Keenan Allen looked like a bona fide superstar, and Stevie Johnson and Ladarius Green both found the end zone. The three combined for 26 of San Diego’s 35 receptions and helped the Chargers notch a 33-28 comeback victory. Here is a look at the final statistics for the pass-catchers:
The fact San Diego fell behind by three scores early certainly helped the receivers put up numbers because it forced the offense to throw. However, Philip Rivers threw for more than 4,000 yards in six of the past seven seasons, and his presence alone ensures the receivers will get plenty of looks even if the team is ahead in future games.
San Diego drafted running back Melvin Gordon this year, but he only averaged 3.6 yards per carry Sunday and will need some time to adjust to the speed and talent of NFL defenses.
Considering the Chargers were 30th in the league in total rushing yards a season ago, they will likely continue to air it out as Gordon gradually develops into more of a sure thing. That is enticing news for fantasy owners when it comes to the team’s receivers.
Allen in particular stands out, especially with 17 targets and career highs in catches and receiving yards. This is his third year with Rivers, so there is a level of comfort in place. Allen is also a red-zone threat at 6’2” with solid speed and tallied a combined 1,829 receiving yards the last two years.
Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times pointed out it was business as usual for Allen this year:
The former California Golden Bear is the Chargers’ No. 1 receiver and a must-start in fantasy.
As for Stevie Johnson, fantasy owners know the potential for big numbers is there. Johnson notched three straight 1,000-yard seasons with the Buffalo Bills from 2010-12, but he only posted 597 receiving yards in 2013 and 435 in 2014.
A talented quarterback like Rivers can help the veteran revitalize his career, especially since he will face single coverage most of the season with Allen. Ross Tucker of NBC Sports Network noted Johnson also fits in well with the Chargers’ quick-hitting aerial attack:
Ladarius Green was the other impressive San Diego receiver, but fantasy owners should not overreact to a single week of production.
He tallied a combined 658 receiving yards the last three seasons and never reached 400 in an individual campaign. Green has always been overshadowed in the Chargers offense and likely will be in 2015 even though he contributed in a big way Sunday.
It is important to keep in mind San Diego figures to have more pass-catchers rack up numbers as the year continues, which will cut into Green’s value.
Antonio Gates is suspended for the first four games, but he will take some targets away from all the receivers when he returns. That is particularly concerning for fantasy owners counting on Green, since Allen and Johnson have track records on their side and are starters on the depth chart.
Sunday was also a quiet day for Malcom Floyd and Jacoby Jones with only one combined catch. That could change in the future, and running back Danny Woodhead also got involved in the passing attack with four catches. Woodhead had 76 catches during his last healthy season in 2013 and will vulture targets from the receivers.
The bottom line is Allen is a must-start every week in this offense, but proceed with caution with Johnson. The former Buffalo Bills star saw his production tail off the last two years, and fantasy owners need more than a single week of numbers with the Chargers to completely trust him in 2015.
As for Green, it is best to simply monitor his progress in deep leagues as a potential flier at this point. Floyd figures to notch more than a single reception in future games, and the return of Gates will give Rivers another threat in the red zone. That could mean the end of Green’s potential as a reliable fantasy option.
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