Los Angeles Chargers 2021 Fantasy Preview

Los Angeles Chargers 2021 Fantasy Preview

by July 31, 2021 0 comments

The Los Angeles Chargers have one of the most entertaining offenses in the NFL, thanks to second-year star Justin Herbert. As a rookie, Herbert would give the Chargers fan base hope they haven’t had in years. For fantasy football players, Herbert is the next young superstar quarterback we all hope and think will turn into a fantasy star for years to come. As Herbert enters his second year in the league, what can fantasy players expect from him and the Chargers’ offense this season? Let’s dive into it.

Make sure to check out all of our other 2021 Fantasy Football Previews.

Quarterbacks – Justin Herbert

Herbert’s rookie season didn’t start ideally, getting notified of his first career start five minutes before kickoff. However, despite the unusual circumstances around the first start of his career, Herbert showed why he is a superstar in the making. After throwing two touchdowns in the first two games of his career, Herbert threw three or more in four straight games. Furthermore, other than three matchups against tough defenses, Herbert threw two or more touchdowns in every game from Week 4 on last season. Not only did Herbert break the rookie record for touchdowns in a season, he only threw 10 interceptions. Furthermore, Herbert did that despite a slew of injuries to his supporting cast. If his receivers and offensive line stay healthy, Herbert has the upside to finish top-five.

Running Backs – Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Larry Rountree, Justin Jackson

While he only played in 10 games last season, Ekeler still lead the team with 116 rushing attempts. He also finished third on the team with 54 receptions. Despite missing six games, Ekeler was on pace for almost 1,500 scrimmage yards over a 16 game pace last season. Furthermore, despite scoring only one rushing touchdown last season, Ekeler finished as the RB9 on a point per game basis among running backs with seven or more games played. Meanwhile, new offensive coordinator, Joe Lombardi, spent the past five years with the New Orleans Saints. For his career, Alvin Kamara averaged 102.7 scrimmage yards per game, including a career-high 112.5 last season. Expect Lombardi to feature Ekeler similarly as the Saints did with Kamara, making Ekeler a first-round pick in PPR drafts.

Behind Ekeler, the Chargers have plenty of depth. However, there isn’t a clear answer as to who is Ekeler’s backup. The favorite to earn the backup job is Kelley. As a rookie last season, Kelley was very inconsistent. He scored 9.5 or more fantasy points in five games but under four fantasy points in six other games. Meanwhile, there are reports that Jackson’s roster spot isn’t guaranteed. Behind them is Rountree, a sixth-round rookie who could turn into the thumper the Chargers want to pair with Ekeler. If you are drafting one of these running backs as Ekeler’s handcuff, pick Kelley. However, if you are selecting for the most upside, pick Rountree as he could carve out a role alongside Ekeler.

Wide Receivers – Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Josh Palmer

Allen is the star of the Chargers’ passing game. After dealing with injuries early in his career, Allen played 16 or more games in three straight seasons till last year where he played in 14. Over the past four seasons, Allen has averaged 17 fantasy points per game, averaging at least 16.3 every year. Furthermore, over that span, Allen has caught at least 97 passes every season. Not only is Allen consistent with his catches, but also with his receiving yards and touchdowns. Over the last four seasons, Allen has averaged 1,195 receiving yards and 6.5 touchdowns per year. Furthermore, Allen has finished as a top-12 wide receiver in each of the past four seasons. As long as Herbert is under center, expect another top-12 finish from Allen in 2021.

After his 11 touchdown season in 2018, many had high hopes for the former seventh overall pick. However, in the two years since, Williams has struggled to become a consistent fantasy threat, scoring seven total touchdowns, averaging 10.5 fantasy points per game. While he has been a disappointment, Williams has put together back-to-back seasons with over 750 receiving yards. Furthermore, with Lombardi taking over as the offensive coordinator, many have high hopes for Williams this upcoming season. Not only will Williams now be part of an offense that let Michael Thomas thrive as the “X receiver”, but he is also entering a contract year. Like Corey Davis last year and DeVante Parker the year before, expect Williams to have a breakout year right before he hits free agency.

Towards the end of the season, Tyron Johnson and Jalen Guyton started to show promise. Over his final four games, Johnson averaged 10.9 fantasy points per game. Meanwhile, over his last three games, Guyton averaged 6.9 fantasy points per game. However, that didn’t stop the Chargers from using a third-round pick on Palmer. In his final season at Tennessee, Palmer had a career-high four receiving touchdowns. Palmer won’t be handed the No. 3 wide receiver role. Instead, it is an open competition between Johnson, Guyton, and Palmer, according to reports. If one of the three can separate themselves from the other two in training camp, that is the wide receiver you want to target in the later rounds.

Tight Ends – Jared Cook, Tre’ McKitty, Donald Parham

In the offseason, the Chargers lost Hunter Henry as he signed with the New England Patriots. To replace him, the Chargers added Cook. While Henry has been one of the better tight ends in the NFL since entering the league, he had only one season with more than five touchdowns. By comparison, Cook has 22 touchdowns over the past three seasons, scoring at least six each season. Furthermore, while Cook finished as the TE18 last season, averaging 8.5 fantasy points per game, he averaged 10.1 fantasy points per game with Drew Brees under center. In Los Angeles, Cook will help Herbert out in the red zone. However, unless the wide receiver core is hit by injuries this season, Cook likely won’t finish as a top-12 tight end.

Behind Cook, the Chargers have two younger tight ends, former XFL star Parham and third-round rookie McKitty. Last season, Parham was more of a thorn in the side for fantasy players than a fantasy contributor. Parham had only 20 targets last season, with seven coming in the red zone and two from inside the five-yard line. Yet, despite catching only half of his targets, Parham managed to score three touchdowns on his 10 catches. However, in the two games Henry missed last season, Parham scored 19.4 of his 43.9 fantasy points for the season in those games. If Cook misses time with an injury, Parham would have competition from McKitty for the starting role. However, Parham should be the favorite to take on that role.

Defense/Special Teams

Injuries have been a massive problem for the Chargers defense in recent memory. Last season wasn’t any different. Joey Bosa missed four games, Chris Harris Jr. missed seven games, and Derwin James missed the entire season. With all the injuries, it’s not a surprise that the Chargers D/ST finished as the D/ST23 last season, averaging 4.5 fantasy points per game. Furthermore, the only time the Chargers D/ST scored more than nine fantasy points was in Week 1 against Joe Burrow in his first career start.

However, in the offseason, the Chargers improved the unit. They re-signed cornerback Michael Davis. After that, they added former Minnesota Viking defensive tackle Linval Joseph and former New York Giant pass rusher Kyler Fackrell. Then, the Chargers used their second-round pick on cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. Despite playing in the high-powered AFC West, if they can stay healthy, the Chargers D/ST should finish top-12 this season.

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Mike Fanelli is the Editor in Chief and fantasy football expert for Prime Time Sports Talk since 2018. He is a featured writer for FantasyPros. Follow him on Twitter @Mike_NFL2 and reach out anytime with any fantasy football questions.

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