The Fantasy Football season is fast approaching, and our Fantasy Six Pack team is bringing you the 2021 Fantasy Football Team Previews. Today I will be doing the 2021 Fantasy Football Los Angeles Chargers Preview, an up-and-coming team in the AFC West.
Last Season the Chargers finished with a 7-9 record finishing third in the division. That was not good enough for then-coach Anthony Lynn to keep his job, however. He was eventually replaced with the Rams Defensive Coordinator and first-time Head Coach Brandon Staley.
The Chargers had a very solid offseason in my opinion. Their offensive line was bad last year. According to PFF, they ranked dead last in their offensive line rankings. They addressed that this offseason by signing pro-bowl center Corey Linsley, and guard Matt Feiler. They also used the 13th pick of the NFL Draft on Rashawn Slater out of Northwestern to play left tackle.
So what was a weakness for the Chargers last season, could be a strength this season? This should only bolster the fantasy value of the skilled players on this offense. Now let's jump into some of these players in the 2021 Los Angeles Chargers Team Preview.
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2021 Fantasy Football Los Angeles Chargers Preview
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What an awesome surprise Justin Herbert was in his rookie season. After a freak accident to then starter Tyrod Taylor, Herbert was thrown into the fire in Week 2 of his rookie season. He threw 31 touchdowns compared to only 10 interceptions during his rookie season en route to winning AFC offensive rookie of the year. He also threw for 4,336 yards which were the sixth most in the NFL.
Herbert surprised just about everyone with his development in his rookie season. He finished as QB10 which I wild to think about considering he wasn’t even being drafted last season. Yet there is still plenty of room for improvement. Herbert had a 5.2% passing touchdown rate which ranked 14th in the league. He also had an 18% bad throw rate that ranked 12th in the NFL.
If Herbert improves those things this season he absolutely has top-five quarterback upside, even if he doesn’t rush the ball very often. Herbert is currently going as the 7th quarterback off the board according to FantasyPros ECR. I have Herbert a bit higher than that in my personal rankings, I have him as my QB6 behind Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Dak Prescott, Lamar Jackson, and Kyler Murray.
Chase Daniel is a career backup who signed with the Chargers this offseason after spending last season with the Detroit Lions. Daniel would only take over for Herbert if there was an injury. If that were to happen, Daniel is serviceable so the skill players wouldn’t be completely dead in the Chargers offense, but they would take a hit.
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Austin Ekeler had a disappointing 2020 season due to a hamstring injury that only allowed him to play in 10 games. However, Ekeler was productive in the games he played. Ekeler averaged 16.5 fantasy points per game which ranked 9th in the NFL. He also saw 54 targets which ranked 5th for running backs in the NFL. Ekeler also averaged 4.6 yards per carry behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league.
If Ekeler plays all 17 games this season I could see him getting upwards of 120 targets on the season, and almost catching 100 balls as he did in 2019 when he had 92 receptions. With Herbert at quarterback last season, he only averaged 7.3 air yards per attempt which ranked 26th in the NFL, which bodes well for Ekeler in the passing game.
Ekeler is currently going as RB12 according to fantasydata.com. In my opinion, he has top-five fantasy upside, and he is going behind Aaron Jones, Cam Akers, and Antonio Gibson. I will be taking Ekeler over all those guys in my drafts.
As for the rest of the running backs on the roster, they are nothing more than waiver wire pick-ups in case Austin Ekeler goes down with an injury. We saw what Joshua Kelley could do last season with Ekeler hurt, and he looked like just another guy, nothing special.
Justin Jackson is someone who has battled injuries throughout his career and last year was no different after going down with a knee sprain, but he has shown flashes. They also drafted Larry Roundtree in the 6th round of this year's draft, so he might be in their plans as well.
Keenan Allen has been everything the Chargers have wanted him to be the last two seasons, an alpha wide receiver. Allen saw 147 targets last season in 14 games which is a 26.8% target share that ranked 5th in the NFL.
Allen lined up in the slot 420 times which ranked 13th in the NFL, so he was somewhat of Herbert's security blanket across the middle of the field. However, if you’re looking for a big play guy, Allen is not that. His longest reception was only 27 yards. Allen finished as WR14 last season and is currently going as WR10 according to fantasydata.com. He is a solid WR1 option.
Mike Williams is coming into his 4th season with the Chargers, and he has yet to live up to that number seven draft pick. Williams has been very boom or bust during his career. Just last season he had four games of over 17 fantasy points, but he had eight games in which he scored under 10 fantasy points.
While looking at the numbers, the one that jumps out to me the most is the 22 deep ball targets that Williams saw in 2020. Williams saw 85 targets in 2020, and the departure of Hunter Henry freed up 92 more targets. I could see Williams getting over 100 targets this season, and that is good news. He is currently going as the WR46 in the fantasydata ADP
I should also mention that the Chargers also used a 3rd round pick on wide receiver Josh Palmer out of Tennessee. He will be battling Jaylen Guyton, and Tyron Johnson for the WR3 in this offense, who both showed flashes last year. Palmer does have 3rd round draft capital, however, so it should give him a leg up in the competition.
Jared Cook comes over to the Chargers a year after finishing as the TE18 last season. The 34-year-old at this point is nothing more than a red-zone threat, he saw 18 red-zone targets last season which ranked 11th amongst tight ends. He is someone I’m avoiding in drafts this season.
Donald Parham showed a few flashes in his rookie season, but with them drafting Tre’ Mckitty in the 3rd round out of Georgia. I anticipate the Chargers using all three of these tight ends in specific roles. But with that said, I don’t see a fantasy role for any of them. Even with Hunter Henry leaving and freeing up 92 targets, I see most of them going to the much better pass catchers in this offense.
The Chargers have made a bunch of changes this offseason, with a coaching staff shake-up, and an offensive line shake-up. With a young quarterback learning a new system you may see some early hiccups from the Chargers offense. But I believe once this offense gets rolling they will be able to support a top 10 player at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. With top-five upside at each of those positions.
From a real football standpoint, I can see the Chargers finishing around 9-8 and battling for a wild card spot in the AFC.
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