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Offseason Primers: San Diego Chargers

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Fantasy owners didn't get a lot of value from the Chargers in 2012. In fact, most of their main options turned out to be busts.

Philip Rivers was drafted as the No. 10 quarterback on average (ahead of Tony Romo, Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, among others). He finished as the No. 20 quarterback in standard leagues.

Ryan Mathews was drafted as the No. 13 running back on average (ahead of Jamaal Charles, Trent Richardson and Doug Martin, among others). He finished as the No. 31 running back.

Antonio Gates was drafted as the No. 3 tight end on average (ahead of Aaron Hernandez, Jason Witten and Greg Olsen, among others). He finished as the No. 12 tight end.

And we won't even mention Robert Meachem and his miserable season.

2012 Touches Leaders
939 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
Ryan Mathews 223 (184 car., 39 rec.) 23.7%
Jackie Battle 110 (95 car., 15 rec.) 11.7%
Ronnie Brown 95 (46 car., 49 rec.) 10.1%
Malcom Floyd 56 rec. 5.9%
Curtis Brinkley 51 (39 car., 12 rec.) 5.4%
All Others 404 43.0%

Things fell apart right away for the Chargers when Mathews broke his collarbone in training camp, and he never appeared to recover. Vincent Brown was also lost for the year with a broken ankle. Rivers had one of the worst years of his career, and Gates -- despite playing 15 games -- barely finished as a No. 1 tight end thanks to three meaningless touchdowns in the final three weeks of the season.

The lone bright spot was Danario Alexander, who signed with the Chargers in Week 7 and had an amazing stretch run. In nine games, Alexander had 37 catches for 658 yards and seven touchdowns. He had double digits in Fantasy points in five games and scored at least 19 points in three outings.

We hope Alexander continues to play at a high level this year, and he should be considered a No. 2 Fantasy receiver worth a mid-round pick. We're still going to give Mathews another chance even with the addition of Danny Woodhead, but you should let him fall to you in Round 4 or 5 instead of reaching for him. Gates, based on a lack of talent at the position, remains a No. 1 tight end, and hopefully he can have a rebound year. And Rivers is now a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback, but maybe the coaching change from Norv Turner to Mike McCoy will help.

The Chargers no longer have the Fantasy firepower they did just a few years ago when Rivers and Gates were stars, LaDainian Tomlinson was the best running back in the NFL and Vincent Jackson was a standout receiver. But the guys in place now -- even a fading Rivers and Gates -- still have potential, and we hope they can bounce back this year.

Ryan Mathews -- Let him fall to you

2012 Target Leaders
528 pass attempts
Malcom Floyd 85 16.0%
Antonio Gates 80 15.1%
Danario Alexander 62 11.7%
Ronnie Brown 59 11.1%
Ryan Mathews 56 10.6%
All Others 186 35.2%

Mathews has a lot of work to do before Fantasy owners can trust him. In 2012, Mathews was expected to be an elite Fantasy option. Instead, he was among the biggest busts of the year. A broken clavicle in training camp derailed the start of his season, and he never recovered before suffering a second broken clavicle in Week 15. He finished the year with 184 carries for 707 yards (3.8 yards per carry) and one touchdown and 39 catches for 252 yards. In 2011, Mathews looked like a star in the making when he had 222 carries for 1,091 yards and six touchdowns and 50 catches for 455 yards -- an average of 12.4 Fantasy points per game. But now health is again an issue for him, as is his level of talent, which wasn't helped playing behind a poor offensive line. The Chargers also brought in Woodhead and kept Ronnie Brown, meaning Mathews will likely come off the field on passing downs. Still, based on potential, Mathews should be considered a low-end No. 2 Fantasy running back, and he's worth the risk with a pick in Round 4 or 5 in the majority of leagues.

Vincent Brown -- Late-round flier

A lot of Fantasy owners view Brown as a potential star, and he has the chance for a big role in the Chargers offense this year. Brown missed the 2012 season with a broken left ankle, but McCoy said he's hopeful Brown does well in 2013. As a rookie in 2011, Brown had 19 catches for 329 yards and two touchdowns in a limited role. Since the Chargers need help at receiver, Brown could contribute right away. He is expected to be featured in three-receiver sets with Alexander and Malcom Floyd. If Brown plays up to his potential, he could overtake Floyd as a starting option, and keep in mind that Alexander has a long injury history going back to his collegiate days at Missouri. We love Alexander's upside this year, but Brown could be the breakout receiver of this group. He is worth a late-round flier in all leagues, and we hope Brown doesn't disappoint you if you consider him a future standout option.

Philip Rivers -- Coaching impact

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Philip Rivers 155-163 overall
Ryan Mathews 48-53 overall
Danny Woodhead 148-153 overall
Danario Alexander 75-80 overall
Malcom Floyd 151-159 overall
Vincent Brown Undrafted
Antonio Gates 80-86 overall

Rivers had the benefit of working with Turner for the past six seasons, and most of them were good. But he probably needs a change and to hear a different voice, and the additions of McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt will help. McCoy, especially, should have a good influence on Rivers since the past two years he's had to adapt his coaching style after working with Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning in Denver. He will likely have a variety of ideas to help Rivers, and he needs it after his play the past two years. Rivers is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career in 2012 with 3,606 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The passing yards and touchdowns were his lowest totals since 2007, and he's trending in the wrong direction. Hopefully we can see McCoy change that. But Rivers has a lot to prove, and not many Fantasy owners are counting on him. He should be considered a No. 2 quarterback on Draft Day, and he should only be selected with a late-round pick. If he rebounds then you have a steal, but don't overvalue him based on name recognition.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Andre Williams could surprise again
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(6:58 pm ET) Though I don't know that he's ready for a platoon role, believing his strong showing Week 4 at Washington happened mainly because the Giants saw fit to rest their starting running back in a blowout, rookie Andre Williams has the perfect matchup to make the most of whatever opportunities he gets Week 5 against Atlanta. The Falcons rank 28th against the run, allowing 153.5 yards per game, and have given up nine touchdowns on the ground, four more than any other team.

Even better, they've been sort of the magic elixir for running back tandems this season. Not only did the Vikings' Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon both have big games against them last week, the former rushing for 78 yards and three touchdowns and the latter rushing for 135 yards, but the Bengals' Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill both had big games against them in Week 2, the former rushing for 90 yards and a touchdown and the latter rushing for 74 yards and a touchdown.

Of the two lead CBSSports.com Fantasy Football analysts, Jamey Eisenberg ranks Williams the highest for this week, placing him 28th among running backs, so we're talking little more than an emergency flex option in standard 12-team leagues. Still, you wouldn't be completely out of your mind to play him coming off last week's performance.


Rashad Jennings should come roaring back
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(6:39 pm ET) After being limited to just three touches in the second half of a blowout victory Week 4 at Washington, Giants running back Rashad Jennings has a chance to get back in his Fantasy owners' good graces in Week 5. He'll be facing a Falcons defense that just gave up 241 rushing yards to the Vikings, making them 28th against the run. They've also allowed nine touchdowns on the ground, four more than any other team.

Because rookie Andre Williams performed so well in relief of Jennings last week, rushing for 66 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, you may be worried the two will split carries in some form or fashion going forward. While I don't think that's much of a concern -- Williams was already getting 5-10 carries a game and not doing much with them -- I'm not sure it really matters with this matchup. The Falcons have been the magic elixir for running back tandems this season. Not only did the Vikings' Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon both have big games against them last week, the former rushing for 78 yards and three touchdowns and the latter rushing for 135 yards, but the Bengals' Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill both had big games against them in Week 2, the former rushing for 90 yards and a touchdown and the latter rushing for 74 yards and a touchdown.

Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard both rank Jennings among their top six running backs for Week 5, and I agree wholeheartedly. He remains a must-start despite the disappointment of last week.


Alfred Morris running into tough matchup
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(5:57 pm ET) For as good as Alfred Morris is, owning him in Fantasy can leave you disappointed at times, given the Redskins' sometimes-inconsistent usage of him. You might want to skip the headache in Week 5, with the Seahawks on the way Monday night.

Morris has been productive in each game so far, and currently ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing yardage through four games. Unfortunately, he faces one of the toughest tests in the league this week. The Seahawks have yet to allow an opposing running back to score even six points this season, and their lone touchdown allowed came from little-used Packers fullback John Kuhn in Week 1. Morris has yet to face Seattle in his career, and they are unlikely to give him a very warm welcome.

Morris is nearly a must-start Fantasy option on a weekly basis, but this is one time you might want to avoid relying on him. The workload should be there, but Morris ranks outside of the top-30 for running backs in both Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard's Week 5 rankings.   


Jets add LeQuan Lewis, subtract Brandon Smith
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:55 pm ET) The Jets signed cornerback LeQuan Lewis to their practice squad and released corner Brandon Smith from the squad, reports the New York Daily News.

Panthers add Tauren Poole, Horace Miller to practice squad
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:50 pm ET) The Panthers signed running back Tauren Poole and linebacker Horace Miller to their practice squad.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins an interesting long-term prospect
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(5:48 pm ET) Buccaneers tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins returned from a foot injury and immediately served as a key part of the offense in Week 4. Does the rookie second-rounder have sleeper Fantasy potential moving forward?

Seferian-Jenkins was targeted on seven of quarterback Mike Glennon's 42 throws in Sunday's game, a number that left him third on the team. He brought in three of those passes, a decent number considering Glennon struggled with his accuracy all game. The fact that Glennon looked his way so often might be a good sign, since it was the pair's first game together.

After a collegiate career that saw him total 1,840 yards in three seasons, Seferian-Jenkins has a chance to become a big part of this Tampa Bay offense. However, he obviously has a lot to prove before you want to rely on him. Keep an eye on Seferian-Jenkins' play in Week 5 against the Saints, and consider adding him if he and Glennon show a good rapport. 


Lions put Montell Owens on IR
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:47 pm ET) The Lions put running back Montell Owens on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, ending his season.

LaMichael James signs with Dolphins
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:42 pm ET) Former 49ers running back LaMichael James signed with the Dolphins, reports Fox Sports. San Francisco released the oft-injured back following the season opener.

Luke Willson has a lot to prove with increased role
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(5:35 pm ET) The Seahawks will turn to Luke Willson to start at tight end in the coming weeks, with Zach Miller sidelined by ankle surgery. Should Fantasy owners take notice?

Miller had logged 83.5 percent of the team's snaps through three games, so Willson should be in line for a much larger role as the starter. Of course, Miller was nearly a nonfactor in the passing game so far, having been targeted just seven times. Between he and Willson, quarterback Russell Wilson has targeted tight ends just eight times on 87 attempts, after 20.6 percent of his passes went their way a year ago.

Willson might be the better pass catcher of the Seahawks tight end tandem, but we don't have much to go on here. There are better tight end options worth targeting on waivers, at least until Willson proves himself. 


Christian Ponder preparing to start
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:28 pm ET) Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder took the first-team reps Monday and Tuesday while rookie Teddy Bridgewater watched with an ankle injury. "I'm preparing to play, but we're hoping the best for Teddy," Ponder told reporters.

"I've talked to Teddy. He's doing everything he can to prepare and be ready to play."

Ponder has started 35 games, but none with Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. He could be under center Thursday in Green Bay. "It's a very different style of offense than what we've ran the previous three years," Ponder said. "Without Adrian [Peterson], it's different. Defenses play us differently without Adrian. I'm comfortable and fit well in it."


 
 
 
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