by Greg Talcott
The Denver Broncos will remain top of the class of the AFC West in 2015 with Kansas City nipping at their heels. This leaves a battle for the cellar between Oakland and San Diego. There is a lot to love about San Diego as a city; perfect weather, beaches, Sea World, and some great zoos. However, when it comes to professional sports, San Diego ranks below Cleveland for long suffering fans and years of being “close”. The last time the San Diego Chargers were in the Super Bowl was in 1994 with one of the worst rosters to ever grace the game and they got clobbered. Charger fans have had moments of success under Drew Brees and Philip Rivers, but a title has remained elusive and that won’t be changing this year. The only thing in doubt about this season is which team’s fans will have more stab wounds when they play the Raiders. Well, that and are the Chargers moving to Los Angeles? This would leave San Diego with just one professional team, the lowly Padres, who are to baseball what Long John Silvers is to fast food. You would feel sorry for Charger fans if it weren’t for the fact they live in arguably nicest city in the country; you can’t have it all, I guess.
For fantasy owners, the Chargers offer very little when it comes to every week starters. Gone are the days where Antonio Gates could be counted on as a TE1, given his age and 4-game suspension to start the season due to a PED violation. Expect flashes of brilliance when Gates returns, but he is a low level TE1/ TE2 this season depending on the matchups. His backup, Ladarius Green, is a TE2 to start the season but does have potential for more in the first 4 weeks of the season. Philip Rivers offers fantasy owners a mid-tier quality QB that won’t win you any titles on his play alone. He hasn’t missed a game since becoming a starter in 2006, making durability his strongest virtue. Rivers makes a great QB2 if you have a franchise QB1 already, or if you are drafting a rookie like Winston or Mariota in dynasty leagues. Ultimately, if you are starting Philip Rivers your experience will be similar to driving a 10-year old Camry; it runs well enough but it sure isn’t a panty dropper.
The running back situation is intriguing with rookie Melvin Gordon potentially being a legit RB2 for owners at some point this season. However, he will be sharing duties with Branden Oliver, Danny Woodhead who is a big part of the passing game, and Donald Brown, who has looked good in the offseason. For drafting purposes, avoid drafting Gordon too high but add him if you already have two solid RB’s.
The wide receiver position offers fantasy owners at best WR3 talent but more likely WR4 material and bench strength. Rivers likes to spread the ball around to his receivers with Stevie Johnson, Malcolm Floyd, Keenan Allen, and Jacoby Jones being the order you want to look at if you were to draft one of them. Week to week will be a bit of a crapshoot on performance with Johnson or Floyd being the two receivers most capable of production at the WR4 position and emergency play at WR3 when the season begins. Stevie Johnson had 3 decent fantasy seasons 3 years ago; it is unlikely he becomes a world beater simply because he is playing with Philip Rivers.
The Chargers have a solid defense that is borderline draft-able in late rounds of 10-team leagues or more. Realistically they should be available on the waiver wire unless you have a Charger fan in your league.