Early 2016 Projections: The San Diego Chargers, or Why Keenan Allen Is Worth His New Contract

Now that the draft is over we can starting doing some early 2016 fantasy football projections. Today: the San Diego Chargers, including a Keenan Allen projection that shows why he is worth his new contract.

First things first, using our staff projection machine I set some baseline team-wide assumptions:

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I just went with the league median for average scoring margin, as I don’t project the 2016 Chargers to be a particularly good or bad team. For pass tendency (how often they pass relative to expectations) and pace tendency (how many plays they execute relative to expectations) I went with the mean of their 2013, 2014, and 2015 seasons, the entirety of the Mike McCoy era.

Next, quarterback Philip Rivers:

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For Rivers’ sack rate, interception rate, percentage of team rushing attempts, and yards per carry, I again went with the means of the 2013-2015 seasons. Rivers’ projections are also heavily informed by receiver projections, which I will go into in more detail below.

Charles Kleinheksel recently identified Rivers as one of four QBs that are overvalued based on our staff projections. I have Rivers projected for more than a point per game more than the composite projection cited in that article.1 I’m still in the process of projecting teams, but I expect Rivers will end up as a top-12 QB in my projections. I currently have him ranked ahead of trendy options like Carson Palmer and Tyrod Taylor. I am more inclined to agree with Joshua Lake’s optimistic assessment.

Onto the wide receivers:

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For Allen’s target market share, I just went with the share he was getting prior to the game where he got injured, which was 26.8 percent of the team’s targets. I also went with all of 2015, including the game where he got injured, for his yards per target and catch rate. Allen’s 2015 TD rate was just a touch below the league median for a WR1, so I went ahead and bumped it up there.

While we don’t have exact values for Allen’s contract yet, it is reported to be worth about as much on an annual basis as the contracts of Vincent Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Jeremy Maclin, based on Over The Cap’s values. Given this projected usage and that Allen is only 24 years old, that seems like a steal. Allen is projected for 158 targets, which would have tied Odell Beckham for seventh in the NFL last season. He is projected for 18.4 PPR fantasy points per game, which would have made him the WR10 in per game scoring last season. That’s notably less than the 20.4 FPPG he actually had less season, but still good enough that you should be happy to draft Allen in the second round.

For Stevie Johnson’s target share, I went with his share over the first four weeks of the season. That was the only chunk of time when both he and Allen were healthy. That gave him 17.1 percent of the targets. But I later downgraded that by 1.2 percent, as San Diego was the first team I had projected for more than 100 percent of the targets once I was finished, which seems like a positive sign for Philip Rivers. But I had to pull a few targets away from someone, and Johnson’s market share took a modest ding. I set Johnson’s yards per target, catch rate, and TD rate to their 2015 levels.

Initially I gave Travis Benjamin 17 percent of the team’s targets, though I also decreased that by 1.2 percent to 15.8 percent. To come up with the initial estimate, I not only looked at Benjamin’s own history but the history of Malcom Floyd, who Benjamin seems suited to replace. Floyd had 16 percent of the targets in 2013 and 2014 and Benjamin had 20 percent of the targets for a Cleveland team without much competition in 2015. Seventeen percent seemed like a reasonable compromise, and the projection is still in line with Floyd’s historical usage after the deduction. I gave Benjamin’s catch rate a slight improvement since Rivers represents an upgrade in QB play. For similar reasons, I bumped up his yards per target to the 75th percentile mark league-wide for a WR3, which ends up being less than Floyd’s yards per target from 2012 to 2014. I also went with the 75th percentile mark for TD rate, which was reasonably close to his own past performance. Benjamin is only projected for 10.6 PPR FPPG, which would seem to make him overpriced at his current 9th round ADP.

Next up, the tight ends:

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For all of Antonio Gates’ settings, I just went with the means of his 2013-2015 numbers. I then also decreased his target share by 1.2 percent. This gives him a projection of just under 11.0 PPG, which would have made him a high-end TE2 on a per game basis last season. Gates is currently being drafted as the TE12, so he’s more-or-less fairly valued. He certainly has the potential to outscore this projection by scoring more TDs.

I set Hunter Henry’s target share and catch rate to the league medians for a TE2. I set his yards per target and TD rate to the 75th percentile mark, as Henry is a good prospect and Rivers is an above average QB.

Finally, the RBs:

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For most of Danny Woodhead’s settings I just went with the means of his 2013 and 2015 season. I left out his injury-shortened 2014 as his usage wasn’t at all consistent with the other two seasons, which is likely just a small sample issue. I bumped his yards per carry up to the 25th percentile for a RB1.

For Melvin Gordon, I started with his 2015 numbers and then tweaked a few of them. I sets his yards per carry to the median for a RB1, and did the same for his share of rushing attempts. I set his TD rate and yards per target to the median for a RB2.

Woodhead unsurprisingly gets the more favorable projection here, but it should be noted that neither has a very strong outlook. Woodhead is projected for 13.0 FPPG, well below the 15.3 he had last season. That would have tied him with T.J. Yeldon as the RB18 on a per game basis last season. Woodhead is currently being drafted as the RB20, so you’re not getting much of a discount.

My final thought is that since I have so many targets projected to specific players, the odds that they all live up to their receiving projections are very low. Allen can get less usage and still be very valuable, so I’m not worried about him. Johnson is valued well below Benjamin, so he seems like a fine target as well. But I’ll mostly be staying away from Benjamin, Gates, and Woodhead, as they have little-to-no room to underperform these projections and still return value.

  1. The PPR output listed above and the projection cited in Charles’ article are using different scoring systems.  (back)
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