Drafted in the first round out of Tennessee in 2007, Robert Meachem has yet to finish a season with more than 45 receptions or 725 yards. To be fair, Meachem missed all of his rookie season due to a knee injury, but he has had four other seasons with relatively low production.
While those numbers are disappointing for someone with Meachem's draft pedigree, he has also been limited by the Saints' all-hands-on-deck offense where everyone is involved (targeted).
Last year, Meachem was tied with four other players for 105th in targets (61). Guys like Brandon Gibson (71), Preston Parker (64) and Roy Williams (63) all had more targets than Meachem. Then again, so did 101 other players. In fact, the best Meachem has finished in targets is tied for 100th in 2010.
During the five-year span since Meachem entered the league, however, only eight players with at least 100 receptions have a higher yards-per-reception average than Meachem (16.09) during that span.
With the change of scenery that free agency has brought for Meachem, there should be an increased opportunity for him to be more of a focus within another high-powered offense. And coach Norv Turner has said so.
“He has been in an offense where he’s one of five guys, and they spread the ball out,” Turner said (via Dan Pompei of the National Football Post). “He hasn’t been the focal point. I think we try to be balanced, but he will get opportunities to be a big-play receiver up the field.”
Although some view Meachem as only a deep threat, Turner calls him a "complete receiver." “He’s a No. 1 receiver. He’s a guy that has big-play ability. He can be a complete receiver,” Turner said (via the team's website).
How many receiving yards will Meachem have in 2012?
The Chargers lost Vincent Jackson, the team's leading receiver last year, via free agency to Tampa Bay, and Malcom Floyd has struggled to stay healthy. Floyd has played in only 74 games over seven seasons and only played more than 13 games once (2009).
The team also added Eddie Royal earlier this year and drafted Vincent Brown in the third round in 2011, but Meachem and Floyd are on top of the team's depth chart at receiver and should get the most targets if all receivers stay healthy.
Provided running back Ryan Mathews stays healthy (and he has had durability concerns dating back to his collegiate days), the Chargers have a balanced offense that will keep opposing defenses honest.
In fact, most defenses will focus their efforts on slowing down Mathews, who could be poised for a true breakout season, or tight end Antonio Gates, which would create more isolated opportunities for Meachem on the outside.
Although Meachem no longer has Drew Brees, one of the league's best quarterbacks, throwing him the ball, Philip Rivers is one of only four players to throw for at least 15,000 yards and 100 touchdowns over the past four seasons.
The other three are Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning. Only Rodgers has fewer interceptions than Rivers, and Rivers has the highest average yards per attempt (8.43) during that span. In fact, Rivers led the NFL in yards per attempt each year from 2008 to 2010.
(Strength of) Schedule
Based on the cumulative fantasy points allowed to wide receivers last year by all of the Chargers opponents this year, Meachem and the Chargers' receivers have the second-least favorable schedule from a fantasy perspective and least favorable in the fantasy postseason (Weeks 14-16).
In the fantasy playoffs, the Chargers face the Steelers (road), Panthers (home) and Jets (road). Facing the Steelers and Jets pass defenses are tough enough, but the Chargers will have to do so possibly in the elements in December.
Going back to the 2010 season, when Vincent Jackson held out in the first 10 weeks, we saw players like Patrick Crayton, Seyi Ajirotutu and Legedu Naanee have 100-yard games. If Rivers has the bounce-back season that I expect, Meachem will have the opportunity to have a breakout season in this VJax-less offense.
As of July 3rd, he's the 29th receiver off the board in Yahoo! leagues (Yahoo! WR ADPs). A 1,000-yard receiver as a low-end WR3 is a bargain.
At 27 years old, Meachem should be able to produce close to the 1,000-yard and eight-touchdown numbers I project for this season for the next several years in San Diego's high-powered offense.
Based on his first five seasons, many fantasy owners may be skeptical that Meachem will have a big season this year, let alone be able to sustain that kind of production into the foreseeable future. Especially if he slips to you outside the top 30 receivers, I think he's worth the risk.
Projection: (Receiving) 70 receptions, 1,025 yards, eight TDs; (Rushing) 20 yards
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