Chargers and Broncos fantasy previews

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Nothing irritates fantasy owners more than an unresolved Mike Shanahan running back derby. Denver can throw anyone behind their flawless zone-blocking offensive line, and they would be able to rush for over 1,300 yards. Well, almost anyone. But too often Shanahan decides on his starter after fantasy leagues draft, or, even worse, splits up carries between multiple backs.

The San Diego Chargers have no such problems deciding who to hand it off to. LaDainian Tomlinson was the NFL's leading rusher last year. Oh yeah, he's also the best player in the history of fantasy football. But don't just grab Tomlinson with the number one overall pick and move onto another team. San Diego is as loaded as any team in the NFL with useful fantasy players.

Quarterback
Chargers- Phillip Rivers
Broncos- Jay Cutler
Stats- Rivers, Cutler

Rivers and Cutler are two of the NFL's finest young quarterbacks, but neither lived up to lofty expectations last season.

Rivers regressed as much as any quarterback last year in terms of fantasy stats, throwing one less touchdown and six more interceptions than he did in 2006. But as he enters his fifth pro season and his third as a starter, Rivers could be ready to make a big leap. He certainly has the weapons around him to break out this season. The only question is whether coach Norv Turner will let him throw enough to pile up big fantasy numbers.

Cutler finds himself in a similar predicament. The Broncos will always be a run-first team. Unlike Rivers, Cutler isn't surrounded by great offensive players. Cutler's best receiver, Brandon Marshall, who caught over 100 passes last year and gained more than 1,300 receiving, is suspended for the first three games of the regular season. Denver has few weapons after Marshall. So even though Cutler continues to draw rave reviews, a statistical breakout may be another year away.

Running back
Chargers- LaDainian Tomlinson
Broncos- Selvin Young, Andre Hall
Stats- Tomlinson, Young

Tomlinson is ranked nearly unanimously as fantasy football's top player heading into 2008. But for as great as he's been, don't forget that running backs tend to regress once they near 30. Tomlinson turned 29 in June. Still, he's one of the greatest backs of all-time and should be the number one pick in every league until he proves he can't handle such a huge workload.

I'm not sure if Denver coach Mike Shanahan is generally considered arrogant, but after experiencing success on the ground with virtually every running back he's ever had, Shanahan certainly looks that way as he heads into this season with two former undrafted free agents. Selvin Young looked sharp as a rookie in 2007, and could be ready for a big year. Still, there is a reason he wasn't drafted, and few fantasy experts rank him in the top 15 running backs.

Wide Receivers
Chargers- Chris Chambers, Vincent Jackson
Broncos- Brandon Marshall, Darrell Jackson
Stats- Chambers, V. Jackson, Marshall, D. Jackson

Though tight end Antonio Gates is San Diego's top passing option, Chambers, who was acquired from the Dolphins at the Chargers Week 7 bye week, has been a receiving threat in the NFL for a long time. The good news is that now he actually gets to play with a real quarterback. Chambers finally started to get comfortable last year when the Chargers hit the playoffs, catching 16 passes, gaining 278 yards and scoring once in San Diego's three postseason games. He is a consensus top twenty fantasy receiver.

Brandon Marshall would rank higher than the top twenty if not for a three game suspension that will begin his season. It's hard to put up big stats when you aren't playing, so Marshall may go undrafted in some leagues, or will be a late pick in others. Marshall just had too many wacky things happen to him this offseason to be considered dependable, but may be worth the risk as a free agent waiver wire pickup.

Tight End
Chargers- Antonio Gates
Broncos- Daniel Graham, Tony Scheffler
Stats- Gates, Graham, Scheffler

Scheffler and Graham are as good as any tight end combo in the NFL, but combos are no good for fantasy owners. Graham is currently ranked as the Broncos' top tight end on their depth chart, but it's Scheffler who scored five times and gained over 500 yards last season, his second in the NFL. Keep an eye on both, but don't draft either.

Gates is one of the most explosive tight ends in NFL history and ranks one or two in the category heading into fantasy drafts. He's been incredibly consistent the last four seasons, gaining over 920 in all of them, and always scoring nine or more touchdowns. With Tomlinson as the primary focus for every defense, Gates will continue to put up big stats.

Defense

The Chargers make enough big plays to be considered one of the top fantasy defenses. If you're league also gets points for kick return yards, few are better than Antonio Cromartie and Darren Sproles. Grab San Diego's D if you can, just not too early.

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1 Comments

Ricky,

You're dead on about San Diego being ripe for a fantasy football team this year. Obviously, LT is The Man, but the Chargers D was built for fantasy football. This year’s defense is comprised of essentially the same cast that led the NFL in interceptions (30) and ranked in the Top 5 in sacks (42), points allowed per game (17), and defensive TD’s (5) in 2007.

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Matt Wood is a web editor for suntimes.com and editor of CenterstageChicago.com. He is also a contributor for satirical sports publication The Heckler. Have a fantasy question? E-mail him.

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This page contains a single entry by Ricky O'Donnell published on August 14, 2008 12:18 AM.

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