Moving forward with the AFC West, NFL Soup continues on with the San Diego Chargers to see if they can continue their Super Bowl push with Philip Rivers leading the way.
The Chargers took a disappointing loss in the divisional round of the 2009 playoffs, losing to the New York Jets, 17 to 14. Unfortunately for opposing defenses, they are back, and should be just as potent on offense as they have been in recent years. Let’s take a look at what kind of fantasy impact the Bolts have.
1. Phillip Rivers Will Flow
So the pun was probably unneeded and terrible, but the remains that Philip Rivers has been one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the NFL over the last four seasons. Some may worry about him not having Vincent Jackson or Marcus McNeill, but his quick release should still make it a bit easier for his left tackle to handle the rush.
He also has what should be an effective runner in rookie running back Ryan Mathews to replace the departed LaDainian Tomlinson. Antonio Gates is still one of his biggest targets, as well, and that connection shouldn't miss a beat.
Overall, Rivers makes for a potential top-five fantasy quarterback option. Right now he’s probably right behind Tom Brady and Matt Schaub, but not by much. You’ll feel comfortable if you can get him in the second round to be your starting quarterback.
2. Ryan Mathews Will Have an Immediate Impact
The Chargers coaching staff will not stop raving about how well Ryan Mathews is picking up the offense. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, he can run between the tackles, and he has the speed to turn the corner. No wonder why they traded up in the first round to select him. He’s got the potential of Tomlinson in his prime.
Don’t forget that running back is one of the easiest transitions for a rookie, and he’s got a veteran quarterback to lead the way.
Expect Mathews first year numbers to look similar to Matt Forte’s rookie season with the Bears. He’ll get his receptions, as well as close to 300 carries and around seven to 10 touchdowns on the ground. In PPR fantasy leagues, he should have a little more value and will make an excellent second back.
3. Malcolm Floyd Will See More Catches
With Vincent Jackson most likely not playing for the Chargers this year, Malcolm Floyd looks to be the No. 1 wide receiver in San Diego. Floyd is a big target who can stretch the field and should get more touchdowns in the red-zone because of his possession-style body. He sits around 220 pounds at 6’5", and averaged over 17 yards per catch in 2009.
Phillip Rivers at quarterback already makes Floyd a legit option for a third receiver, but until Floyd can prove that he can be more consistent, he’s no more than that. However, if you can get him at a flex spot, then you should not be disappointed.
4. Antonio Gates is Still a Top Tight End Option
Gates is still one of Phillip Rivers' favorite targets, and it’s easy to see why. He’s one of the most productive downfield tight ends and catches everything. He gets his touchdowns and he makes plays after the catch. His receptions have went down over the last few seasons, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to get you fantasy points for your tight end spot.
What’s great is that last season, he had his best full season in regards to average yards per catch, so he can still make the moves down the field. Since 2004, he’s never had fewer than eight touchdowns in a season as well. In a PPR league, he drops down to around the third best tight end, but in regular leagues, I’d give him the nod if you can’t get Dallas Clark.
5. Darren Sproles Has Value, But It’s Limited
Most of Sproles’ value comes as a return man, and as more of a third down back. He can catch quite well out of the backfield, and has the ability to make a big play. But with Ryan Mathews playing the role of Superman, being able to do it all, Sproles won’t see the field as much as last year. However, he will be the second back behind Mathews and is the kick and punt returner.
Those in leagues that award return yardage and special teams touchdowns may take a flier on Sproles in a later round. In PPR leagues, he could be a decent sleeper because he can run out of the shotgun with Rivers and Mathews and catch passes as well. Just don’t go expecting too much out of Sproles.