We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere. To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2009 fantasy football questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2009 Chargers Fantasy Football Preview comes courtesy of Bolts From the Blue.
1) LaDainian Tomlinson’s 2009 season was rather pedestrian by LT standards, possibly due to nagging injuries. Is 1,500 total yards and 12-15 touchdowns the new expectation level for LT going forward, or do you think a couple more legendary seasons (2,000+ yards and 25-30 TDs) are in store for the aging LT?
Word out of Chargers camp is that it was all due to nagging injuries and he’ll be back to his MVP form, but I’m not buying that he can stay healthy through an entire season with 300+ carries. Your “new expectation level” for LT is dead-on, not because he’s losing talent but because he’ll lose carries and TDs to Darren Sproles and Gartrell Johnson. People that draft LT too high are going to deal with frustration similar to Tiki Barber/Brandon Jacobs a few years back, where Barber was doing a lot of the heavy-lifting with yards but Jacobs was getting all the TDs.
2) Philip Rivers exploded onto the last season with an amazing 4,009 yard, 34 TD passing performance. Was ’09 the ceiling or can fantasy owners start penciling Rivers next to Manning and Brady at the top of their fantasy draft boards?
Rivers is one of the best QBs in the NFL and will continue to progress. Even with those 2008 numbers, you have to remember that he was coming off a torn ACL (which produced at least one down season for Carson Palmer, McNabb and others) and dealing with a banged up offense around him (Chambers and Gates had trouble staying healthy, Floyd was gone at the end of the year). Quite simply, Philip Rivers has finally reached his potential as a strong-armed, accurate quarterback with a great mind for the game of football.
If the Chargers running game comes back to where it was in 2007 or 2006, you could see a dip in Rivers numbers. Norv Turner would rather be a power running game with a good passing game than a team that relies on the pass, which is what the Chargers were in 2008. Besides the running game possibly stealing some of his numbers, you can pencil Rivers in as a top fantasy QB for the next decade or so.
3) Darren Sproles proved to be an exciting change-of-pace back and adequate fill in for LT 2008, what can we expect from the crafty returnman and backup this season? Do LT fantasy drafters handcuff their pick by snagging Sproles as well?
No. Chargers fans have known about Sproles explosiveness since the team drafted him in 2005. The only reason he wasn’t more well-known before 2008 is because he has a hard time staying healthy, which is understandable considering his size. Darren Sproles grabbed 5 receiving TDs in 2008, but only 1 rushing TD. He caught the ball 29 and ran it 61. He may be the league’s best 3rd down back and one of the league’s top kick and punt returners, but the Chargers saw during the playoff game in Pittsburgh that he just does not have the strength to be an every down back. If fantasy drafters are looking for a backup plan for LT, Gartrell Johnson is the choice.
4) Like LT, the always productive Antonio Gates struggled through injuries last season and posted solid but not spectacular numbers. Should owners be concerned with drafting Gates as the top fantasy TE?
I don’t think so. He injured his toe in the 2007 playoffs and had surgery on it. He struggled with the toe in 2008, which made him slightly slower and not-as-quick in his cuts, but he was still one of the top fantasy TEs (if not the top one). He only dropped off marginally, with his receptions going from 75 to 60, receiving yards from 984 to 704 and his TDs from 9 to 8. This offseason Gates has said that the toe is still not 100%, but it’s lightyears ahead of where it was last season. It looks as though Malcom Floyd may get even more chances in 2009, which means the Chargers will be making more of an effort to stretch defenses and that will leave big holes open for Gates. I don’t know that he’ll get 75 catches, considering there’s more talent in our receiving corps than ever before, but he’ll definitely match and possibly exceed 2008′s numbers.
5) Wide receiver Vincent Jackson lived up to the “3rd year player” breakout billing he was tagged with in ’08 by racking up nearly 1,100 yards receiving along with 7 TDs. If Rivers maintains his passing prowess, is Jackson the main down field target, or should we see increased contribution from the Chargers’ other talented receivers, Chris Chambers and Malcom Floyd?
Chambers really struggled to stay healthy in 2008. He appeared in games, but did not contribute much. Because of that I think we’ll see more of Malcom Floyd than we did in 2008, and that’s a good thing. Floyd and Jackson are the main downfield threats and both have huge potential that they have not yet reached. Legedu Naanee is an intriguing project that has been getting better each year and could play a role. If I have to rank where I think the receivers will end up, stat-wise, at the end of the season it’d look like this:
1. V Jackson
2. A Gates
3. M Floyd
4. C Chambers
5. L Naanee
6. D Sproles