Updated: Jul 26
Before we look at where we're going, let's take a look at where we've been (that's a shoutout to Mader from Cars for all you fellow Moms and Dads).
Brandon Staley's first year as an NFL head coach was an exciting one for fantasy football purposes, finishing 5th in the NFL in scoring (27.9 points per game), 4th in yards (390.2 per game), 7th in plays run (66.4 per game), 3rd in first downs (23.6 per game) and 4th in scoring percentage (45.7%). They turned the ball over 22 times which was the 13th "fewest" in football.
They were especially exciting under their stud sophomore QB, Justin Herbert, finishing:
3rd in passing attempts (39.7 per game)
2nd in passing yards (282.35 per game)
3rd in passing 1st downs (15.1 per game)
5th in passing TDs (38)
The lone dark spot was that they did throw 15 interceptions which was the 9th most in football.
But like...who cares?
They were far less exciting on the ground, finishing average to below average across the board statistically:
22nd in rushing attempts (24.9 per game)
21st in rushing yards (107.9 per game)
16th in rushing 1st downs (6.6 per game)
Encouragingly, they did finish 11th in rushing TDs (18) which is what's most important here.
The heavy air raid and low rushing volume likely has a lot to do with the fact they allowed the 4th most points in football last year (27 per game) and needed to keep pace with their opponents. Is it fair to assume the defense will be much sturdier? Is it fair to say they won't?
All in all, it was an exciting first year of the Brandon Staley era for the Staley-Herbert duo to build on in 2022.
Justin Herbert returns for his 3rd year in the big leagues and, for the first time in his career, he'll get a 2nd straight season in the same offensive system. In fact, all of the main characters of Herbert's supporting cast are returning, and the Bolts upgraded Herbert's tight end from geriatric Jared Cook (35 years old) to 28 year old Gerald Everett who's flashed at times in the NFL with the Rams and Seahawks.
The only other notable change from a fantasy football standpoint is that the Chargers added RB Isaiah Spiller with their 4th round pick. Spiller was, at one point, projected to be a second round selection before an awful NFL Pro Day tanked his draft stock. Regardless Austin Ekeler remains firmly atop the depth chart for his age 27 season.
There's no reason not to target this offense for fantasy football again in 2022.
Justin Herbert 📈
2020 fantasy points per game: 22.2 (QB 9)
2021 fantasy points per game: 22.1 (QB 2)
Justin Herbert continued his ascension as one of the budding superstars in the NFL last season, landing behind only Josh Allen at QB2 with 22.1 fantasy points per game and ranking highly across the board as a passer:
2nd most completions
3rd most yards (4,631)
4th most TDs (35)
He even added 301 rushing yards (10th most among QBs) and 3 rushing TDs (9th most) with his legs.
There's two slight blemishes on his 2021 resume if you're desperate for some negativity:
Herbert threw 14 interceptions which tied for the 5th most in football...meh...who cares?
Much more importantly for fantasy football purposes, Herbert's floor was fine but not nearly as safe as some of his peers. Herbert hit 20 fantasy points in just 50% of his games last season. Meanwhile, Josh Allen, Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Jalen Hurts, Dak Prescott and Kyler Murray all bested that, most of which hit 20 fantasy points at least 60% of the time.
Still, his floor was still strong enough and his ceiling was one of the best in the biz. Herbert hit 30 fantasy points in 25% of his games—which tied Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson for the the league high—and he was one of just two QBs to hit 40 fantasy points in a game all year; Lamar Jackson scored 41.88 fantasy points in week 5 but finished as the QB 2 behind Justin Herbert and his
One more time in case you missed that; Herbert had THE high score among QBs last season.
Don't overthink this one. With another year in Staley's system, the return of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, the progression of Josh Palmer and the upgrade of Gerald Everett, there's a lot to love about Herbert and it's entirely realistic that he finishes as THE QB1 in 2022.
Fantasy Drafts 👎: Justin Herbert is currently the QB 2 behind only Josh Allen in Underdog Best Ball drafts, selected around pick 44 (4th round). That's expensive and difficult to stomach with the likes of Terry McLaurin, Ezekiel Elliott, Gabriel Davis, Diontae Johnson, Darren Waller, Breece Hall, cam Akers, Jerry Jeudy, Allen Robinson and Patrick Mahomes all drafted within 5 picks of him. Unless I drafted Keenan Allen and/or Mike Williams and I'm targeting a Chargers stack, I'm usually passing on Herbert when I can get Lamar Jackson (51), Kyler Murray (60), Joe Burrow (71), Russell Wilson (77) and Dak Prescott (86) later—sometimes MUCH later.
Austin Ekeler ↔️
2020 (first year without Melvin Gordon) PPR points per game: 16.53 (RB 12)
2021 (first year under Brandon Staley) PPR points per game: 21 (RB 3)
Predictably, Austin Ekeler was a PPR dynamo in 2021, finishing 3rd among RBs in targets (82) and catches (65) but 1st in receiving yards (612) and receiving TDs (7). He alone accounted for 14% of the Chargers targets, 16% of the team's catches, 13% of the team's receiving yards, and 21% of the team's receiving TDs.
He had the 3rd/4th (depends if you count Derrick Henry) highest floor among RBs, scoring 15 or more PPR points in 73.33% of his games. And his ceiling was right up there with Christian McCaffrey's and Jonathan Taylor's, scoring 20 or more PPR points in 53.33% of his games, and 30 or more PPR points in 13.33% of his games. He even cracked 40 in week 11.
Things we're predictably less exciting on the ground, finishing 15th in rushing attempts (190) and 12th in rushing yards (847). That said, he did add 11 rushing TDs (5th most) to bring his TD count to a whopping 18 on the season. And you're not drafting Ekeler for his rushing stats anyways.
If you're concerned he's not getting enough work, know that he still tied for the 7th most touches among RBs last season—and it's a good thing that a lot of it is through the air.
But let's talk about these touchdowns for a minute...
Seven running backs had the same or more touches as Ekeler last season (some of which had a lot more). Combined, they averaged 302.9 touches and 11.7 TDs, and that's including Jonathan Taylor's 354 touches and 20 TDs.
302.9 touches and 11.7 TDs. Ekeler had 255 touches and 18 TDs.
There were ten running backs within 30 touches of Ekeler last season. They averaged 8.7 TDs. Ekeler had twice that.
Regression is very real in fantasy football, and with Gerald Everett and Isaiah Spiller added to the picture, I'm betting Ekeler doesn't score 18 times again. He probably doesn't even come close, tbh.
Still—and this is important—take away half of Ekeler's TDs (9) last season, and he still finishes with 260.9 points which would have been the RB 5 last year.
Even with Spiller in the picture as a possible vulture, there's a lot to like about Ekeler in PPR leagues.
Fantasy Drafts 👍: Austin Ekeler is currently the RB 3 on Underdog, selected around pick 6 overall. I'm fine with him there after tier 1 (the consensus top 5 is their own tier: Jonathan Taylor, Christian McCaffrey, Cooper Kupp, Justin Jefferson and Ja'Marr Chase), but I'm equally fine with his peers in that range: Derrick Henry, Stefon Diggs, Dalvin Cook, Najee Harris and Travis Kelce. I have my fair share of Ekeler after 150+ drafts this year, but I'm limiting my exposure to no higher than 20% of my leagues out of caution for TD regression, which is easy to do with so many other serviceable options available there.
Dynasty Leagues: Obviously he's a hold right now, but if you find yourself in a non-competitive position near your trade deadline, it would make sense to consider selling Ekeler. This is his age 27 season and he'll be a free agent after next season. He's likely reached his peak and will start descending down the mountain sooner than later.
Isaiah Spiller ↔️
Widely considered a 2nd round pick before he tanked his Pro Day, Spiller fell to the 18th pick of the 4th round where the Chargers grabbed their newest backup to Austin Ekeler.
There's some fantasy football appeal to the role if Spiller can seize it for himself.
In January, Chargers GM Tom Telesco hinted that the Chargers want to further limit Ekeler's touches to keep him healthy during the season, also hinting that the backups behind Ekeler were inconsistent and ineffective last season: "Austin can handle a heavy workload but he shouldn't have to...we've got to be able to rotate other guys in."
Last season, Justin Jackson, Larry Rountree and Joshua Kelley ineffectively combined for 137 carries, 553 yards (4.04 yards per carry) and 3 TDs. They "added" a combined 28 catches for 215 receiving yards (no TDs). Put simply, they were ineffective at best.
Jackson is gone and if Spiller can separate himself from Rountree and Kelley, he'll see the field plenty assuming the Chargers do in fact limit Ekeler's touches. Spiller is a name to be aware of in 2022 fantasy football and beyond.
Fantasy Drafts 👎: Spiller is currently the RB 43 in Underdog best ball leagues, drafted around pick 134 (12th round). That's too expensive for my taste considering there's no guarantee he locks down the RB2 role (and even if he does, Justin Jackson, Larry Rountree and Joshua Kelley combined still averaged less than 10 touches per game last season—9.7 to be exact). There's a lot of strong names drafted within ten picks of Spiller, including Pat Freiermuth, Dameon Pierce, Jarvis Landry, Jakobi Meyers, Mike Gesicki, Jamison Crowder, Darrell Henderson, Nyheim Hines, and more. I've sprinkled some Spiller exposure into my best ball portfolio but, more often than not, I'm passing on him at his current cost.
Dynasty Leagues: I have Spiller as the 19th overall player and RB 5 in rookie drafts. That puts him at about 2.07 in rookie drafts.
Keenan Allen ↔️
2020 (first season with Justin Herbert) PPR points per game: 17.5 (WR 7)
2021 (second season with Justin Herbert) PPR points per game: 16.4 (WR 10)
Keenan Allen has been a PPR machine in two campaigns with Justin Herbert, ranking 5th and 8th in WR targets and 6th in both years in WR catches.
He's been less effective—albeit still effective—in non PPR leagues, landing 11th and 17th in WR yards and 13th and 15th in WR TDs.
He's one of the safest, most consistent WR options in football, scoring at least 15 or more PPR points in 58.6% of his contests over his last two years (60% last year alone). For comparison, Ja'Marr Chase, Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and a lot more all hit 15 PPR points less frequently. In fact, just 5 WRs hit 15 PPR points more frequently than Keenan Allen did last season.
The ceiling was a bit limited, registering 20 or more PPR points just 20% of the time and surprisingly never hitting 30 PPR points (25 different WRs hit 30 PPR points at least one time). The year before that—his first with Herbert—he hit 20 PPR points in 42.9% of his games but 30 points just twice, bringing his two-year average of 30+ point games to just 6.9% (nice).
TLDR: the floor is terrific, the ceiling is not.
Not much has changed for Keenan's environment since last season so I'm mostly expecting more of the same this year.
The pros for his environment include another season in Staley's system plus another year with a further-developed Herbert at QB.
The cons for his environment include the fact that it's his age 30 season, there's a likelihood of less passes (I'm not betting on a steep decrease though) and possibly slightly increased target competition with Mike Williams returning, Gerald Everett in the picture and Josh Palmer another year developed.
Fantasy Drafts 👍: Keenan Allen is currently the WR 12 in Underdog best ball drafts, going around pick 27 (3rd round). Knowing what we know about his great floor and lackluster ceiling, Allen is a better redraft than best ball pick. Still, he's a strong option in the beginning of the third round. Names drafted within 5 picks of Keenan in either direction include Leonard Fournette, Tyreek Hill, Tee Higgins, Javonte Williams, Nick Chubb, AJ Brown, Mike Williams, Josh Allen, Michael Pittman, DJ Moore and Kyle Pitts. In best ball leagues, I like Keenan more than all of those except Higgins, Williams and occasionally Pittman. In redraft leagues, I like Keenan over all of them.
Dynasty Leagues: if you're in a competing position come the trade deadline, Keenan is someone to hold or even target in a trade if the manager is not competing. If you're not in a competing position come the trade deadline, Keenan is someone to sell in his age 30 season.
Mike Williams ↔️
2020 (first season with Justin Herbert) PPR points per game: 10.2 (WR 48)
2021 (second season with Justin Herbert) PPR points per game: 14.6 (WR 24)
Playing for a contract last season, Mike Williams exploded onto the scene for what was easily the best season of his career. Essentially the opposite of Keenan Allen, he ranked lower in target (22nd) and reception counts (29th) but produced in the yardage (15th) and TD columns (10th).
Continuing the trend of being the yin to Keenan Allen's yang, Williams had an exciting ceiling—he hit 20 PPR points or more in 33.3% of his games, including 2 games over 30—but a terrifying floor—he registered under 10 points in 46.7% of his games.
Look up "best ball WRs" and Big Mike Williams should be the first thing that pops up. He is the very definition of a "best ball" guy. He offers WR1 overall potential any given week while also carrying a terrifying floor. For example....
After the first 5 games last season, Mike Williams was pacing with Cooper Kupp, averaging:
- 22.82 PPR points per game
- 10.2 targets
- 6.2 catches
- 94.2 yards
- had SIX TDs in 5 games
He scored AT LEAST 22 points in 4 of the first 5 games.
And then....the next 4 games? He averaged:
- 5.93 PPR points per game
- 5.25 targets
- 2.5 catches
- 34.25 yards
- had no TDs
He failed to hit even just 8 PPR points in any of those 4 games.
He's a guy that causes headaches in redraft leagues because you have to try and predict his explosions but in best ball? He's a goldmine.
Like Keenan Allen, not much has changed regarding his situation/environment, so I'd expect more of the same in 2022.
Fantasy Drafts 👍: There was a time back in March where Mike Williams was being draft in the 6th round of best ball drafts. Not any more. Nowadays he's quite expensive, being drafted as the WR 13 around pick 28 (3rd round) right after Keenan Allen. Names drafted within 5 picks of Williams in either direction include Tee Higgins, Javonte Williams, Nick Chubb, AJ Brown, Mike Williams, Josh Allen, Michael Pittman, DJ Moore, Kyle Pitts and James Conner. In best ball drafts, I like Williams over all of them (although sometimes opt for Higgins). In redraft, however, I'd take most of them over Williams except Javonte Williams, Josh Allen, James Conner and maybe Kyle Pitts.
Dynasty Leagues: if you're in a competing position come the trade deadline, Williams is someone to hold or possibly even target in a trade if the manager is not competing. If you're not in a competing position come the trade deadline, it's ok to consider selling Big Mike in his age 28 season.
Josh Palmer 📈 and Jalen Guyton 📉
Palmer and Guyton split the WR3 role in Los Angeles last season, Palmer's rookie campaign. Together, they compiled 79 targets (40 for Palmer, 39 for Guyton), 54 catches (29, 25), 704 yards (308, 396) and 6 TDs (3 and 3). All in all, they merged for 164.4 PPR points, which would have made them the WR 34 ahead of AJ Brown.
That said, on their own, Guyton (WR 78) and Palmer (WR 87) weren't really fantasy assets. Each guy was able to hit 15 PPR points two times, but otherwise scored less than 10 PPR points in 86%-88% of their games.
Unfortunately, Palmer and Guyton are both still in town and likely to continue cannibalizing one another's fantasy value.
Still, fantasy football—especially in the late rounds—is a game of "what ifs?" What if one of these guys is able to separate from the other and lock in the WR 3 role full time?
That's worth something.
Offseason reports indicate Palmer was the one running with starters during June minicamps. Of course, a lot can change before kickoff in September, but that's still a good sign for the 2021 3rd rounder who was handpicked by Brandon Staley in his first year as a Head Coach.
Fantasy Drafts :
Josh Palmer👍: Josh Palmer is currently being drafted as the WR 65 around pick 141 (12th round). Names drafted within 5 picks of Palmer on either side include Mike Gesicki, Jamison Crowder, Jahan Dotson, Darrell Henderson, Nyheim Hines, Trevor Lawrence, DeVante Parker, KJ Osborn, Albert Okwuegbunam, Michael Carter, Van Jefferson and Jalen Tolbert. Palmer certainly has much bigger upside than WR 65 IF he is able to separate from Guyton. If they continue to split time, however, then this spot is a bit expensive for Palmer. I'm sprinkling Palmer exposure into my portfolio but also frequently drafting Crowder, Henderson, Parker, Okwuegbunam, Carter, Jefferson and Tolbert in this spot. Can't fault you for pulling the trigger on him, especially this late in drafts. It's a high upside, low risk pick.
Jalen Guyton👍: Guyton is currently the WR 95, drafted around pick 213 (18th round). He's usually lumped in with names like Zay Jones, Bryan Edwards, Hassan Haskins, D'Ernest Johnson, Marcus Mariota, Donovan Peoples-Jones Cedrick Wilson and Laviska Shenault among others. Like Palmer, I'm sprinkling in Guyton exposure where I can and you could certainly do worse for your 18th round pick. After all...what if he leaves Palmer in the dust?
Dynasty Leagues: the clock might be running out on you adding Josh Palmer to your dynasty team if you want to. I'd make a trade offer now before that buy window slams shut.
Gerald Everett 📈
Fresh off a "career year" in Seattle, Gerald Everett signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Chargers in March ($8 million guaranteed). He'll pick up where Jared Cook left off, compiling 76 targets (16th most among TEs last year), 44 catches (22nd), 484 yards (19th), 4 TDs (11th) and 8 PPR points per game (TE 21).
For comparison, Everett's career bests after 4 years with the Rams and one with the Seahawks are 63 targets, 48 catches, 478 yards and 4 TDs.
None of the above sounds particularly exciting, but let's add a little more context...
For starters, Jared Cook was 34 years old last season after 13 years in the NFL. That's a lot of mileage on an NFL tight end, and there's probably a reason he's not currently on a roster.
As for Everett, he spent 4 years with Jared Goff and battling Tyler Higbee before finally getting a chance to be "the guy" in Seattle last year with Russell Wilson. He posted career highs across the board with the best QB of his career, all while playing on an extremely run-heavy offense—the Seahawks had the 2nd fewest passing attempts in football last year—with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett ahead of him on the totem pole.
Now, the athletically superior Everett will play with a(nother) MVP caliber QB on the NFL's 3rd pass-heaviest team. There's very real fantasy appeal to Gerald Everett in 12-team leagues in 2022.
Fantasy Drafts 👍: Everett is currently the TE 18, drafted around pick 154 (13th round). That's a competitive spot to be in for zero RB drafters and the "wait on QB" and "wait on TE crowds." He's often drafted within 5 picks of Robert Tonyan, Hunter Henry, Robby Anderson, Jameis Winston, Tyler Allgeier, Tyrion Davis-Price, Matt Ryan, Daniel Jones and Kenneth Gainwell. Candidly, there's a lot of names in that range that I like and I'm frequently targeting (Tonyan, Henry, Winston, Allgeier, Davis-Price, Ryan, Jones and Gainwell are all guys that I'm frequently drafting depending on how the rest of my build has gone). That said, Everett is one of those names too, and I have a good bit of exposure to him myself.
Dynasty Leagues: there's not a heckuva lot of dynasty value for the 28-year-old journeyman TE. If you got him, hold him and consider selling after a big week or two (if you're not competing and desperate for TEs yourself).
That's a wrap on the Los Angeles Chargers (for now). If you prefer your content via YouTube, be sure to subscribe to the BBFF channel so you don't miss anything! Likewise, if Podcast is more your jam, don't forget to subscribe to the BBFF podcast!
Next up: the Las Vegas Raiders!