In his first season, Anthony Lynn posted a 9-7 record while failing to make the playoffs for the fourth straight season. LA allowed 151 fewer points (272) on defense, but they still ranked about league average in yards allowed (15th). Over the last 17 years, Lynn spent much of his time coaching running backs leading to an assistant head coaching job with the Jets and Bills from 2013 to 2016. Buffalo promoted him to offensive coordinator in 2016. He brings a running style to the offense while understanding the need to be a better defensive franchise.
Gus Bradley returns as defensive coordinator after being relieved of his duties as head coach with the Jaguars in 2016. Bradley went 14-48 over four seasons with Jacksonville. Gus was the defensive coordinator for the Seahawks from 2009 to 2012.
Ken Whisenhunt remains the offensive coordinator after taking over the job in 2016. He has eight seasons of NFL head coaching experience (48-71) with one Super Bowl appearance and a Super Bowl title in 2005 as the offensive coordinator for the Steelers. His offensive fell to 9th in points scored (355) in 2017, which was 55 fewer points than 2016 (410). Even with regression in scoring, the Chargers moved to fourth in the NFL in offensive yards.
Los Angeles lost G Matt Slauson to the Colts in the offseason. Slauson missed the last nine games of 2017 with a biceps injury. He has a long resume of success in the NFL as a starter, but he’ll start the season at age 32. The Chargers added C Mike Pouncey who played poorly for Miami in three of his last four seasons due to injuries. Early in his career, Pouncey was just the league average at his position.
K Caleb Sturgis was brought in to compete for a starting job while QB Geno Smith will backup at QB.
TE Virgil Green was expected to be the backup TE with Antonio Gates retiring, but he may get a bump in playing time with Hunter Henry going down with a torn ACL. Green has never been an asset in the NFL
CB Jaylen Watkins signed with the Chargers while offering low-end rotational value.
DE Jeremy Attaochu struggled with injuries over the last two seasons after showing upside in 2015 (55 tackles and six sacks). Attaochu is a former second-round draft pick (2014).
With first four picks in the 2018 NFL Draft over the first four rounds, the Chargers drafted all defensive players – S Derwin James, DE Uchenna Nwosu, DT Justin Jones, and S Kyzir White.
James will bring size (6’2” and 215 Lbs.) to the safety position with excellent speed (4.47) and strength. He projects well in run support with value when asked to attack the QB. Derwin needs development in his coverage skills when asked to play off the ball. His vision tends to be a tick too late diagnosing passing plays from centerfield. James should improve LA’s defense in year one of his career.
Los Angeles bought another edge pass rusher with Nwosu in the second round. His game is built on speed and quickness, but Uchenna needs secondary pass rushing moves to be more effective at the next level. His strength can be neutralized by offensive lineman if caught at the line of scrimmage on the inside. Nwosu needs improvement in run support to earn more snaps on early downs.
DT Justin Jones won’t be an impact run stopper without developing a stronger base. His strength has upside while offering good hands. Jones can beat double teams off the snap at times, but his speed doesn’t project high enough to deliver a high volume of sacks. Justin is more of a “do your job type player” than a difference maker. His range defending the run in limited.
The Chargers were all about size in 2018 when drafting their options at safety. S Kyzir White is 6’2” and 218 lbs with upside in run support and coverage against second-level TEs. White has a high motor with vision as an asset. His physical style is an edge when attacking the line of scrimmage against the run. Kyzir will have risk in coverage vs. WRs due to limited range and speed.
In the fifth round, LA invested in C Scott Quessenberry. His first step can lead to an edge in blocking in the run game, but Quessenberry tends to lack the follow through create space at the second level of the defense. Scott has risk vs. power players in the pass rush, and his range tends to be limited in pass protection. His versatility helps his ability to gain playing time as reserve player early in his career.
With their last two draft selections in the sixth and seventh rounds, the Chargers drafted to players to improve their depth on offense – WR Dylan Cantrell and RB Justin Jackson.
Cantrell is quite big enough to play TE (6’3” and 226 Lbs.), and his speed and quickness won’t create an edge off the snap. Dylan will catch almost everything thrown his way even in tight coverage. With LA losing TE Hunter Henry for the season, Cantrell may steal some TE looks at WR.
Jackson has NFL RB speed (4.52), but his lack of size (6’0” and 199 Lbs.) and strength hinder his upside. Justin doesn’t run with power while gaining space with more shake than bake. He needs better vision and a quicker throttle to be effective at the next level. Jackson won’t be an edge in the passing game with questions in his pass blocking skills.
The Chargers finished 24th in the NFL in rushing yards (1,595) in 2017 while gaining only 3.8 yards per carry. They scored ten rushing TDs with ten runs over 20 yards.
LA led the NFL passing yards (4,431) last year thanks to a league-low 18 sacks. Their offensive line allowed 76 QB hits as well. The Chargers had 28 passing TDs and 11 Ints with receivers gaining over 20 yards on 61 plays.
LT Russell Okung was an elite player in 2012 after getting drafted in the first round in 2010. Injuries hurt his value over the last five seasons. His game now looks to be more league average than offering impact upside. In 2017, Okung was a huge liability in run blocking while playing well in pass protection.
LG Dan Feeney started the last nine games for LA in 2017 after getting drafted in the third round. He struggled in pass blocking while grading as a liability in the run game. Feeney should develop into a power blocker in the run game with some upside in pass protection. His range is limited over short areas, but he has a feel for reaching second level blocks. In the past, Dan relied too much on his strength, which will be matched in the NFL.
C Mike Pouncey played poorly in three of the last four seasons after being at least league average from 2011 to 2013. He’s a former first-round draft pick (2011) with more risk in run blocking than pass protection at this point of his career.
RG Forrest Lamp missed all of last season with a torn ACL after getting drafted in the second round in 2017. Lamp offers a winning combination of speed, strength, and athleticism leading to multiple stars at the 2017 NFL combine. Forest may be maxed out as far as frame and bulk, which is why he’ll be moved to the inside after playing left tackle in college. Lamp has a good feel of attackers with enough quickness with his feet to hold his own at the next level.
RT Joe Barksdale signed a four-year $22 million contract in 2015, but he struggled in all areas in 2016 and 2017. Before 2016, Joe was an asset on the line for the previous three years for the Rams and Chargers, Oakland drafted him in the third round in 2011. His biggest area of weakness last year came in run blocking. Joe missed five games last year due to a foot injury.
Los Angeles has a top RB in Melvin Gordon, but his offensive line doesn’t make it easy on him. The Chargers need their two young guards to make a huge step forward plus improved play at center and right tackle. This offensive line minimized the damage in sacks last year helped by the quick decision making by Philip Rivers. Overall, LA has a below average offensive line with a better chance to pass the ball well than offer a dominating run game.
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing touchdowns (TDS).
This information is based on 2017, which will work as our starting point for 2018. We’ll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We’ll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.
2017 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2017.
2017 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL.
2017 Adjustment is based on the 2017 league average and the 2017 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat category and the basis for the strength of schedule.
The Chargers have four tough games (TEN, ARI, and DEN X 2) for the rushing attack. Their best success running the ball should come against CIN, BUF, and LAR. Overall, they have a below-par run schedule.
The two worst matchups for their passing offensive comes against the Broncos in two games. LA has four other mid-tier games (SEA, PIT, CIN, and BAL) for their passing attack over the last half of 2018. They have four favorable games against Kansas City (2) and Oakland (2).
In a perfect world, the Chargers would like to run the ball at a high level while playing tough defense. They have a ball control QB if game score works in that direction. Philip Rivers will get his chances to make plays in the deep passing game, and his overall passing chances tend to rank in the 25 percent of the league. With a healthy Mike Williams and improved offensive line, Los Angeles has a chance to be one of the better offenses in the league.
QB Philip Rivers – Over 12 seasons as the starting QB for the Chargers, Philip hasn’t missed a game in the regular season leading to a 106-68 record. He’s averaged 4,491 passing yards over the last five seasons with 153 TDs and 73 Ints. Rivers attempted over 600 passes only once in his career (2015 – 661), which led the league in addition to his career-best 437 completions. In 2017, Philip passed for 4,515 yards with 28 TDs and only ten Ints. His offensive line allowed a league-low 18 sacks. He has talent and depth at WR, but Rivers did lose his top TE in mid-May. The Chargers would love to run the ball with more success to take the pressure off the passing game and create a ball control offense. Overall, his floor should be 4,000+ yards with 30+ TDs. The development and health of Mile Williams will be the key to Philip’s value in 2018. More of a QB2 with matchup value.
Other Options: Geno Smith, Cardale Jones, Nic Shimonek
RB Melvin Gordon – For the first time in his career, Gordon played 16 games. He finished with a career-high 344 touches for 1,560 combined yards with 12 TDs and 58 catches. As great as his season looked, the Chargers gave a piece of his pie to Austin Ekeler mid-season leading to some lost TDs (5) and catches (27). In the end, Melvin may have lost about ten percent of his potential opportunity to Ekeler. With same RB structure in LA, Gordon will again have a slight thorn in his side thus creating a step back in draft value. Melvin has the talent to be an elite three-down back, and he did play through some injuries last year. Gordon needs the Chargers’ offensive line to be much better in run blocking (3.8 yards per rush in 2017). LA should move closer to league average running the ball this year, and I do expect better play on the offensive line. Melvin has never gained over 3.9 yards per carry for a season in his three years in the NFL. Possible 350+ touches for 1,600+ yards with double-digit TDs and 50+ catches. Nice steady RB1 who can’t match the explosiveness of the top RBs in the game over a full season.
RB Austin Ekeler – In his rookie season in the NFL after not getting drafted, Ekeler finished with 539 combined yards with five TDs and 27 catches. Over the first three weeks of the season, Austin only had three catches for 24 yards. The Chargers didn’t give him a touch in Week 16 or Week 17. His best game came in Week 10 vs. the Jaguars (119 combined yards with two TDs and five catches). From Week 7 to Week 13 covering six games, Ekeler averaged 8.7 touches per game. Over four seasons at Western State, Austin rushed for 4,957 yards with 63 combined TDs plus 115 catches for another 1,215 yards. Ekeler is the top handcuff for Melvin Gordon heading into 2018.
Other Options: Justin Jackson, Russell Hansbrough, Detrez Newsome
WR Keenan Allen – After two injury-plagued years, Allen finally had a chance to show his full-season value to Fantasy owners. He set a career high in catches over 20 yards (18) and 40 yards (4) leading to 102 catches for 1,393 yards and six TDs. In 2017, Keenan had seven games with over 100 yards receiving highlighted by a special four-game stretch over the second half of the year (12/159/2, 11/172/1, 10/105/1, and 6/111). Over his last seven games, Allen had 58 catches for 797 yards and five TDs on 79 targets. His success over eight games in 2015 (67/725/4) supports Keenan final stats while also showcasing another level in the game. His next step is finding a way to produce more scoring value. In 2018, Allen has a chance to push his way to 120+ catches for 1,500+ yards with mid-level TDs. Great foundation WR who will offer steady value from week-to-week while owning explosiveness as well in the right matchups.
WR Mike Williams – His resume is a bit scarred after missing most of the 2015 season with a neck injury. He played at a high level in 2016 for Clemson (98/1361/11) in what I would call a very good offense. Mike has size (6’4″ and 218 lbs.), and Philip Rivers has a way of making the players around him better. Talent wise, Williams should emerge as the WR2 in this offense. Before doing my research, I had a mindset of Michael developing into a better version of Malcom Floyd with a chance to be a better version of Vincent Jackson. Williams has great hands, and he is going to be a factor at the goal line. The Chargers will get him the ball everywhere on the field. I see Demaryius Thomas in his game. Williams suffered back and knee injuries in 2017 leading to a wasted season (11 catches for 95 yards on 23 targets). Mike should be the second receiving option in the Chargers’ offense with a chance at 80+ catches for 1,200+ yards and a team-high in TDs.
WR Tyrell Williams – Despite 16 games played, Williams had a sharp decline in his opportunity in 2017 (43/728/4 on 69 targets) after delivering a strong sophomore season (69/1059/7 on 119 targets). Tyrell had 16 catches for 228 yards and one TD on 24 targets over his first four games, which put him on reasonable pace to match 2017. Over his last 12 games, Williams had three catches or fewer in ten games with one playable game (4/132/1). With no real threat at TE in 2018, the WR3 job for the Chargers should have a higher value. Tyrell falls more into a deep threat with some scoring value. I’ll set his bar at 50+ catches for 750+ yards and a handful of TDs.
WR Travis Benjamin – Travis saw his stats (34/567/4 on 65 targets) regress for the second straight season after posting the best year of his career in 2015 (68/966/5). His catch rate (52.3) was unimpressive with the Chargers, but he did add more length to his catches (16.7 yards). Over the last three seasons, Benjamin has 33 catches over 20 yards and 14 catches of 40 yards or longer. In 2017, he had three games of value (5/105, 5/64/1, and 4/96/1). Tough Fantasy option without an injury based on the top two WRs on the Chargers’ roster.
Other Options: Geremy Davis, Dylan Cantrell, Artavis Scott, Andre Patton, J.J. Jones, Kent Shelby
TE Virgil Green – The injury to Hunter Henry crushes the Chargers’ offense at TE in 2018 with Antonio Gates retiring as well. Last year the TEs in this offense caught 81 passes for 943 yards and seven TDs on 119 targets. Green has never had over 22 catches in a season over his seven years in the NFL. Over his last 44 games, Virgil has 48 catches for 401 yards and three TDs on 74 targets. There isn’t enough paint in his resume to finish a winning portrait In the Fantasy market. Starting names don’t win Fantasy championships, so I would avoid Green on draft day this year.
TE Dylan Cantrell – With no viable pass-catching option on the Chargers’ roster at TE, I wonder if they could consider using Cantrell as a modified TE in 2018. Over his last two seasons at Texas Tech, Dylan caught 129 passes for 1,491 yards and 15 TDs. His hands grade well, and Cantrell will win many jump balls. He has a wide catch radius with scoring value in the red zone. As TE option, Dylan will have risk in blocking while creating mismatches if Rivers’ chooses to give him targets. For now, just a name to follow this summer.
Other Options: Sean Culkin, Braedon Bowman, Cole Hunt, Ben Johnson, Austin Roberts
K Caleb Sturgis – After making 35 of 41 field goals in 2016 and going 3-for-3 in his only game in 2017, Sturgis suffered a torn hip flexor. His injury led to him being cut by the Eagles in the offseason. Over 62 games in his NFL career, Caleb made 81 percent of his FGs with more success with Philly (84.8 percent). Over his last two full seasons, he missed three of his 68 extra point tries. In 2017, the Chargers scored 43 TDs while creating 30 field goal chances. Sturgis will battle Robert Aguayo for the starting kicking job for LA. I expect him to win the job, but I don’t believe he’ll be a top 12 kicker in 2018.
The Chargers’ defense faces two teams (ARI and CIN) that struggled to run the ball last year while the Cardinals will be much better with David Johnson back in the starting lineup. LA will get tested by Todd Gurley and the Rams rushing offense. Overall, Los Angeles has a favorable schedule for their run defense.
LA has five games (BUF, CLE, TEN, CIN, and BAL) vs. teams that struggled to pass the ball in 2017. Their toughest matchups will come against the Steelers and the Chiefs (2). The Chargers’ defense should play well vs. the pass in 2018 with an edge in many games.
The Chargers allowed the second most rushing yards (2,098) last year. Their failure came on long plays (18 runs over 20 yards and six runs over 40 yards) with both categories leading the NFL. Ball carriers gained 4.9 yards per rush with 11 rushing TDs.
Los Angeles did play well defending the pass in 2017. They allowed 3,156 yards (3rd) with 17 TDs and 18 Ints. Their defense record 43 sacks while allowing only four completions over 40 yards.
DE Joey Bosa set a career high in tackles (70) and sacks (12.5) in his second year in the league. He now has 23 sacks in 28 career NFL games. Bosa is a league average run defense. Joey has elite quickness with an edge in athlete ability. His hands help him win at the point of contact with enough strength to finish the job. He needs to improve his pass rushing technique while offering questionable decision making. His second gear doesn’t separate himself from other pass rushers, and it looks like he needs to get stronger.
DE Melvin Ingram has improved in each of his last three seasons in the NFL. Over the last three years, Ingram has 181 tackles, 29 sacks, 12 defended passes, and one TD. Melvin handles his side of the field well against the run.
DT Brandon Mebane struggled in all areas last year while failing to record a sack. At age 33, LA should try to find another option on the roster to at least provide rotational value against the run. DT Darius Philon added 4.5 sacks off the bench in 2017 with league average success defending the run. His playing time has increased in each year in the NFL after getting drafted in the 6th round in 2015. DE Corey Liuget was suspended for the first four games in 2018 for failing a PED test. Liuget missed four games last year leading to a drop by almost 50 percent in playing time. When on the field, Corey held his ground in the run game while pressuring the QB. Rookie DT Justin Jones will be asked to handle some early down action early in the season after getting drafted in the third round.
LB Hayes Pullard posted six tackles or more in seven of his first eight games in 2017, but he offered no value in sacks. A neck injury led to two missed game over the second half of the year with minimal snaps in another four games. Pullard isn’t a great option at middle linebacker especially for a team that has risk up the middle against the run.
LB Denzel Perryman missed nine games last year due to an ankle injury, which required surgery last August, plus a hamstring issue late in the year. His best success came in his rookie season where Denzel was one of the better all-around linebackers in the league. Over his three seasons in the NFL, Perry missed 15 games. LB Jatavis Brown has 158 combined tackles over the last two seasons with 3.5 sacks, and seven defended passes as a rotational player off the bench. Brown hasn’t been an edge in any area at this point of his career. LB Kyle Emanuel played better in 2017 thanks to only situational playing time. The only player at linebacker with some upside is rookie Uchenna Nwosu will at least add speed to the position with his best value coming off the edge.
S Jahleel Addae set a career high in tackles (96) in 2017 most likely due to so many missed tackles by the first and second level of the defense. Addae added seven defended passes. Jahleel played the best ball of his career over the last two seasons. S Derwin James will move right into the starting lineup after getting drafted in the first round. He’ll improve the run defense with some risk in coverage if asked to coverage talented WRs.
CB Casey Heyward has been one of the best cover corners in the NFL over the last two seasons. He has 42 defended passes, 11 Ints, and one TD in his 32 games with the Chargers. Heyward does have risk defending the run. CB Trever Williams did an excellent job off the bench in 2017 after Jason Verrett went down with another injury. Williams posted 56 tackles, 13 defended passes, and two Ints with average league success against the run. After a great 2015 season, CB Jason Verrett has only played five games over the last two seasons due to a torn ACL. If healthy, Verrett should be an asset in coverage. Jason is a former first-round draft pick (2014).
The Chargers’ defense has strength at the perimeter on the defensive line and at cornerback especially if Verrett regains his form. I hate their linebackers, and I expect offenses to attack the middle of the field with the run game and short passes. The safety position should be improved, which will at least limit the damage in big runs. Viable top 12 defense, but I would only use them when I expect the Chargers to play from the lead. A power rushing attack and savvy QB should be able to control the ball against Los Angeles.
2018 NFL Team Outlooks