Position Battle: San Diego Wide Receivers
By Jeff Brubach
Finding value at the wide receiver position in fantasy football is an interesting endeavor. Generally, I begin by looking in two places to find the next great receiver that will turn my late-round pick into fantasy profit. The first avenue to finding an up-and-coming wide receiver is to look past an already established stud receiver for a rising No. 2 option on an NFL team. Situations in places like Chicago (Alshon Jeffery) and Arizona (Michael Floyd) can provide value, as defenses key on all-world receivers like Brandon Marshall and the great Larry Fitzgerald.
On the flip side, there are numerous NFL teams that have wide receiving groups stuffed full of players with undefined roles. Consider those situations like fantasy receiver Yahtzee. Toss them in a cup, shake it up, and let the dice fly. You could end up with a small straight for the fourth consecutive roll, or you could be screaming, “YAHTZEE” at blood-boiling decibels as you’ve found the next Cecil Shorts or T.Y Hilton. Let’s take an early look at one such team in the San Diego Chargers, who have precisely the type of wide receiving crew that could produce value in 2013 with one shake of the dice.
Before we decide which fantasy wide receiver will be hauling in the most passes from Mr. Philip Rivers in 2013, let’s take a quick look at San Diego’s healthy stack of potential options:
Danario Alexander: Alexander was second among San Diego wide receivers in yardage in 2012 (658) and first in touchdowns (seven), despite not recording his first catch until Week 9. The 24-year-old set career highs across the board in 2012 and should get a chance to turn in a full slate of production this season if he stays healthy.
Malcom Floyd: Always a sidekick, Floyd got a chance to lead the show in 2012 after the departure of Vincent Jackson and set a career high in receptions (56) but didn’t quite have the season expected of number one receivers across the NFL (56/814/5). With his solid size (6’5’’), you would expect a bit more red zone contribution from Floyd, but he has never sniffed a double-digit touchdown total in eight seasons (career high of six TD). This lifelong Charger will be 32 early in the 2013 season and is in grave danger of being passed up by younger San Diego receivers.
Robert Meachem: San Diego signed Meachem after the 2011 season and should have immediately demanded a refund. Meachem had a measly 14 catches in 2012, and that was in a season with virtually no competition at wide receiver in San Diego. This guy is toast.
Eddie Royal: As if one bust wasn’t enough, the Chargers dealt with another under-performing free agent last season in Eddie Royal. Royal snagged only 23 passes in 10 games and has 42 catches to his name since 2010, which is roughly three quarters of play for Calvin Johnson. Royal will need to bounce back in 2013.
Keenan Allen: The Chargers selected Allen out of Cal with the 76th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft in order to bolster their sub-par receiving group. Allen is coming off a 2012 knee injury but should be ready to go once training camp arrives.
Vincent Brown: Our final candidate in the race for receptions in San Diego is Vincent Brown. Brown was viewed as a promising young receiver after the 2011 season and was poised to step into a large role in San Diego in 2012. Brown backed up that hype up with 112 yards and two touchdowns in San Diego’s first two preseason games last summer but then suffered a broken ankle that led to him sitting out the entire season. Brown is now healthy and looking to break out once again.
Now that we have been properly introduced to the stable of Chargers receivers, let’s take a quick look at how the receiving stats will shake out in 2013. Although Antonio Gates is still in the picture, and last season saw quarterback Philip Rivers produce his lowest passing yardage total since 2007, there should still be room for a wide receiver to make a fantasy contribution, and they will come cheaply on draft day. We can begin by scratching Robert Meachem off the above list of receivers, as he will struggle to see the field with the arrival of Allen and the comeback of Brown. It should be safe to say Danario Alexander will grab one of the starting wide receiver spots, as his second half of 2012 was too strong to ignore, and Rivers appeared to take a liking to him (7.3 targets per game in Weeks 10-17). Next, we can probably pencil Eddie Royal into the slot receiver position, as Michael Gehlken of the Union-Tribune San Diego reports that Royal has been “working as the Chargers’ top slot option” in organized team activities this month.
Now that we can expect Danario Alexander to start outside and Royal to snag most of the slot work, the main question, and biggest spot for a potential fantasy surprise, is at the starting receiver spot opposite Alexander. Rookie Keenan Allen certainly has truck loads of potential, but I am staying away from him in redraft leagues this season. With so many other options in the fold, in addition to his 2012 knee injury, Allen will most likely spend at least the early part of 2013 familiarizing himself with the San Diego playbook and making the most of limited snaps. This leaves us with long time Charger Malcom Floyd and the upstart Vincent Brown. According to the Gehlken’s report out of San Diego (see above), Vincent Brown has been rotating in with the starting receivers so far this summer, which is very promising news. Floyd is creeping ever closer to dropping off the ledge of fantasy productiveness, and his age will likely catch up with him in 2013. I expect Vincent Brown to emerge in upcoming preseason games and training camp, and earn himself the starting role come Week 1. Even if Floyd stays in the rotation, Brown will see enough snaps to keep himself viable from a fantasy standpoint, and the always suspect health of Alexander could create even more opportunity for production.
When your fantasy draft winds down this fall, don’t fall asleep at the wheel and let another owner snag Vincent Brown in the late rounds, as this Charger will emerge as the most valuable and fantasy profit producing wide receiver in San Diego.