2022 Los Angeles Chargers Team Outlook
With high-stakes fantasy football legend Shawn Childs anchoring Sports Illustrated's fantasy coverage, we decided to give our take on Shawn's Team Outlooks. While we won't always agree, Shawn's pedigree speaks for itself. Shawn has been a high-stakes Fantasy Football legend since 2004 when he had success in his first season (three titles and $25,000 in winnings). Childs has competed and won six-figures in all different formats – auctions, draft championships, main events, and high-dollar leagues. We dare you to find an expert who knows the NFL player pool better than Shawn Childs -- it can't be done!
Last year the Los Angeles Chargers had the best quarterback (Justin Herbert) and running back (Austin Ekeler) in the AFC West. Both players finished second overall in fantasy scoring at their positions, increasing excitement for 2022. One could argue that Herbert had been a better quarterback than Patrick Mahomes (9,618 combined yards with 80 touchdowns in 2018 and 2019) over his first two seasons (9,886 combined yards with 77 touchdowns). Keenan Allen and Mike Williams ranked 11th and 13th in wide receiver scoring. Los Angeles has developing talent at WR3 and WR4 while adding Gerald Everett at tight end. The Chargers will score plenty of points this season, but the winner of the wild west division falls on which team finished with the best defensive play.
The theme for most of the teams in the AFC West from last season was to throw the ball over 61% percent of the time with a secondary run game. The Chargers want to win by passing, and they will play in many high-scoring games this season.
The Chargers' running backs gained 2,413 combined yards with 24 touchdowns and 101 catches. They had growth in yards per rush (4.3), but their pass-catching opportunity (101/879/8) had regression for the second season.
Under the guidance of Justin Hebert, the Chargers' wideouts scored 41 times over the past two seasons. Their wide receivers set three-year highs in catches (252), receiving yards (3,171), and targets (391). The only negative was a second season of regression in yards per catch (12.6).
The Chargers' tight ends finished with a rise in catches (90), receiving yards (962), and targets (137) in each of the two seasons with Justin Herbert starting. Despite growth, Los Angeles still lacks a franchise tight end.
Brandon Staley has been a fast move in the coaching ranks. His first pro job came in 2017 for the Bears as a linebacking coach. Staley had success in 2020 running the Rams' defense, which paved the way for his promotion. He has five years of coaching experience with a 9-8 record.
Los Angeles brought in Joe Lombardi to run the offense in 2021. He's been coaching in the NFL since 2006, with most of his time coming in the Saints' system. The Lions gave him an offensive coordinator job in 2014 and 2015 (only seven games before getting fired). Lombardi coached in New Orleans in 2009 when they won the Super Bowl.
The Chargers jumped to fourth in offensive yards and fifth points scored (474 – 90 more than 2020).
Renaldo Hill returns as the Chargers' defensive coordinator. He played in the NFL from 2001 to 2010 before hanging up his cleats for a coaching job. From 2018 to 2020, Hill was a defensive backs coach for the Dolphins and Broncos.
For the third year in a row, Los Angeles ranked higher in yards allowed (29th) than in points allowed (459 – 23rd). Their defense regressed in each of the past four years on the scoreboard.
Los Angeles's big move in the offseason was the signing of CB J.C. Jackson for $82 million. They also brought in DT Austin Johnson, LB Kyle Van Noy, CB Bryce Callahan, and DE Morgan Fox for depth in their defense. LB Uchenna Nwosu, DT Justin Jones, LB Kyzir White, and LB Kyler Fackrell signed with other teams. The only improvement to the offensive side of the ball was the addition of TE Gerald Everett.
In the trade market, the Chargers acquired LB Khalil Mack from the Bears for second (2022) and sixth (2023) round draft picks.
The Chargers selected a pair of offensive linemen (Zion Johnson – 1.17 and Jamaree Salyer – 6.16) with two of their first five picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. In addition, they added four players to their defense – S JT Woods (3.15), DT Otito Ogbonnia (5.17), CB Ja'Sir Taylor (6.36), and CB Deane Leonard (7.15). Los Angeles also invested in RB Isaiah Spiller (4.18) and FB Zander Horvath (7.39).
The Chargers dipped to 21st in the NFL in rushing yards (1,834) while gaining 4.3 yards per carry. They scored 18 rushing touchdowns with only seven runs over 20 yards. Los Angeles averaged 24.9 rushes per game (22nd).
LA climbed to 2nd in the NFL passing yards (5,014). Their offensive line allowed 31 sacks. The Chargers finished with 38 passing touchdowns and 15 interceptions, with receivers gaining over 20 yards on 53 plays.
LT Rashawn Slater hit the ground running in his first season after getting drafted 13th overall in 2021. He excelled in all areas. C Corey Linsley proved to be a wise investment by the Chargers after signing last year after a long successful career with the Packers. His run and pass blocking ranked highly over the past two seasons. When adding another top player (G Zion Johnson) in this year's draft, Los Angeles has the three high upside players and one neutral option on their offensive line. They look to be one player away from a top-five line in the NFL.
Los Angeles fell to 30th in rushing yards allowed (2,361) with 22 rushing touchdowns and 13 runs over 20 yards. The Chargers gave up 4.6 yards per carry.
The Chargers slipped to 12th in passing yards allowed (3,761) with 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Their defense recorded 35 sacks while allowing 53 completions over 20 yards.
The combination of LB Joey Bosa and LB Khalil Mack has 130.5 sacks over their previous 180 games. Closing down the passing window is a must for the Chargers' defense. They have a top-tier safety (Derwin James), and J.C. Jackson improves the cornerback position. When added in LB Kenneth Murray and DE Jerry Tillery, Los Angeles has the foundation of a much better defense. This year, I expect the Chargers to be a top 10 fantasy defense with a much higher ceiling if a couple of their young players reach their potential.
QB Justin Herbert, LAC - Stud (low risk)
In his third season with the Chargers, Herbert is one big-play receiver away from being the best quarterback in the league. He finished last year with an impressive 5,316 combined yards with 41 touchdowns. His floor has been high in scoring in his first two years in the run game (55/234/5 and 63/302/3). Herbert averaged 39.5 pass attempts while gaining over 300 yards in nine matchups (337/1, 338/1, 398/4, 356/2, 382/3, 303/2, 317/3, 336/1, and 383/3). He ranked second in fantasy scoring (447.00) in four-point passing touchdown leagues with four impact games (33.65, 46.80, 35.20, 39.10, and 32.25 fantasy points).
Fantasy outlook: Herbert is the third quarterback off the board in the early draft season in the National Fantasy Football Championship. He gains his edge by ranking highly in pass attempts and scoring. The next step in his development is producing more passing scores in close. Herbert is on a path for 5,500 combined yards with a high floor (38) in touchdowns while expecting him to outscore Patrick Mahomes this season.
Other Options: Chase Daniel, Easton Stick, Brandon Peters
RB Austin Ekeler, LAC - Stud (low risk)
Despite having the best season (1,558 combined yards with 20 touchdowns and 70 catches) of his five-year career, Ekeler still hasn't worked his way to a high-volume back in the run game (206/911/12). The Chargers had him on the field for only 61.1% of their plays. He produced better stats at home (955 combined yards with 14 scores and 41 catches – 24.50 FPPG in PPR leagues). Ekeler posted to impact games (33.90 and 41.50 fantasy points) while having a floor of 20.00 fantasy points in nine matchups. He finished second in fantasy scoring (346.80) with one missed game with Covid-19.
Before 2021, Ekeler scored only nine rushing touchdowns over 56 games.
Fantasy outlook: After his excellent season, Ekeler is the fourth player drafted in the NFFC in early June, ranking second at running back behind Jonathan Taylor. His ability to catch the ball set a high floor in many games, but can he repeat his success in scoring. Unfortunately, I don't see the Chargers giving him many more chances as they want to rotate in a second back. His safe floor with 17 games played would be 1,500 yards with a dozen scores and a chance at 75 catches.
RB Isaiah Spiller, LAC - Fantasy Handcuff
Over three seasons in college, Spiller had almost the same role (203, 208, and 204 touches). He rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2020 (188/1,036/9) and 2021 (179/1,011/6) while having the most success in scoring in his rookie year (174/946/10). Spiller finished his time at Texas A&M with 74 catches for 585 yards and one score. Last season he rushed for over 100 yards in six matchups.
Spiller runs with a leggy motion that tends to lead to him gearing down in space rather than sticking his foot in the ground and bursting out of a cut. With a run of steam, he can make defenders miss with change of direction moves. Texas A&M used him on many inside runs, but his wins weren't driven by power. His next step is improving his pass blocking despite having a feel on which lanes to pick up an oncoming blitzer.
Fantasy outlook: Based on his ADP (75) in April in the NFFC, fantasy drafters hoped Spiller would have landed on a team with a better chance to start. He is the 35th running back drafted in fantasy leagues in early June with an ADP of 98. His pass-catching helps his fantasy floor, but Spiller doesn't project to be a third-down back out of the gate. Instead, he will be in a split role on early downs with some value catches while being the top handcuff for Austin Ekeler.
RB Larry Rountree, --- - Dynasty Only
Over four seasons at Missouri, Rountree gained 4,009 combined yards with 40 touches and 47 catches on 793 touches. His highlight year came in 2018 (225/1,216/11 and 14 catches for 62 yards). He gained only 87 yards and one score on 36 rushes in his rookie season.
Rountree has a step-and-go feel while offering the ability to make defenders miss in space. However, his lack of patience leads to him running into too many dead ends. Rountree won't provide upside in the passing game.
He projects as an early-down runner with a lot to prove in his sophomore season.
Other Options: Joshua Kelley, Leddie Brown, Kevin Marks
WR Keenan Allen, LAC - Solid/Safe Pick
Over the past five years, Allen caught 509 passes for 5,918 yards and 32 touchdowns over 78 games. He averaged 6.5 catches for 76 yards and 0.41 touchdowns or 16.56 fantasy points in PPR leagues. However, his yards per catch have been low over the past two seasons (9.9 and 10.7). Allen gained over 100 yards in four contests (9/100, 4/108, 12/104, and 9/112) while failing to score more than 22.50 fantasy points.
Fantasy outlook: The best two selling points for Allen this draft season is high floor and consistency rating in catches and the developing wide receiver opportunity in the Chargers' offense. His 2022 ADP (32) in the NFFC in early June ranks him 11th at wide receiver. I'd prefer to have Allen as a steady WR2 than my lead wideout. He has 120-catch upside with a chance at 1,200 yards and about seven scores.
WR Mike Williams, LAC - Solid/Safe Pick
Justin Herbert unlocked the ceiling of Williams in 2021, but he most of his damage in four of his first five starts (8/82/1, 7/91/1, 7122/2, and 8/165/2). Over his next 11 starts, he posted three other playable games (5/97/1, 5/110, and 9/119/1). Williams set career-highs in catches (76), receiving yards (1,146), and targets (129). Over the first 56 games of his career, he averaged only 4.7 targets compared to 8.1 last season. Williams came to the NFL in 2017 as the seventh player selected in the first round. He brings upside in scoring and big-play ability (16.1 yards per catch).
Fantasy outlook: With one top-tier season on his five-year resume, Williams isn't a player many fantasy drafters have fought for in the early draft season in the NFFC (ADP – 61 as the 24th wideout). His overall skill set supports his growth, and I expect Williams to push his overall stats higher in 2022. My bar will be 80 catches for 1,200 yards with double-digit scores.