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In this Nov. 4, 2018, file photo, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, right, hands off to Keenan Allen during the first half of the team's NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle.
In this Nov. 4, 2018, file photo, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, right, hands off to Keenan Allen during the first half of the team's NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle.|Scott Eklund | Associated Press
NFL

Fantasy Life NFL Preview: 2019 Los Angeles Chargers – Is Hunter Henry a top tier TE?

Daniel Tobon

The 2018 Chargers were quietly one of the strongest teams in the league. They were road warriors who were undefeated outside of Los Angeles until their eventual playoff loss to the Patriots. They coined the phrase ASAP, Any Squad Any Place, as their battle cry throughout the season. Many didn’t notice their strong season due to being overshadowed by the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes. Can this team take the next step or will their window close as Rivers continue to age?

Off-Season Changes

Maybe the biggest storyline of this off-season surrounds Melvin Gordon and his potential hold out. We don’t know if he will hold out for a couple games, a whole season or be back before the season begins. The only thing we know is that the Chargers and Gordon are very far apart on an extension, and neither side plans to budge.

Aside from Gordon, the only major subtraction for the Chargers was losing WR Tyrell Williams to free agency. Although there were no major outside additions to the offense. The biggest addition will be a healthy Hunter Henry. Henry missed essentially all last season with a torn ACL. Now almost a year and a half removed from the injury, Henry should be back in football shape and ready to make the jump into the top tier of tight ends.

Fantasy Prospects

We begin with arguably the biggest question in fantasy, no not is Todd Gurley’s knee okay? The other one. Will Gordon hold out? Before the hold out, there was an argument for Gordon to be in the same tier as Ezekiel Elliot, Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffery and Alvin Kamara. Now with the holdout looming, Gordon is being taken as late as the third round in most drafts. If Gordon plays, he is a league winner in the third round, but I personally am avoiding the risk of another Le’veon Bell situation.

Austin Ekeler has seen his ADP skyrocket with the news of a potential hold out and is now being taken in the sixth round of fantasy drafts. I like this value considering if Gordon holds out, Ekeler is a high end RB2 at worst. If Gordon doesn’t hold out, Ekeler is still a potential flex player in any PPR formats. Justin Jackson is also a worthwhile flier in the 11th round as the RB50 in drafts with high upside in case of the hold out.

Keenan Allen finished last season as the WR11 in fantasy. Keenan managed this finish with Henry sidelined the entire season. Now with Henry back and Mike Williams continuing to develop a major role in the offense, I find Keenan Allen’s WR10 ADP a little too rich for me especially considering he is missing the entire preseason with an ankle injury. Williams finished last season as the WR23 in fantasy propelled by 10 TDs in his breakout season. Williams is currently being drafted as the WR26 and seems like the right value. Williams should receive more consistent targets this season and a slight increase in yardage but repeating double digit touchdowns will be difficult with the return of Hunter Henry.

Speaking of Henry, he is one of a handful of tight ends with a real chance to jump into the elite tier. Henry is being drafted as the TE6 in the sixth round and I like that value for him. Henry should have a consistent target share especially in the red zone and should be a very reliable weekly starter.

What about the guy throwing them the ball? Philip Rivers has been a staple of fantasy consistency over the past 10 years, but I am not interested in him this year. Rivers is being drafted as the QB15, but without any rushing ability I don’t see enough upside to make him a top 10 QB like many of the quarterbacks going near him in drafts.

Season Prediction

The Chargers have the talent to win a Super Bowl, but it is unclear if they have good enough coaching and can stay healthy. Unfortunately, they have already lost safety Derwin James for most of the year with a broken foot. I predict the Chargers will find a way to make playoffs despite injuries and possibly not having Gordon.

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