Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The 2011 San Diego Chargers ranked fifth in the NFL in scoring with 406 points. They rushed for 1,864 yards and 16 touchdowns and threw for 4,426 yards and 27 touchdowns.
But that was last season and a key factor in determining where to rank their highly skilled fantasy players for 2012 involves figuring out what kind of offense they will be, come this September.
Apparently many "experts" and fantasy owners believe they will become a rushing team in 2012.
Why else would running back Ryan Mathews be drafted at No. 8 overall in the latest fantasyfootballcalculator.com results? Those results also show quarterback Philip Rivers dropping from No. 25 last season to No. 72 as of Monday.
Head coach Norv Turner likely stoked the fires even more when he proclaimed recently that he expects Mathews to have a "breakout season."
But what is the truth?
The truth is that the Chargers' best offensive weapon is still at quarterback. Rivers has been a top-five fantasy quarterback for three of the past four seasons, but struggled with the interception last fall. He'll freely admit that.
Rivers, however, righted the ship in the second half after throwing 14 of his career-high 20 interceptions in the team's first eight games. Over the final six games, he threw 12 touchdown passes against just three picks.
There are changes to the Chargers' receiving corps that may be influencing voters. Talented Vincent Jackson signed with Tampa Bay and the team replaced him with Robert Meachem, formerly of New Orleans. Meachem is certainly no Jackson, but he does have value, particularly as a speed receiver. The team also added Eddie Royal and would benefit from a healthy Malcom Floyd. Second- year receiver Vincent Brown also has shown flashes of brilliance.
Rivers has lost a lot of receiving help out of the backfield over the past couple of years. Last season, Darren Sproles took his receiving prowess to New Orleans and this year Mike Tolbert has left town. Until fantasy owners know who is going to pick up the slack for those 60-plus catches, they worry about Rivers' ability to produce big numbers.
That may help explain the huge jump in expectations for Mathews. At this point, he's going to have to be a do-everything, workhorse back, rushing 275- plus times and catching 60-70 balls out of the backfield.
The question fantasy owners should be asking is, can Mathews' body can stand the additional punishment?
In both his rookie season and last season, Mathews wasn't ready to go every game, and that was with a shared workload. That could be a disaster for San Diego with a depth chart that currently reads: Mathews, Curtis Brinkley, Edwin Baker and Michael Hayes.
Despite the snub from early season mock drafters, Rivers is still a star and the straw that stirs the Chargers' offense. And as a sixth-round selection, you'd be crazy not to select him.
Mathews should post career-best numbers if he can stay on the field, but he's the very definition of high-risk, high-reward.
Antonio Gates (ADP 56) is currently healthy and that's great news for Rivers and Gates owners, but is another high-risk question mark.
The Chargers will need either Meachem (ADP 80) or Floyd (97) to become the go- to receiver that Jackson once was and I believe one of the two will have a big season at a bargain price. Training camp and the exhibition season should tell us which one.
Make no mistake about this, however, San Diego is still a pass-first offense and it is only going to win if Rivers has a good season. I am positive Rivers will rebound from 2011 and therefore I'm bullish on the Chargers' offense and confident they can help your team to the fantasy title you seek.