July 23, 2024

Wide Receiver Breakdown: Los Angeles Chargers

10 min read

Wide Receiver Breakdown: Los Angeles Chargers

By Dylan Schroeder

One of the more underrated moves from this year’s offseason is the Charger’s acquisition of the former Dallas offensive coordinator, Kellen Moore. While I think it’s safe to say that many expected the Cowboys to let go of head coach Mike McCarthy and give Moore a well deserved promotion, we were reminded that Jerry Jones truly has no idea what he’s doing. 

After rejuvenating the Dallas passing attack for a handful of years, Moore has shown that he is well on his way to having a tremendous NFL career as a coach, and he will likely reenergize the Chargers offense to a level that could be absolutely electric. Alright, alright, no more Charger puns…

There are plenty of reasons to get excited about the pairing of an offensive savant like Kellen Moore with Justin Herbert, but what’s interesting are the amount of folks who believe there’s going to be a complete overhaul to this offense. While I believe the Chargers are freeing Moore from McCarthy’s handcuffs to truly do whatever he wants, I think we’re simply going to see a more efficient version of how the Chargers attempted to play last season, in terms of pass rate and pace. 

TeamRankings.com

Dallas Cowboys

Los Angeles Chargers

Pass Rate 2022

52.70%

  65.09%

Pass Rate Last 3

56.92%

61.62%

Run Rate 2022

47.30%

34.91%

Run Rate Last 3

43.08%

38.38%

Plays Per Game

65.4

67.9

Players Per Game Last 3

65.0

66.0

It goes without saying that there are going to be changes to the offense – most notably attacking from 11 personnel (Dallas featured this package 62% of the time), pushing the ball down the field far more often, and being efficient in the run game by creating more gaps in the defensive front by using tight ends, fullbacks, or a hybrid of both. 

Brett Kollmann did a phenomenal job of breaking down some of Moore’s offensive tendencies and shared how he’s going to implement his scheme in Los Angeles. I highly recommend watching!

Despite much of what I’ve read on social media of how Moore is going to be playing Madden with Justin Herbert and their receivers, there’s only so much more that they can throw the football in comparison to last season. During the 2022 campaign, Herbert was second in the league in pass attempts behind the now-retired Tom Brady and about 50 attempts ahead of the next closest, Patrick Mahomes. In fact, Dallas was the 9th most balanced offense in neutral situations last season, which makes me believe that number has to come down, at least a little bit. 

However, Los Angeles’ best weapon, Austin Ekeler, is a much more dynamic receiver than rusher, as we know, and they’re fully loaded outside after adding Quentin Johnston to a receiver room that was already pretty strong, so I don’t expect the balance to be as equal as it was in Dallas, but is certainly something to post a pin in when discussing this offense. 

Regardless of scheme changes, identity, or offensive philosophy, Moore is coming in to clean up the viruses and get this machine running on all cylinders! I think we’ll see this team be aggressive in the same ways that we Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Buffalo, and Kansas City attack their game plan each week. The offense is going to punch you in the face, and you better be ready or you’re going to fall behind fast and often. Oh yeah, and head coach Brandon Staley isn’t worried that they’ll score too many points, so maybe they’ll run the score up when possible! Great news for fantasy football! 

Now, while I’m excited to watch the Chargers compete this upcoming year – spoiler: they’re my way-too-early pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl – I’m even more excited to dissect this team from a fantasy perspective, particularly with a dynasty lens. The most polarizing or intriguing part of this roster, in my opinion, is the wide receiver room. 

Keenen Allen | Wide Receiver | Los Angeles Chargers | 31-Years-Old

Consensus Dynasty Rank: WR40 | Dynasty Startup ADP: WR31 | My Dynasty Rank: WR35

2022: 10 Games | 89 Targets | 66 Receptions | 752 Yards | 4 TD’s | WR12, PPG, 16.9

As if dynasty managers aren’t worried about Allen enough because of his age creeping up further past the 30-year-old threshold, a hamstring injury forced him to miss nearly all of the first half of his 2022 campaign. 

However, after returning in Week 11 of last season, Allen went on to show that he is still one of the best receivers in the league, as he finished in the top three of both total points and points per game at his position the final eight weeks of the season. 

During that stretch, Allen saw an absurd 10.4 targets come his way each week, and unless you were able to survive his absence early on, it’s unlikely you were able to enjoy his scorching hot stretch in meaningful games. 

Father time is certainly undefeated, but the clock has yet to strike midnight on Keenan Allen. Dynasty managers in every league grossly overvalue age and upside by becoming enamored with prospects of which they’re really not strong at evaluating in the first place. 

Rock solid veterans, like Allen, who continue to churn out productive season after productive season end up taking a back seat to second round rookie picks because “A boat’s a boat, but the mystery box could be anything. It could even be a boat!”

Allen has never really been an explosive, big play receiver, but what makes him special is his Jedi Master training in route running and separation. He has a game that should age well into his mid-thirties, as long as he continues his rapport with Herbert and doesn’t seek a contract elsewhere. 

Keenan Allen is absolutely going to inherit the CeeDee Lamb role in Moore’s offense, and likely bring himself to yet another ho-hum top 12ish finish. The odds on favorite to lead this team in targets needs to be traded for and plugged into your starting lineup until he retires and sails into the sunset.  

I’d be looking to trade for Allen if I’m a contender, obviously, and am willing to give up a late first for Allen + another asset or a second round pick for him straight up. It goes without saying that the best dynasty players are the best negotiators. Get creative, but get him on your roster if you are trying to win. 

Mike Williams | Wide Receiver | Los Angeles Chargers | 28-Years-Old

Consensus Dynasty Rank: WR41 | Dynasty Startup ADP: 41 | My Dynasty Rank: WR:38

2022: 13 Games | 93 Targets | 63 Receptions | 895 Yards | 4 TD’s | WR22, PPG, 13.6

Williams has had such a fascinating, yet frustrating NFL career and it has been completely  attached to his ability to stay healthy. Unfortunately, Williams seems to miss, at minimum, a few games each year, and even chunks of those games where he participates because he’s in the blue tent or nursing something on the sideline. 

The injuries make sense when you watch him sky above defenders and devour the football before falling ungracefully to the turf. While I’m not positive I’d pick someone else to make a contested catch before Big Mike, the cost is a potential car accident afterward. He’s objectively fun to watch and wildly talented, especially at the catch point, but there has typically been some serious risk attached to the experience. 

For fantasy, there were a lot of folks hoping that he had finally put it all together after coming off his career best season in 2021 where he saw 129 total targets and finished as the WR12 overall. Unfortunately, what we saw that season is probably the ceiling for Williams, and it will be even more difficult for him to return to this place with the addition of Johnston. 

However, as I will get to, Johnston is a pretty raw prospect and could (not saying will) take some time to adjust to his role. With this, Williams has shown he’s a trusted, close commodity to Justin Herbert, as he will always be a candidate for big plays and a “boom week.” As the kids say, “F-it, Mike Williams is down there somewhere.” 

If Williams is able to stay healthy, he should see important metrics like deep ball targets, red zone targets, and total routes increase to about where he was hovering in 2021. And with the Kellen Moore field stretching magic, his average depth of target and yards per reception will only improve his efficiency week to week, as well as give him more scoring opportunities. 

When he’s on the field, Williams is an awesome asset to have in your lineup. While the ride isn’t always your favorite because of the boom/bust factor, he still finished last season with more fantasy points per game than guys like Terry McLaurin, Michael Pittman Jr., Brandon Aiyuk, DK Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, Marquise Brown, Chris Olave, and Garrett Wilson

There’s a lot of ways to interpret points per game, but none of the previous players are even remotely close to how cheap Mike Williams is. While Williams’ role is a little more up in the air, he can be had for a cheaper price than Keenan Allen and offer great weekly upside for your roster, especially for those in leagues with multiple flex spots. 

If you can’t tell by now, I’m all-in on the Chargers offense! 

Quentin Johnston | Wide Receiver | Los Angeles Chargers | 21-Years-Old

Consensus Dynasty Rank: WR28 | Dynasty Startup ADP: 21 | My Dynasty Rank: WR:22

2022: Drafted 21st Overall | TCU | 6’ 3” 208 lbs. 

Johnston projects to have an interesting rookie season, as he has reportedly already won the WR3 role for the Chargers. On one hand, his physical and athletic ability gives him potential to compete and dominate from the jump, but on the other, he isn’t quite all the way there as a prospect because he is kind of a mixed bag as a route runner and can be awkward at the catch point. 

Johnston is a locomotive. Like, he is an actual train when he is coming downhill at defenders with the football in his hands. He is tremendous at just stepping through tacklers as if they don’t even exist, as well as flashing his patented spin move to find extra yards.

I think Johnston is going to become the Chargers most versatile receiver early. We will see him lined up at each receiving position and moved all over the formation, as he is going to be their most deadly weapon after the catch, so he will be put into situations to showcase that ability. For those who didn’t know, he led the FBS in yards after the catch per reception, according to Derek Brown of Fantasy Pros. While he doesn’t possess the ludicrous versatility of Deebo Samuel, he has shown me flashes of him with the ball in his hands, which is outrageous for a man of his size. 

We knew Johnston would out-pace Josh Palmer in training camp, but it’ll be interesting to see if he’s able to crack the number two spot on the depth chart for the two receiver packages. Something working in his favor is the injury history of both Allen and Williams – both of which will likely command those spots early on – as well as his unique skill set the others don’t possess. 

Johnston’s Reception Perception profile showcases him as someone who has room to grow, but has a pretty fierce upside. For each route he has specialized, there’s another that he badly needs to work on. Matt Harmon has concerns about his ability against zone coverage, but was pleasantly surprised with his success rate against man and press coverage. 

Overall, Harmon seems more worried about him as a technician, but I I see Johnston as a little safer because of the physical tools that I’m in love with. Additionally, I think Kellen Moore can help scheme him open until those route running chops find their way up to par. There are dudes all around Johnston that can play, which should definitely make his adjustment to the NFL easier. 

However, something concerning to me is that he’s kind of awkward at the catch point. He is addicted to body catching and isn’t tremendous at finding success in contested situations. If he can refine his separation ability and become smoother catching the football, which I think he will, there’s no reason he can’t be a star in this league. 

From a dynasty perspective, Johnston is in this unique spot that you can gamble on and win big time. If you see his upside, you can easily talk yourself into paying up for him. However, as the consensus WR28, it won’t cost you nearly as much right now as it will after his first few games in the NFL. If you’re trying to trade for Johnston in August or even later, you likely will have missed your window. 

Sooner than later, Johnston will climb this depth chart and truly be seen as the team’s best receiving asset, which his dynasty value already reflects. As early as next season, there’s a scenario where he’s Justin Herbert’s number one option in an offense that leads the league in pass attempts, again and again and again… While he’s currently my WR22, I’m treating Johnston as someone who could easily jump into my top 10-14 by next season. He feels like an easy buy-low candidate before breaking out. 

As I have stated again and again throughout this piece, I’m all-in on the Los Angeles Chargers this year and the weapons in their offense. Each of these three receivers are at a different point in their career, yet each can easily be had from managers in your league at affordable prices. Whether contending or rebuilding, you need to locate the one that matches your window and trade for them!