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The Ram
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Offensive Line:

The Chargers consistently have an exceptional line.  LT Marcus McNeill, and LG Kris Dielman are both legitimate Pro Bowl players.  They get less fanfare than Bryant McKinnie and Steve Hutchinson in Minnesota, but are just as good.  At Center, Nick Hardwick had surgery on his foot and is expected to miss at least the first month of the season.  Jeremy Newberry was signed away from Oakland to be a temporary fill in.  Once considered a core player, Right Tackle Shane Olivea lost his job midseason to Jeromey Clary.  Olivea had drug problems, partied his way off the team and is now on the Giants.  LJ Shelton was signed after he was released by Miami to provide depth at RT.  There is some talk of Shelton starting and Jeromey Clary shifting to Right Tackle, taking the job away from Mike Goff.

The left side of the line is stout, but the rest of the group is shaky.  Shelton and Newberry have been average players for most of their careers.  That with the shuffling of positions may lead to some inconsistency in the run game.  Still, a solid group overall.

QB:

Philip Rivers will never be an elite QB option while playing under Norv Turner.  The offense simply does not give him room to throw the ball often enough to be a great fantasy option.  Each of the last 2 years he has thrown exactly 460 passes, and 22 and 21 TD passes.  Additionally, he is coming off a torn ACL and won't be very mobile for most of the season.  He is a middle of the pack option at QB.  He's safe, because his productivity is predictable, but statistically he has a low ceiling compared to other QB's.

RB:

I've been on the "Ladainian Tomlinson as Number 1 fantasy player" bandwagon for years.  Others have coveted Priest Holmes, Shaun Alexander, and Larry Johnson in the last few years, but I've never wavered in my evaluation that Tomlinson is the most productive, safest and most consistent RB in the NFL.  That said, I have some concerns about him heading into 2008.  The lifespan of an NFL RB is not measured in years or by age, but rather in carries.  Tomlinson has carried the ball 2,365 times in his career.  That's already the 20th most in NFL history.  Also, once a RB starts to break down, it happens fast.  Tomlinson suffered his first major injury in the 2007 playoffs.  While he should be healed by now, it is a bad sign.  Tomlinson is not the far and away number 1 option.  While he is number 1 on my sheet, it is much closer than previous years.  Even though Tomlinson is only 28, he's taken a beating in his career.  It will catch up with him eventually.  Not having the number 1 pick may be a blessing in disguise.

As for a handcuff, there isn't one.  Backup duties will fall equally to Jacob Hester and Darren Sproles.

WR:

Chris Chambers has always been a world-class underachiever.  He's always been perceived to be better than he is.  The question is: will he finally put it all together now that he's on a good team?  Let's look at what he did after coming over from Miami in 2007.  Including the playoffs, he played 13 games for the Chargers, had 51 catches for 833 yards and 5 TD's.  Over 16 games, that extrapolates to 63 catches, 1, 025 yards and 6 TD's.  Not earth-shattering numbers, but certainly worth more consideration than his current average draft position as the 25th WR.  Additionally, Antonio Gates is not healthy, and with him possibly getting off to a slow start, the WR's may see more action than in previous years.

Vincent Jackson exploded in the 2007 playoffs with 18 catches 300 yards and 2 TD's in 3 games.  It is hard to know if that was an aberration or if that is something that can be expected going forward.  I'm actually in the middle.  The theory in support of him continuing is that Jackson may have finally gotten comfortable with Norv Turner's offense by the time the playoffs rolled around.  However, a glance at his game log from 2007 shows that as the season wore on, he got less and less productive.  He didn't top 65 yards in any game after week 5.  He should still improve on his disappointing 2007 season numbers of 41 receptions, 623 yards and 3 TD's.

If either WR gets off to a hot start consider trading them.  Antonio Gates may eventually reclaim his role as the de facto number 1 receiver taking targets away from both Chambers and Jackson.

TE:

Gates is not the Number 1 fantasy TE going into 2008.  He's too risky.  While he has been a consistent producer, he is recovering from foot surgery and has been rumored to be headed to the PUP list (meaning he'll miss the first 6 games of 2008).  Other reports have him right on schedule for week 1.  My guess is that even if he does start week 1, he won't be running and cutting as well as normal and he won't see as many passes early on.  On average, Gates is still being drafted in the top 36 picks.  Let someone else take that gamble.  Instead keep your eye on the person who does draft Gates, and if Gates does get off to a slow start, look to swindle the disappointed guy in a trade.

Defense:

San Diego is a very safe defensive pick.  They cause massive amounts of turnovers (easily Top in the NFL) , sack opposing QB's and don't give up a lot of points.

Nose Tackle Jamal Williams had some arthroscopic surgery on his knees in the offseason.  ILB Stephen Cooper is suspended for the first 4 games of 2008 for using ephedra.

The secondary should be better (which is scary considering the 30 Int's, 8 more than any other team).  Antonio Cromartie only started half the season, taking the job of Drayton Florence.  He'll get 16 starts in 2008.  Florence left for Jacksonville, but the Chargers used their first round pick on Antoine Cason to assume the Nickel back role.  Quite a luxury to have a first rounder there.  Additionally, FS Eric Weddle should be improved not that he's entering his second year.

Most of the defense is intact and should be every bit as good in 2008.

This is the best defense in the NFL for fantasy purposes.

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