Which San Diego Chargers are worth taking or skipping in your draft.
• Inside the Locker Room
With Bernie Wilson of the Associated Press
Were the fantasy expectations too high for Ryan Mathews last season?
No. He came in as the heir apparent to LaDainian Tomlinson after leading the nation in rushing during his final season at Fresno State. There was talk about his fresh legs and explosiveness compared to L.T.’s final few seasons. The Chargers said there wouldn’t be a lot of pressure on him to carry too much of the load because of their established passing game with Philip Rivers. An ankle injury and some fumblitis slowed Mathews, as well as his lack of experience picking up blitzes. Mathews had a strong finish to 2010 by rushing for 120 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries in a win at Denver, so that alone is a sign that Year No. 2 should be better.
San Diego’s backup RB has always been a hot commodity for fantasy players. Who’s the standout No. 2?
Mike Tolbert for sure. Tolbert established himself as a power inside runner last season and carried the running game while Mathews developed. Tolbert had some fumble issues, especially inside the red zone, something that drove coach Norv Turner crazy. If he can hang onto the ball, he should be solid.
How much better can Philip Rivers’ numbers get in 2011?
He can certainly challenge Dan Marino’s single-season record of 5,084 yards, especially if Vincent Jackson returns and plays the whole season, and if Antonio Gates is healthy. Rivers led the NFL with the 10th-highest total ever, 4,710, despite a constantly rotating cast of receivers that didn’t include Jackson for the first 10 games and Gates for much of the season’s second half.
What’s the most intriguing question regarding fantasy football and this team in your opinion?
Whether Gates can make a full recovery from the painful torn plantar fascia that cost him significant playing time last year. Based on past history, Gates should be OK. Gates had the right approach with his injury, not wanting to put the team in jeopardy by trying to play hurt and then being ineffective and making his foot worse.
• Fantasy Playoff Run — Weeks 14-16: BUF, BAL, @DET
Two games at home against teams coming from the East coast is a good start to the fantasy postseason. Rivers is a spectacular December QB, throwing for over 5,200 yards, 40 TDs and only 14 interceptions in his seven-year career during the month. Gates owners should be a little wary as Baltimore and Detroit were sixth and fifth against TEs last season. He opens against a Buffalo team ranked 31st against the position.
• Athlon Best Bets
Sleeper: Vincent Brown, WR
Deep-Sleeper: Jordan Todman, RB
Overvalued: Mike Tolbert, RB
Top Rookie: Vincent Brown, WR
Bounce-Back: Ryan Mathews, RB
Top IDP: Eric Weddle, DB
• Try to Avoid
Patrick Crayton, WR
After scoring at least four TDs in four straight seasons with the Cowboys, Crayton managed only one score (on just 28 catches) in his first season on a talented, and for most of the season a Vincent Jackson-less San Diego offense.
WAIT UNTIL: 20th RD
• Draft Class Fantasy Impact
Even though Philip Rivers is coming off a career-high 4,710 passing yards, the Chargers gave him more weapons to use in 2011. Brown should be the team’s long-term option as the No. 2 receiver, but he will compete with Patrick Crayton and Malcom Floyd for playing time in 2011. Consider Brown a late-round sleeper pick in redraft leagues. Todman will be the No. 3 back but could be a valuable waiver pickup in case of injury to Ryan Mathews or Mike Tolbert.
More Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets and Rankings:
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 280
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 240 w/ IDPs
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Wide Receivers
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Kickers
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Defense/Special Teams