Outside of Keenan Allen, Is There a Chargers Receiver Worth Owning in Fantasy Football?
When I first started playing fantasy football as a kid, I would use depth charts as one of my main methods of ranking players. "This guy is a starter, he's good, I'll take him," was my methodology, which helped me wind up with some awful teams, usually loaded with Buccaneers (my favorite team growing up) and without any Cowboys (because who likes them?).
But even the most novice of fantasy players these days knows that flipping to the depth chart section of your fantasy preview magazine or having rosters open on your computer during your draft doesn't actually help pick the best team. Opportunity trumps position on a depth chart, especially when it comes to pass-catchers.
This is especially true in San Diego, where the second wide receiver spot would seemingly be an attractive fantasy prospect. Playing with Philip Rivers, who returned to his previously dominant status last year, finishing as the third-best quarterback in our Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, would be a great opportunity for whoever lines up across from Keenan Allen for the Chargers.
But is there a real opportunity for any of the "other" wideouts in San Diego to find fantasy success in 2014? Let's take a look at the numbers.
The Chargers were one of the most run-heavy teams in the NFL last season, finishing with the seventh-lowest pass-to-run ratio. Right off the bat, you've lost some of your potential targets for a backup receiver in that offense.
It doesn't get any better when considering target distribution. The Chargers threw to wide receivers on only 47% of their targets, leading to 57% of their Net Expected Points production. And of that wide receiver production, over 40% was from Keenan Allen, meaning less than 60% of that 47% went to all other wideouts for Mike McCoy's team.
Vincent Brown and Eddie Royal were the ones seeing the most looks outside of Allen at the receiver position, but their portion of the volume within the offense paled in comparison to that of tight end Antonio Gates and running back Danny Woodhead.
Malcom Floyd only played in two games before suffering a severe neck injury which caused him to sit out for most of the season, but he's been practicing fully this year and has played in the preseason and seems ready to return to his role as a playmaker for the Chargers offense.
As a result, Floyd would theoretically be the Chargers wideout to own should adding a second San Diego receiver be a viable strategy. So what makes a receiver a viable option on a team with so many other receiving options?
Finding Pay Dirt
This should come as no surprise, but scoring touchdowns is the best way for a non-primary receiver on a diverse offense to become fantasy relevant. And while it's difficult to predict touchdowns from players with limited workloads, we can at least get a sense as to which players have the potential to stand out for fantasy purposes based on their chance of finding the end zone.
Among the top-36 players at the receiver position in fantasy football last year, 9.6% of catches were touchdowns. Compare that to the next 36 players, who converted only 7.7% of their receptions for scores. Getting into the end zone is important for fantasy receivers. This should be quite obvious.
So how do the San Diego receivers stack up? For their careers, here are the touchdown-to-reception percentages for the three guys battling for the second wideout spot for the team.
Royal's percentage went up drastically after last season, when he found the end zone eight times on only 47 receptions. That bump raised his percentage by over 2%, but still doesn't put him on the same level as borderline fantasy-relevant receivers.
Floyd, on the other hand, has always found himself near the end zone. The incredibly tall, yet surprisingly athletic wideout scores at an impressive clip, which means he's the most likely of the backups in San Diego to make an impact with Keenan Allen hogging most of the spotlight.
In fact, his best seasons in the NFL trump the best of Royal by a long shot, as on a per-catch and per-target basis, Floyd is nearly twice as efficient as his diminutive teammate. Floyd doesn't have as many catches in his career as Royal, yet still has amassed over 140 more Reception NEP since entering the NFL.
Oh, and you don't want Vincent Brown. At all. Just trust me on this one.
Evaluating Malcom Floyd's Fantasy Value
According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Floyd is barely being drafted in 14-team PPR mocks held on their site, and not being drafted at all in 12-team standard mocks. This means that, for all intents and purposes, Floyd is free for the taking in fake football leagues at the moment.
And if he plays most or all of the season starting ahead of Brown and Royal, he should get some of the 22 red zone targets they'll leave behind. Danny Woodhead, Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates were three of the four most-targeted Chargers in the red zone last year, but a quarter of the looks inside the 20 went to receivers other than Allen, something that Floyd will likely see thanks to his size advantage over defenders.
Floyd has always been overshadowed by Antonio Gates (and Vincent Jackson while he was still in San Diego) for end zone targets, and the same will likely be true in 2014 as Gates, Allen and Ladarius Green will take a majority of those chances. But Eddie Royal was still used heavily in the red zone last season, and there's more than an outside chance that Philip Rivers will look at his taller veteran receiver in Floyd this season when the team is trying to score.
So don't expect a flex-worthy play every week, but be aware of the upside that Malcom Floyd presents. Forgotten due to injury, the towering touchdown-maker for the Chargers should be on your watch list if he starts the season across from Keenan Allen in the San Diego offense.