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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
Patriots fairly healthy heading into Super Bowl Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Patriots will be at nearly full strength for Sunday’s Super Bowl as the following players have been listed as probable: Tom Brady (ankle), Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), Chris Jones (elbow), Akeem Ayers (knee), Darrelle Revis (non-injury-related) and Sealver Siliga (foot).

All except Brady were limited participants in practice Friday. The only question mark is center Bryan Stork, who is questionable with a knee injury and was limited in practice Friday.

The Patriots are currently 1-point favorites against Seattle.


Seahawks unveil final injury report in preparation for Super Bowl
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Seahawks have listed the following players as probable for the Super Bowl on Sunday: J.R. Sweezy (ankle), Justin Britt (knee), Marshawn Lynch (back), Earl Thomas (shoulder), Richard Sherman (elbow) and Kam Chancellor (knee).

Chancellor was a late addition to the injury report, when he fell on the next-to-last play of practice and missed the last play. He was not limping on his way off. All other players were full participants in practice Friday.

The Seahawks are currently 1-point underdogs against New England.


Saints tight end Jimmy Graham to avoid surgery on shoulder
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he will avoid surgery on his shoulder after testing it at the Pro Bowl. 

"I’ve been doing rehab and I’m going to start back on my rehab Monday and really there’s going to be no surgery," Graham told SiriusXM radio. "I’m just going to do rehab, strengthen the area. That’s what’s best — not having to take six months off and try to heal up with a surgery, but now have those six months to work on all things I need to to try and hopefully get to a place like (the Super Bowl) next year."

Graham, who had 85 catches for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014, fought off the injury for most of the season. He was still unsure about having surgery before the Pro Bowl last week.

"It was something that really needed some rest and unfortunately it wasn’t able to get that during the season," he said. "It happened early and then you have about 10 straight weeks of trying to make it to the game. Now after having about three or four weeks and last week kind of testing it at the Pro Bowl, it feels great."


Vikings' Greg Jennings: We all want Adrian Peterson back
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Vikings veteran wideout Greg Jennings said during a SiriusXM NFL Radio interview on Friday that embattled running back Adrian Peterson is wanted back by everyone in the organization, per ESPN.

"I don't know if he'll be back. I can't answer that question," Jennings said. "But what I do know is that if he does come back, he'd be accepted with open arms. As an organization from the Wilfs on down, we all want him back. So, I mean, it's a touchy subject and he's been the franchise player -- face of that team -- for eight years. So it will be a loss, a huge loss, if we can't get him back, and that's the nature of this business."

In November, Peterson was suspended by the league without pay for the rest of the season, making him ineligible for reinstatement until at least April 15. The move came after Peterson pleaded no contest to recklessly injuring his 4-year-old son last May. He is under contract with the Vikings for next season, and is set to earn $12.75 million.

It's unclear at this point if Jennings has talked to Zygi and Mark Wilf about the Peterson situation. What is clear is that the team is not allowed to communicate with Peterson during his suspension.


Eagles' Maclin believes contract will take care of itself
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin believes he will be back in Philadelphia in next season. His representatives and the Eagles are in the process of negotiating a new contract for the 27-year-old, who will become a free agent in March unless he is re-signed.

"I'm excited about what the future holds," Maclin said on Friday. "Once again, both sides have made it known what we want to do. I think it will take care of itself."

He could be franchise tagged if a deal is not signed. The tag number for wide receivers is yet to be determined.

Maclin had 85 catches in 2014 for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns in Philadelphia.


Bears sign LB DeDe Lattimore to two-year contract extension
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Bears have signed linebacker DeDe Lattimore to a two-year contract extension. He appeared in 10 games as a rookie in 2014, recording five special teams tackles.

Jaguars' Khan 'very optimistic' about WR Blackmon being reinstated
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Jaguars owner Shahid Khan said Friday he is "very optimistic" about wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who missed the 2014 season after being suspended indefinitely for a third violation of the league's substance abuse policy, being reinstated to the NFL.

"I think he's paid his dues and I think he's got his life together," Khan said, per The Florida Times-Union.


NFLPA president Eric Winston: New conduct policy 'violates CBA'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) After the union field a grievance last week against the NFL over changes to the NFL personal conduct policy, Players Association president Eric Winston said Thursday the new policy "violates the CBA in several ways and we're going to be grieving this as far as we can."

NFL owners unanimously approved the changes in December.

"We have an agreement with the league and they have an agreement with us," Winston said, per the Associated Press. "We're going to hold them to that agreement. Many aspects of this policy fall outside of the CBA and we're going to continue fighting it going forward."

Following former Ravens running back Ray Rice's domestic violence case and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's child abuse case, a more extensive list of prohibited conduct was included in the policy, as well as criteria for paid leave for anyone charged with a violent crime. A suspension of six games without pay for violations involving assault, sexual assault, battery, domestic violence, child abuse and other forms of family violence will be in effect.

"The league's revised conduct policy was the product of a tremendous amount of analysis and work and is based on input from a broad and diverse group of experts within and outside of football, including current players, former players, and the NFL Players Association," the league said in a statement last week.

"We and the public firmly believe that all NFL personnel should be held accountable to a stronger, more effective conduct policy. Clearly, the union does not share that belief."


Eric Decker 'pushing' for Demaryius Thomas to sign with Jets
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is set to become a free agent in March, unless he agrees to a contract extension or Denver uses the franchise tag on him. If he does become a free agent, former teammate Eric Decker hopes Thomas would consider joining him on the Jets roster.

Decker spent a few days in Arizona this week with Thomas filming a commercial.

“I’ve been pushing for the entire year now,” Decker said in a telephone interview with The New York Post. “It was just another opportunity to talk to him about it. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. I think it would be tough for Denver to let him go. So whether they franchise-tag him here in the next month or give him a long-term deal, he’s just one of those premier players in this league.

"If he happens to make it to free agency, I would love to sign him because playing alongside him for four years and especially the last two years made it a lot of fun and made it a lot easier. He’s just one of the great players in this league.”

Thomas recorded a career-best 1,619 receiving yards in 2014. It was his third straight season of 1,000-plus receiving yards. He also had at least 10 touchdowns for a third straight season.


49ers CEO York: 'Defenses are not going to want to play against us'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) 49ers CEO Jed York confirmed the promotion of quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst to offensive coordinator during an interview with NFL Network on Friday. York is particularly excited about Chryst, who has been the quarterbacks coach since 2011, continuing to work with quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

“With Kap, you got a guy in Geep Chryst who knows him better than anybody else,” York said, per CSNBayArea.com. “You have a great guy in (quarterbacks coach) Steve Logan who is coming to come in to work with him on fundamentals and allow us to put together a system that’s going to put Kap in the best position to make plays.

“How many quarterbacks in this league can run 90 yards for a touchdown? I can’t think of many. But you have to put Kap in a position where he can make those plays. And put Kap in a position where we can run the ball (and) we can throw the ball in ways that allow him to be successful and let him be the absolute stud that he can be on the field. And I think that’s what you’re going to see from us next year. Defenses are not going to want to play against us because you’re not going to know where we’re going to hit you.”


 
 
 
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