Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers looked out over the Los Angeles Rams’ defense and probably didn’t recognize many of the players staring back at him. For some reason, the Rams started nine defensive reserves against the Chargers and Rivers responded as expected.
In two series, the Chargers’ quarterback completed all six of his passes for 85 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown toss to Travis Benjamin on a third-and-five. Melvin Gordon scored on a two-yard run to cap off Rivers’ second series. The defense added an 85-yard fumble recovery return to leave the Rams with a 21-0 deficit before the Charger backups started filtering into the game.
The Charger defense also picked off an errant pass from Jared Goff, displaying new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s point of emphasis for 2017. Joey Bosa caused the fumble when he broke through the line on a third and goal from the eight yard line. He admitted that last year, he would have concentrated on hitting Goff as hard as he could. Under Bradley’s direction, Bosa instead aimed directly for the football, which bounced to Melvin Ingram for the score.
What did we learn?
In two games, Philip Rivers finished a near-perfect 11 of 12 passing for 141 yards and directed a touchdown on each of his three possessions. He looks as crisp and accurate as ever and can start in any league.
Rivers’ long touchdown pass was the second of the preseason to Travis Benjamin, who may warrant some snaps once the regular season games begin. But for now, Keenan Allen (five catches against the Rams) and Tyrell Williams (DNP-rested) are firmly in place as the top wide receivers.
13 penalties for 137 yards extended Rams drives all night and is a point of concern for new coach Anthony Lynn. Otherwise, the defense is hitting hard and playing well for Bradley.
Melvin Gordon ran eight times for 36 yards and the touchdown. He looks completely healthy and ready to go. Rookie running back Austin Ekeler had another good game and might challenge Branden Oliver for backup snaps.
Philip Rivers is the 13th quarterback coming off the average draft board, after posting a 14th best point total last season. Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, and Cam Newton are being drafted ahead of him, which I believe is a mistake. A healthy Melvin Gordon will only make the Chargers’ passing game stronger.
Keenan Allen’s ADP is a third-round WR16. He looks healthy and should justify that status. Tyrell Williams was rested and is not on the injury report. He is currently the WR40, coming off the board in the 9th round. That is probably a fair bet unless Rivers falls in love with Travis Benjamin’s deep routes.
Benjamin is getting picked up as a late-round sleeper or handcuff value. If it wasn’t for the number of passes destined to go to the tight ends and running backs, I would buy in on that. For now, I am holding off.
Melvin Gordon is healthy and warrants his current top-five draft position. He is a workhorse that precludes anyone from drafting Oliver or Ekeler as anything more than Gordon’s handcuff.
Those other fantasy guys
The Chargers boasted the TE10 and TE11 last year in Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry, even though each missed three games. The discussion this season is whether Gates will take a lesser role to his young counterpart as he nears retirement.
He will, but not as much as some people are predicting. Henry is worth a top-ten TE pick, ahead of several players currently drafting in front of him. I have Gates as the TE15 on my board, which is precisely where his ADP now stands.
My pick for sleeper defense of the year is the Chargers. I believe they will finish as a top-six defense. They were already sneaky-good last season, but if they succeed in adding turnovers to their sack totals, the points will come. Check out their schedule during fantasy playoff weeks if you need another reason to put them on your roster.
Josh Lambo is not likely to improve much on last year’s PK18 finish. Leave him off your board.
So… that’s that
The Chargers’ players are animated and motivated to show Los Angeles they now have a playoff-caliber team. As long as they lead our fantasy teams to the playoffs, I couldn’t care less.
There should be a plethora of lightning bolts flashing across fantasy lineups this season. But if you don’t want to be zapped, check back with RealSport every day for fantasy updates and advice.
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