Fantasy Football 2012: Breaking Down the San Diego Chargers

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<p> Fantasy Football 2012: Breaking Down the San Diego Chargers</p>

What can the San Diego Chargers do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.

Inside the Locker Room
with Bernie Wilson, Associated Press

Is Ryan Mathews ready to carry the load and become an elite fantasy running back?
He needs to be. He showed the bursts and long gains that fans and fantasy owners have expected ever since the Chargers moved up 16 spots to draft him with the 12th pick overall in 2010. It’s been a slow process, from injuries in his rookie year — as well as an inability to pick up the blitz that cost him playing time — to not being in shape during training camp last season. After rushing for 1,091 yards last year, Mathews should be ready for more in 2012.

Philip Rivers committed 25 turnovers last year. Can he eliminate his mistakes and return to fantasy’s elite QB club?
Even Rivers seemed mystified about the turnovers and will do everything he can to reduce them. The fumbled snap at Kansas City was the Chargers’ equivalent of the ball going through Bill Buckner’s legs, and many of those interceptions came from Rivers trying to do too much. That said, Rivers will need some help from his teammates so he doesn’t feel the need to carry the offensive load.

Athlon's Best Bets

Sleeper: Robert Meachem, WR
Deep-Sleeper: Eddie Royal, WR
Overvalued: Malcom Floyd, WR
Top Rookie: Ladarius Green, TE
Bounce-Back: Nate Kaeding, K
Top IDP: Eric Weddle, DB

2012 Draft Class

1. Melvin Ingram OLB 6/2 276 South Carolina
2. Kendall Reyes DE 6/4 296 Connecticut
3. Brandon Taylor SS 5/11 209 LSU
4. Ladarius Green TE 6/6 238 UL Lafayette
5. Johnnie Troutman G 6/4 314 Penn State
7. David Molk C 6/2 288 Michigan
7. Edwin Baker RB 5/9 210 Michigan State

Fantasy Impact: With the offense returning largely intact, rebuilding the defense was the top priority through the draft. Melvin Ingram and Kendall Reyes will help to bolster the front seven, with Ingram filling a hybrid linebacker/end role. Antonio Gates is still San Diego’s starter at tight end, but Ladarius Green could help in two-tight end sets. Green is a sleeper to watch in keeper formats. Edwin Baker, a seventh-round pick, could push Curtis Brinkley for playing time as San Diego’s No. 2 tailback.

Fantasy Playoff Run: Weeks 14-16 (at PIT, CAR, at NYJ)

The Chargers make the dreaded cross-country trip twice in the fantasy postseason this year, and they do so against two of the traditionally strongest defenses in the league. However, in the last three years San Diego has played 11 times east of the Mississippi River and scored 20 or more points in 10 of those games. Hosting Carolina in Week 15 should translate into opportunities for the Chargers’ playmakers.

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