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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
49ers K Phil Dawson scores five points vs. Chargers Week 16
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:14 am ET) 49ers kicker Phil Dawson made five extra points but missed his only field-goal attempt in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Dawson didn't have much of a shot at converting his lone field-goal try, as his team tasked him with attempting to avoid overtime by nailing a 60-yard field goal at the end of regulation. He didn't come close, and the 49ers went on to lose in overtime.

Dawson has made 23 of his 29 attempts this season and is now 5 for 8 from 50 yards or more. He'll square off with the Cardinals in Week 17.


49ers WR Michael Crabtree plays sparingly vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:11 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree managed just one catch for five yards in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Crabtree, who was questionable to play Saturday due to a knee injury, remained on the sidelines for large portions of the game, even donning a baseball cap at one point. It appeared he was set to play only in an emergency situation. However, the receiving corps was struck by multiple injuries, leaving the team to turn to Crabtree late, and he recorded his only catch in overtime.

Crabtree will try and heal up in time to serve a larger role in his team's season finale against the Cardinals in Week 17.


49ers WR Anquan Boldin catches seven passes vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:08 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin recorded a team-high seven receptions on nine targets for 61 yards in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Boldin managed more than half of the team's receiving production Saturday, as the other San Francisco players combined for only 53 yards on eight receptions, though rookie Bruce Ellington did managed to catch a touchdown.

Boldin had his best performance since a nine-catch, 137-yard breakout in Week 12. He's racked up 81 receptions for 981 yards with four touchdowns going into a Week 17 matchup with the Cardinals, a team for which he played from 2003 to 2009. He'll be looking to secure his seventh career 1,000-yard performance in the season finale.


49ers WR Bruce Ellington scores twice in Week 16 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:03 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Bruce Ellington tallied three rushing attempts for 12 yards and a touchdown and added an eight-yard touchdown reception in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Ellington scored both of his touchdowns in the second quarter, first hauling in the eight-yard touchdown on a play-action pass for which he was wide open. He then added the rushing touchdown on a jet play on third-and-goal where he took the ball on the move immediately after the snap and found a crease on the right side for the score.

It wasn't all positive for the rookie, as he was ruled out in the second half with a hamstring injury. If he can heal sufficiently during the upcoming week, he'll be in line to face the Cardinals in Week 17.


49ers RB Frank Gore rumbles for 158 yards vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:58 am ET) 49ers running back Frank Gore racked up 26 carries for 158 rushing yards with one touchdown in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Both numbers represent season highs for Gore, who hasn't had a better rushing day since the 2009 season. He set the tone early, shaking off would-be tacklers en route to a 52-yard score less than two minutes into the game. Gore continually proved difficult to tackle, as he would have managed his third 100-yard game of the season even without the long touchdown.

Gore is now up to 962 rushing yards and four rushing scores on 230 carries. He has a reasonable shot at cracking the 1,000-yard mark in his team's Week 17 matchup with the Cardinals.


49ers QB Colin Kaepernick tallies 151 rushing yards vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:54 am ET) 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed 15 of his 24 pass attempts for jsut 114 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions but added 151 rushing yards on seven carries in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Kaepernick had little trouble picking up chunks of yards against a defense that seemed adverse to tackling -- the 49ers set a new team record with 355 rushing yards in the game -- but his highlight came on a 90-yard scamper where he went untouched after crossing the line of scrimmage, with the Chargers committing a penalty on the play for good measure.

The rushing touchdown was the first of the season for Kaepernick, and his 151 rushing yards marked a new regular-season high. However, he's also failed to top 175 passing yards in any of his last four games. The 49ers will look to close out the season in strong fashion when they face the Cardinals in Week 17.


Chargers K Nick Novak nails game-winner in Week 16
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:49 am ET) Chargers kicker Nick Novak made his only field-goal attempt Saturday, hitting the game-winning kick from 40 yards out in his team's 38-35 overtime win over the 49ers in Week 16.

Novak had all week to think about missing two of his three attempts against the Broncos in Week 15 but drilled the key attempt early in the overtime period to send the Chargers home with a win. He also added five extra points, giving him his best point total in three December contests. Novak has a matchup with the Chiefs on the calendar for Week 17.


Chargers WR Malcom Floyd scores key TD in Week 16 win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:46 am ET) Chargers wide receiver Malcom Floyd caught just four of his season-high 10 targets for 50 yards Saturday but also scored a crucial touchdown in his team's 38-35 overtime win over the 49ers in Week 16.

Floyd hadn't been on the same page as quarterback Philip Rivers for much of the night but came through when it mattered, hauling in the game-tying touchdown on an 11-yard post play with just 29 seconds left in regulation. He's up to 49 receptions, 827 yards and six touchdowns going into a Week 17 matchup with the Chiefs.


Chargers WR Dontrelle Inman catches seven passes Week 16
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:43 am ET) Chargers wide receiver Dontrelle Inman racked up seven receptions on nine targets for 79 yards in his team's 38-35 overtime win over the 49ers in Week 16.

The coaches opened the second half with Inman in the lineup and the team down 28-7, and the little-used receiver was able to reward the gamble with an excellent half of football, picking up all his receptions in the second half. It was the first time this season Inman had even seen a target in a game, but he was able to pick up three first downs, including one on a crucial fourth-and-10 with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter and his team down seven points. The Chargers tied the game two plays later before winning in overtime.

Inman may have earned himself a significant role in his team's Week 17 matchup with the Chiefs, especially if Keenan Allen is unable to return to action.


Chargers TE Antonio Gates scores twice in Week 16 win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:37 am ET) Chargers tight end Antonio Gates caught seven of his nine targets for 92 yards with two touchdowns in his team's 38-35 overtime win over the 49ers in Week 16.

Gates had a quiet first half but helped lead the charge to come back from a three-touchdown deficit. His first score was on a one-yard catch on third-and-goal that he juggled a bit, but he was able to hang on while taking a hit at the goal line. His second score was on a wide-open 21-yard reception in the fourth quarter to bring his team to within one touchdown.

It was the fourth multiscore game of the season for Gates, who is now up to 65 receptions, 754 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. He'll match up with the Chiefs in Week 17.


 
 
 
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