers starting to slow down since he's 35, and he's attempted at least 570 passes each of the past three seasons. He also has a tendency to fade in the second half of his seasons, although last year he scored at least 20 Fantasy points in six of his final eight games. A tough early-season schedule cannot be overlooked, but we love waiting for Rivers on Draft Day in all leagues as a borderline Fantasy starter. He's worth drafting with a late-round pick and should, as usual, outperform his draft stock with another strong year.
Gates could be used as more of a third-down and red-zone specialist this season, ESPN's Eric Williams reports. Gates ended the 2016 season with more snaps than rookie TE Hunter Henry, but it finally seemed as if Father Time had caught up with the 36-year-old, as Gates struggled to explode off the line of scrimmage. That certainly came through in Gates' final stat line, as the veteran TE managed to record just 538 receiving yards, his lowest figure since 2012. As a result, it's likely Henry will take over more of the TE snaps, with Gates fading into the background as more of a third-down and red-zone specialist. That can still make for a useful fantasy fallback, especially in the Chargers' high-octane passing attack, but it appears as if the days of Gates as an elite fantasy TE are officially over.
New head coach Anthony Lynn said he plans to use Gates and Hunter Henry together, but the frequency with which the team uses two-tight end formations will depend on the opponent, Chargers.com reports. Gates and Henry combined for 15 touchdowns last season, with the former getting more volume and the latter producing much more efficiently on a per-target basis. The team did make use of two-TE formations at times, but Gates and Henry still cut into each other's snap counts, with both finishing the year at fewer than 600 snaps. While the 22-year-old Henry will rightfully enter 2017 as the preferred commodity, Gates could still retain a significant role in the San Diego passing game, particularly near the goal line.
Gates caught five passes for 55 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's loss to the Chiefs. Gates' 111 touchdown catch was a historic one, as the veteran is now tied with Tony Gonzalez for the most touchdown receptions by a tight end in the history of the NFL. While the 36-year-old has suggested he will be back for his 15th season, it's clear Gates is beginning to succumb to Father Time as he limped his way to 548 receiving yards, his lowest mark since the 2012 season. However Gates still possesses an innate chemistry with Philip Rivers, particularly in the red zone, which has kept the veteran fantasy relevant despite an obvious decline in athleticism. With rookie tight end Hunter Henry flashing signs of brilliance it seems like only a matter of time until Gates is surpassed on the depth chart, but that doesn't necessarily mean the ageless wonder will fade off into obscurity. Perhaps more damaging to his fantasy value could be a full-scale coaching change, as the Chargers' fired head coach Mike McCoy Sunday, kicking off what is expected to be a litany of moves to the coaching staff. While the Chargers' have benefited from a productive two-tight end offense throughout much of Gates' twilight years, a scheme change could be in the cards with a new head coach and thus may put Gates in an uncomfortable position -- behind his younger counterpart on the pecking chain.
Gates caught eight passes for 94 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's loss to the Browns. One week after being held to just a single catch, Gates exploded against the Browns, factoring in plenty throughout the game. With Hunter Henry hampered by a variety of injuries, Gates saw a team-high 13 targets and converted that into season-high marks in catches and yards. Despite the solid performance Saturday, the 36-year-old is on track to post career-lows in targets, receptions and receiving yards in what could very well be his last year in the NFL.
Gates was held in check Sunday, catching one pass for 11 yards in the loss to the Raiders. Despite recording over 60 yards of receiving yards last week, Gates was hardly targeted against what was supposed to be a beatable Raiders secondary. While he did see 35 snaps, six more than his rookie counterpart Hunter Henry, Gates was forced to chip block the Raiders disruptive defensive line, limiting his explosive potential. The 36-year-old should have a better performance if he can shaky off the frigid temperatures when the Chargers travel to face the Browns next week.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|3||09/24||Kansas City Chiefs||7||5.41|
|5||10/08||@New York Giants||21||7.41|
|8||10/29||@New England Patriots||9||6.00|
|15||12/17||@Kansas City Chiefs||7||5.41|
|16||12/24||@New York Jets||27||8.75|
Red Zone Trends
|3 Year Avg||92||59||666||8||37||11.29||114|