2020 Los Angeles Chargers Fantasy Team Preview: Buy-In Now on the Justin Herbert Takeover

SI Fantasy's Team Preview series from high-stakes legend Shawn Childs aims to break down the Los Angeles Chargers to evaluate the offense, defense, coaches and everyone in between with a fantasy-slanted analysis.
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Coaching Staff

In his first two seasons at the Los Angeles Chargers head coach, Anthony Lynn had a 21-11 record, which was highlighted by an excellent 2018 (12-4 with a bye and one win in the playoffs). Last year LA slipped to 5-11 due to a massive regression in scoring (337 points – 428 in 2018), despite improving one spot in offensive yards (10th).

Over the last 20 years, Lynn spent much of his time coaching running backs leading to an assistant head coaching job with the Jets and Bills from 2013 to 2016. Buffalo promoted him to offensive coordinator in 2016. He brings a running style to the offense while understanding the need to be a better defensive franchise.

Los Angeles promoted Shane Steichen to offensive coordinator at the end of October in 2019. After the season, they decided to reward him with the job this season. Steichen spent most of his college coaching career with the Chargers. His highest ranking job before 2019 was the quarterback’s coach.

Their defense improved to sixth in yards allowed, which as the fourth straight year of growth. Unfortunately, Los Angeles regressed in the points allowed rankings over the past three seasons (272 – 3rd, 329 – 8th, and 345 – 14th).

Gus Bradley returns as the defensive coordinator for his fourth year. Bradley went 14-48 over four seasons with Jacksonville, but his defense did progress in 2016 (6th in yards allowed). He held the defensive coordinator position for the Seahawks from 2009 to 2012 with three other years of experience as the linebacking coach for Tampa Bay.

Quarterbacks

Justin Herbert (RANK - ADP)

The Ducks gave Herbert playing time at QB in four different seasons. After taking over as the starting QB in 2016, he missed five games the following season with a broken collarbone. Over the last two seasons, Hebert started 27 games. His best year came in 2019 (3,471 passing yards and 36 combined TDs).

Over his first three seasons, Herbert showed value as a runner (58/161/2, 44/183/5, and 71/166/2). Last year he gained only 50 yards on the ground on 58 carries, but he did score four TDs.

Over his final three games in his senior year, Herbert passed for fewer than 200 yards in each contest (174, 193, and 138) with one combined passing touchdown.

The move to the Chargers gives him two viable top 24 WRs and a top 10 TE, plus a game plan to throw to RB Austin Ekeler on many downs to help move the chains.

When doing the first run of the projections in 2020, I gave Herbert 12 starts (2,868 combined yards with 16 TDs and 11 INTs). His fantasy value over the summer once there is some coach-speak on his progress and potential starting opportunity.

Tyrod Taylor (RANK - ADP)

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Running Backs

Austin Ekeler (RANK - ADP)

Ekeler will be much more of a wild card in 2019 after the downgrade at the quarterback position. He’ll remain a top player in the passing game, but his targets may fall well short of 2019 with regression expected in scoring.

The Chargers will use Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley on early downs as well. Over the final 12 games last year, Ekeler gained 337 yards on 76 carries while failing to score a running touchdown. Most of his production on the ground over the span came in two games (12/70 and 8/101).

His season started with a dominating game (154 combined yards with three TDs and six catches) while adding five other productive outings (133-1-6, 122-2-5, 118-1-7, 108-0-8, and 213-1-4).

Even with the RB1 job and potential opportunity, his touches don’t project much higher than 16 per game. He finished last year fourth in RB scoring (311.0) in PPR league with 224 touches.

His early ADP is 15 as the 12th RB drafted. With 80 catches, 1,200 combined yards, and eight TDs, Ekeler should finish in the top 12 in RB scoring in 2020.

Justin Jackson & Joshua Kelley

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Wide Receivers

Keenan Allen (RANK - ADP)

Allen finished 3rd (284.2), 12th (261.1), and 6th (262.0) in fantasy points scoring in PPR leagues over the past three seasons. Over this span, he averaged 101 catches for 1,263 yards and six TDs on 150 targets.

His 2019 season started with 29 catches for 404 yards and three TDs over his first three games. He scored only three more TDs with no other games with over 100 yards receiving over his final 13 weeks.

In 2020, the Chargers’ offense takes on a whole new look with Tyrod Taylor and Justin Herbert battling for the starting QB job. Until I get a cleaner update on who starts, I’m dropping his targets, catches, and receiving yards by 20 percent, which comes to 78 catches for 963 yards and six TDs.

Allen has an early ADP of 54 as the 21st wide receiver off the board. Possible value with a clearer picture of the starting quarterback structure.

Mike Williams, Joe Reed & Andre Patton

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Tight Ends

Hunter Henry (RANK - ADP)

Hunter will be a tempting TE option in 2019, but fantasy owners could have a wide range of options on his value after the Chargers drafted QB Justin Herbert with the sixth overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.

In each year, his catches, yards, and targets have improved, despite a decline each in games played (15, 14, and 12). Both his TD production (19 in 41 games) and catches over 20 yards (23) grade well while posting a high catch rate (71.2) in his career.

Henry came into 2019 with concerns about his recovery from a torn ACL in his right knee, but he suited up for opening day (4/60). By Week 2, he was on the shelf for four games due to left knee injury.

After shining his first two games (8/100/2 and 6/97) back in the starting lineup, Henry caught 37 passes for 395 yards and three TDs over his final nine games.

Top ten TE talent with an ADP of 92 in the early draft season in PPR leagues. My first read on his opportunity came to 65 catches for 744 yards and four TDs.

Defense

LA fell to 18th in rushing yards allowed (1,805) with 15 rushing TDs and nine runs over 20 yards. The Chargers gave up 4.2 yards per carry, which was their lowest rate over the past three seasons (4.9 in 2017 and 4.3 in 2018).

The Chargers worked their way to 5th in passing yards allowed (3,204) with 21 TDs and 11 INTs. Their defense recorded 30 sacks while allowing 41 completions over 20 yards.

In the premium outlook, on defense you'll find write-ups for DE Joey Bosa, DE Melvin Ingram, DT Linval Joseph, DT Justin Jones, LB Denzel Perryman, LB Kenneth Murray, LB Drue Tranquill, CB Chris Harris, CB Casey Hayward, S Derwin James & S Nasir Adderley

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Team Defense Outlook

There is a lot to like about this defense, and they have the talent across the boards to be a top-five fantasy defense. I love their addition in the drafts and via free agency, which points to improved play vs. the run. Their pass defense already had the talent to defend, which is helped by a short passing window created by their defensive ends.

Fantasy owners in the early draft season have them priced as the 12th defense drafted. I view them as an excellent value in 2020, and their defense will help the Chargers steal some wins

Free Agency, Draft, Offensive Line, Offensive Schedule & Defensive Schedule

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