5 Los Angeles Chargers Charging for Your Attention in 2020

Chargers And NFL Logo

The Los Angeles Chargers are entering their first season since 2006 without longtime quarterback Phillip Rivers, who went to Indianapolis. They also lost featured back Melvin Gordon to the Denver Broncos.

But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the talent seeping out of those iconic powder blue and sunshine gold uniforms shining in the Southern California sun.

The Chargers have a fantastic and undervalued running back looking to take over the backfield and a quarterback with a high football IQ.

They also have a potential emerging top receiver and tight end. From a productivity standpoint, you can’t count the Chargers out.

And from a fantasy football standpoint, there’s a lot of gold to be unearthed in Los Angeles’ “other” team.

Here are 5 Chargers you need to watch in 2020:

1- Stud: Austin Ekeler, RB

2019 statistics:

  • 132 carries
  • 557 yards
  • 4.2 yards per carry
  • 3 touchdowns
  • 92 receptions
  • 993 yards
  • 8 touchdowns

If the NFL were a grand chessboard, Ekeler’s the queen. While he didn’t run the ball often, he can catch and gain yards as well as the best receivers in football.

He was second on the team in receptions in 2019, behind just Keenan Allen, and scored 8 touchdowns through the air.

He also almost outperformed departed draft bust Melvin Gordon, who is now in Denver and he probably would have if he received more rushing attempts. Gordon is now gone and one reason is that Ekeler is the better back, even if he went undrafted back in 2017.

Austin Ekeler Chargers RB

He’s the better NFL player and Gordon can say all he wants that the system didn’t fit his strengths. The truth is Ekeler is the better player and when he broke out in 2019, it no longer made sense for the Chargers to keep Gordon.

Look for Ekeler to receive the bulk of the action at running back and given his smaller size, projections geared toward him running the football are lower.

He caught so many passes in 2019 that it’s probable his reception total will decrease. But it won’t decrease as much as ESPN.com’s fantasy projection states.

Here are Ekeler’s 2020 projected statistics:

  • 159 attempts
  • 697 yards
  • 4.4 yards per carry
  • 4 touchdowns
  • 66 receptions
  • 619 yards
  • 3 touchdowns

2- Sleeper: Mike Williams, WR

2019 statistics:

  • 49 receptions
  • 1,001 yards
  • 20.4 yards per reception
  • 2 touchdowns

Mike Williams looked like the ultimate bust after his failed 2017 campaign. Then he came back in 2018 and had a so-so season. In 2019, his reception total still lacked but he notched 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in his career and averaged an astounding 20.4 yards per reception.

Now that Rivers is gone and Justin Herbert steps in (or will step in) it gives Williams an opportunity to mesh with his new quarterback. While word on the street says Tyrod Taylor will start at quarterback, the 31-year-old journeyman is only there to keep the seat warm for Herbert.

And the last time Taylor started over a rookie back in 2018, he lasted 10 quarters into the season. This means Herbert will start sooner than later and for players like Williams, it won’t come soon enough.

Mike Williams Chargers WR

For 7 seasons, Keenan Allen served as former quarterback Phillip Rivers’ favorite receiving target and Williams couldn’t supersede that. Now that Rivers is gone, Williams can finally figure to become a top target as he moves into his 4th season.

Given Allen’s status as the top receiver, ESPN and online sports betting sites will set Williams’ numbers lower, which makes him a fantastic deep sleeper for the over. And given his steady improvement since his disastrous rookie season, he can overcome his projections.

In fantasy football, he makes for a mid to late-round steal. In small leagues, he’s great for the waiver wire pickup and might find his way onto a roster if he becomes the top receiver in Los Angeles.

Here are his projected statistics for 2020:

  • 49 receptions
  • 841 yards
  • 17.0 yards per reception
  • 4 touchdowns

3- Stumbler: Keenan Allen, WR

2019 statistics:

  • 104 receptions
  • 1,199 yards
  • 11.5 yards per reception
  • 6 touchdowns

Allen is still in the peak of his career and he’ll continue to produce well. However, after catching passes and forming a fantastic quarterback-receiver duo with Phillip Rivers, he faces the prospect of catching for a new quarterback.

Want more fun?

Allen has never played with a different quarterback for an entire game. Every game Allen played, Rivers has started. How’s that for a streak?

Allen will get it and he will post good numbers in 2020 but look for him to have a down year and his numbers will reflect it. He won’t post what he’s posted in the past and because of it, you don’t want to bet an over on him unless his numbers project to be lower.

Keenan Allen Chargers WR

Look for Allen to garner between 70 and 80 receptions, so any projection over 80 should warrant an under bet. He also won’t achieve 1,000 yards in 2020.

Project Allen to start slow in 2020 and build chemistry with his new quarterback as the year progresses.

If you play fantasy football, Allen should still warrant a high draft selection. However, be cautious when you play him. He’s a player you want to insert later in the year after he’s built chemistry with Herbert or Taylor, if he comes out slinging it.

Here are his projected 2020 statistics:

  • 85 receptions
  • 999 yards
  • 11.7 yards per reception
  • 5 touchdowns

4- Rookie: Justin Herbert, QB

2019 statistics (college):

  • 286 completions
  • 428 attempts
  • 66.8 completion percentage
  • 3,471 yards
  • 32 touchdowns
  • 5 interceptions
  • 58 attempts
  • 50 yards
  • 0.9 yards per carry
  • 4 touchdowns

Herbert is a big quarterback at 6’6, 236lbs. He has a strong arm and with a 40-yard dash of 4.68 seconds, he can escape the pocket and scramble. He’s a rich man’s version of Josh Allen, meaning he’ll have a much better rookie campaign than Allen did in 2018.

You can bet that he’ll become the starting quarterback sometime during the 2020 season and it’s a matter of when. The only way he sits in 2020 is if Taylor plays well enough early on to get the Chargers in a good position to make a playoff run.

However, given Taylor’s previous stint as a starting quarterback in which he flamed out after 2 and a half games while completing 48.8 percent of his passes, bet on Herbert taking the reins sooner rather than later. He’ll start for the Chargers come the bye week at the latest.

Justin Herbert Chargers Rookie QB

Look for Herbert to check it down to Austin Ekeler often and run the ball with both Ekeler and RB2 Justin Jackson. RB3 Joshua Kelley can also see time here, too.

As the season progresses and Herbert gets comfortable, look for him to open it up with Allen and Williams as the WR1 and WR2. He’ll also hit TE1 Hunter Henry, especially if he looks to the tight end as a security blanket.

For fantasy, he makes a great QB2 or waiver wire pickup. Take a flyer on him in the last rounds of your draft.

Here are his projected 2020 statistics:

  • 288 completions
  • 458 attempts
  • 3,335 yards
  • 17 touchdowns
  • 12 interceptions
  • 42 carries
  • 169 yards
  • 1 touchdown

5- Joker: Hunter Henry, TE

2019 statistics:

  • 55 receptions
  • 664 yards
  • 12.1 yards per reception
  • 5 touchdowns

In 2019, Henry wouldn’t have been a stud, sleeper, or stumbler. He would’ve been labeled Ultimate Boom or Bust. Well, Henry was neither a boom nor a bust in 2019. Instead, he posted about the most even-keel numbers a tight end could post.

Here he is in 2020, ready to take another crack at it.

He has a new quarterback or 2 new quarterbacks in Tyrod Taylor and Justin Herbert. This will either help or hurt Henry while it’s projected to help Williams and hurt Allen.

Hunter Henry Chargers TE

It’s a career at crossroads and Henry is the Joker of the group for a reason. He will either supersede his projections, underperform, or perform somewhere around them. While it’s easy to predict what the other 4 players will do, exercise caution with Henry if you wager on productivity at NFL betting sites.

Here’s what we know about Henry:

  • He posted a career-high in receptions and reception yards
  • He has yet to play a full season and missed all of 2018 because of injury
  • He posted top-10 production numbers at the position but they were still pedestrian among fantasy circles
  • Had he played all 16 games in 2019, his reception and yards total would’ve averaged to 73 receptions, 869 yards, and 7 touchdowns. Which are upper echelon numbers.
My Verdict:
If you believe Henry will be healthy for all 16 games, bet the over on him. If you don’t bet under what the oddsmakers are saying.

For fantasy, he makes a borderline TE1, so if you value the running back, receiver, and quarterback positions more, take him in a later round. If you like using tight ends, stay away from him.

Conclusion

The Chargers have an influx of young talent in Southern California.

Ekeler broke out and now looks to take over the backfield while Williams has an opportunity to become the top receiver if he hooks up well with his new quarterbacks.

Allen might struggle early given it’s his first time playing with a new face but he’s talented enough to catch on.

Herbert will start and if Taylor struggles, his time will come sooner rather than later. Henry is a mystery but 2020 might be the year.

What do you think of my picks? Did I leave anyone out? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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Rex Hoffman / Author

Rex Hoffman is a passionate sports writer, with over five years of experience covering sports journalism in line with the Vegas betting landscape. His favorite subjects include football, basketball, and baseball. As a Las Vegas resident, he enjoys finding an edge against the local sportsbooks and aims to share his extensive knowledge with both beginners and experienced bettors. Rex also dabbles in horse racing wagering and enjoys typical casino fare like blackjack and poker in his spare time.