INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Quarterback Phillip Rivers has turned out four straight seasons of at least 4,000 yards passing and 25 touchdowns, including throwing for 4,624 yards and 27 touchdowns a year ago. After throwing just 22 interceptions in his previous two seasons, the Chargers’ signal caller was picked off 20 times in 2011. He did deliver six 300-yard passing days for owners last season and passed for multiple scores in eight of his 16 contests. Since taking over as the team’s starter in 2006 Rivers has not missed a start.
The Chargers get the NFC South and AFC North in addition to their six games vs. the AFC West and will also play the Titans and Jets. The bye comes in Week 7, which is always a good spot as it breaks up the season well. While four of the team’s last six games are at home, the slate is tough as it includes matchups with three playoff teams from a year ago, the Steelers, Bengals, and Ravens. The Pittsburgh tilt on the road is not a great one to kick off the fantasy playoffs with, but Week 15 brings the Panthers which should be fantasy friendly, before the team travels across country for the Jets in Week 16.
Entering his third season, the best appears yet to come for running back Ryan Mathews. He averaged 12.4 fantasy points per game in 14 starts during his sophomore campaign and with Mike Tolbert no longer in the mix in San Diego he’ll have little competition for carries in 2012. He broke the 1000-yard mark rushing last season, finishing with 1,061 yards on 222 carries and scored six touchdowns. His 50 catches out of the backfield make him an even more dangerous weapon. Barring injury, Mathews should produce big numbers and be viewed as top five fantasy RB entering the season ahead.
Ronnie Brown was signed during the offseason to serve as a backup to Mathews and enters the season as the Chargers’ No. 2 running back. It remains to be seen how much gas the 30-year old runner has left in the tank, but after a dismal performance in a similar role in 2011 in Philadelphia in which he rushed for just 136 yards and 0 touchdowns on 42 carries we are not holding our breath. While he may not be a bad late-round handcuff for Mathews’ owners on draft day, other owners can find more upside to build their bench elsewhere.
With so much attention being given to Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham heading into the 2012 fantasy season, Antonio Gates is flying under the radar at the tight end position. Injuries have cost Gates nine games over the past two seasons and durability will remain a concern for the 32-year old tight end. However, with the team lacking a true No. 1 wide receiver many expect Gates to be Rivers’ top target in the passing game. If he can stay healthy Gates will produce elite numbers and is likely to be available 2-3 rounds later than some of the hot names at the position.
After watching wideout Vincent Jackson depart to Tampa Bay via free agency, the Chargers signed free agents Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal to help build up its receiving corps. Meachem has made 20 trips to the end zone over the past three years, but has never more than 45 receptions of 722 yards in a single season playing in a Saints’ offense that spread the ball around. Royal has never been able to follow up his 2008 rookie numbers when he caught 91 balls for 980 yards and 5 TD’s, but could have late draft value in PPR formats as the Chargers’ new slot receiver.
It will be interesting to watch who emerges as the Chargers No. 1 wide receiver heading into the season, Meachem or Malcom Floyd. Meachem is definitely the better deep threat, averaging an impressive 16.1 yards per reception for his career. Floyd benefits from his familiarity with the offense and having played his entire career with Rivers throwing him the ball. After missing nine games the previous two seasons though Floyd will need to show he can stay healthy. Both wideouts have fantasy appeal, but neither should be viewed as anything more than a WR3 or WR4 by fantasy owners.
Despite showing some flashes as a rookie, Vincent Brown appears to be buried on the Chargers’ depth chart heading into 2012. He finished with 19 catches for 329 yards and a pair of touchdowns last season and should see plenty more targets in 2012. However, barring injury his snaps are going to be modest at best. He’s worth a late-round stab in yearly formats and carries a bit more value in dynasty leagues.
Fantasy Football, NFL