Justin Herbert landed in just about the perfect spot, with a placeholder QB and a ton of weapons around him. He probably gives the Chargers offense more upside for 2020, and he's got enough weapons around him to make this a very soft landing. But in all likelihood, we'll see Tyrod Taylor to start the season at least. If and when a switch is made will be something to watch.
Record: 5 - 11 (26)
PPG: 21.1 (21)
YPG: 367.4 (10)
Pass YPG: 276.6 (6)
Rush YPG: 90.8 (28)
PAPG: 37.3 (11)
RAPG: 22.9 (28)
2019 Fantasy finishes
Number to know: 449
In Tyrod Taylor's three seasons as the full-time starter for Buffalo, his 16-game pace was for 449 pass attempts. That's at least in part due to Taylor both scrambling at a high rate and also taking sacks at a high rate; as a result, he was always near the top of the league in percentage of dropbacks that didn't end in a pass attempt.
In Philip Rivers' past three seasons, his 16-game pace is 558 pass attempts. For as long as Taylor is under center, this team will have far less passing volume to go around that it has in recent seasons. And even if Herbert takes over, he might throw quite a bit less than Rivers did.
179 RB carries, 63 RB targets, 32 WR targets, 9 TE targets
Rankings and Projections
| ||Heath Cummings' projections|
|QB||Tyrod Taylor||3,723 YD, 23 TD, 8 INT; 328 Rush YD, 3 TD|
|RB||Austin Ekeler||742 YD, 4 TD; 79 REC, 788 YD, 5 TD|
|RB||Justin Jackson||475 YD, 3 TD; 16 REC, 107 YD, 0 TD|
|RB||Joshua Kelley||505 YD, 3 TD; 21 REC, 144 YD, 0 TD|
|WR||Keenan Allen||137 TAR, 93 REC, 1,070 YD, 5 TD|
|WR||Mike Williams||88 TAR, 50 REC, 799 YD, 5 TD|
|TE||Hunter Henry||99 TAR, 70 REC, 805 YD, 6 TD|
How much does the passing game miss Phillip Rivers?
Rivers probably doesn't get the respect he deserves, but the Fantasy finishes of his receiving options throughout his career speak volumes. Whether it's Taylor or Herbert starting in 2020, the Chargers are likely to throw less often. Those passes are also likely to be lower-quality than we're used to. Keenan Allen has averaged more than 100 catches over the past three years, while Austin Ekeler caught 92 balls last season. Expect those numbers to drop, and for Mike Williams and Hunter Henry to lose some work, too.
One sleeper, one breakout and one bust
Whether it's Kelley or Justin Jackson, someone figures to be involved in the Chargers' backfield in 2020 alongside Austin Ekeler. And both Kelley and Jackson are being forgotten about in drafts, coming off the board as late-round picks.
The choice here for Kelley is simple — Jackson is a former seventh-round pick who had some Fantasy relevance in late 2018 only after both Gordon and Ekeler missed time, but then was lightly used in early 2019 when Gordon held out. And then, this offseason, the team made the decision to select Kelley in the fourth round. I think Jackson might be the better talent, but reading the tea leaves of the team decisions makes me lean Kelley.
At any rate, the confusion about who might be the No. 2 has kept both of them inexpensive, and yet it seems likely one plays enough to crush their ADP. (Similar could be said about the quarterback room, and Tyrod Taylor is another early-season sleeper likely to perform well above his ADP whenever he's on the field.)
Truth be told, I'm not high on many Chargers for 2020. But if there's one guy I like to break out, it would be Williams, whose 2019 was quite irregular. First of all, Williams' 18.1 yard average depth of target was 2.3 yards deeper than any other player with at least 75 targets. That helped him rack up the eighth-most air yards in the entire league and a yards-per-reception figure north of 20.
And yet somehow — and this is where things get very weird — despite all the explosive plays, he scored just two touchdowns. In 2018, Williams scored 10 times on just 43 receptions, so we know his size and downfield role can translate to house calls. If he maintains the downfield routes, he should continue to find chunk plays, especially with more mobile quarterback options. And the touchdowns that typically come with those chunk plays should bounce back in 2020.
I think Ekeler will be fine, and I love his skill set and talent. Heck, when Melvin Gordon reported last year, I compared Ekeler to Alvin Kamara (the replies to that Tweet indicate how many people thought Ekeler's value was done).
But I'm worried about his receiving value. Ekeler's 92 catches in 2019 are going to come down, and maybe way down. For starters, the Chargers are going to throw a lot less overall. Then there's the fact that mobile quarterbacks tend to throw to their backs less frequently than immobile ones, and nobody threw to backs more than Rivers. Taylor has thrown to backs at a high rate before, but he never had anything close to the downfield weaponry in Buffalo that he'll have in Los Angeles. But even when LeSean McCoy led the Bills in targets in 2017, that equated to just 59 catches. I could see 60 catches for Ekeler; 90 feels unreachable.
There's also his efficiency. As our Chris Towers put it late last season, Ekeler had maybe the best receiving season for a running back ever. His 9.2 yards per target and eight receiving touchdowns are both due for regression, even if he's excellent again in 2020. While his rushing yardage should rise and he might be able to add some rushing touchdowns, we're talking about a different statistical profile from the one that propelled Ekeler into the top five in PPR leagues last year. If everything goes right, he could return value or get close to it, but I'm not sure he has the ceiling to repeat what he did in 2019. That makes him a tough choice in the second round.