Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
In the next edition of the series, we head to the AFC West and check out the division winning San Diego Chargers. The Chargers were 13-3 last year, with an offense that scored 28.4 ppg (4th among 32 teams) and a defense that yielded 20.0 ppg (11th).
For a team which won 13 games last season and was fourth in scoring, the Chargers sure have a lot of question marks heading into 2010. Will Ryan Mathews be a top running back? Will No.1 receiver Vincent Jackson even be in uniform on Opening Day?
Philip Rivers - One position the Chargers have no questions about is at quarterback where Rivers has become one of the league's best. Over the past two seasons, he has averaged passing for 4,131 yards, 31 TDs against just 10 interceptions. Though the Jackson question at wideout could hurt him a bit, the addition of a young, talented running back instead of the "shell" that was LaDainian Tomlinson will force teams to protect against the run. Rivers will not disappoint fantasy owners who choose him as a top-five quarterback (ADP 38).
Ryan Mathews - Mathews is not LaDainian Tomlinson in his prime, but he's got enough tools to be a 1,200-yard runner in his first season. He's bigger than LT at 220 pounds, but still runs under a 4.4 40. With a potent pass offense to keep defenses occupied, and only a change-of-pace running back in Sproles to steal carries, Mathews should be a top-10 running back as a rookie. Currently he's the 12th RB off the board at an ADP of 23, which means he should turn out to be a small bargain.
Darren Sproles - Now that the Chargers have drafted their "feature" back, Sproles can return to the role he knows the best - kick returner and change- of-pace back. Think 300 yards rushing, 400 yards receiving, 300 in punt returns and 1,300 yards in kickoff returns. While that is a huge contribution to helping the Chargers win, it's not fantasy stardom unless your league includes all kick return yardage. His current ADP is around 100. barring injury, neither Jacob Hester nor Marcus Mason should have any fantasy value.
Vincent Jackson - Over the first eight weeks of 2009, Jackson was one of the top-two receivers in the league posting 722 yards and seven touchdowns. He faltered down the stretch, but came up big in the first two rounds of the fantasy playoffs with 228 yards and two scores. Unfortunately he got caught with a DUI in the offseason which will likely result in a three-game suspension and has further exasperated Charger fans and fantasy owners by getting into a stare down contest with GM A.J. Smith over a contract extension. Given all these problems, I find it hard to recommend using a fourth-round pick (ADP 45) to select him.
Malcom Floyd - Floyd inherited the starting spot opposite Jackson last year after the team cut Chris Chambers in mid-season. Over the final games he caught at least three passes a game, but was still the team's third option. With so many questions revolving around Jackson, drafting Floyd in the 13th round (ADP 130) could have a huge upside.
Legedu Naanee - Naanee is not currently being drafted, but if the Jackson issue isn't straightened out, he could become a solid third option. He would make an excellent last-round selection. Neither Craig Davis, Josh Reed or Seyi Ajirotutu will have much fantasy value in 2010.
Antonio Gates - Gates was finally healthy in 2009 and it showed in his numbers. He caught 79 balls for a tight-end league-leading 1,157 yards and eight touchdowns. Barring injury, there is no reason he can't do it again, but he'll cost you a top pick as he's the second tight end off the board with an ADP of 44.
Nate Kaeding - Kaeding plays in beautiful weather and in a high-powered offense which helped him lead all kickers in fantasy scoring. He was 32-for-35 on field goal attempts and 50-for-51 on extra points. This year should yield similar results. Fantasy owners apparently agree as he's the No.1 kicker off the board.
In past years, the Chargers were one of the top defenses, but they faltered in 2009 and finished in a tie for 12th with 112 points. Their pass rush, once one of the most feared in the league, was just average in 2009 with 34 sacks and they produced 26 turnovers (12 fumbles, 14 interceptions). The team added Nathan Vasher, but traded away Antonio Cromartie. They also made three of their first four draft picks for the defensive side of the ball. However, I'm not ready to believe they have become a top defense yet.