The L.A. Chargers have some talented fantasy players on their defense. In this article I have ordered them into tiers to more clearly show who to target in IDP formats
The Chargers are fortunate to have both a talented defense and a talented DC in Gus Bradley. They have struck gold in recent years with early draft picks such as Joey Bosa and Derwin James. They have also unearthed late-round gems like Desmond King. Adding new talent to a core of quality veterans headlined by Melvin Ingram and Casey Hayward has allowed this unit to remain competitive.
Like all teams they do have weaknesses. In 2018 they struggled at DT, LB and they didn’t have a natural fit at deep safety either. Those issues proved costly as the Chargers were exposed in the divisional round playoff loss to the Pats, as Sony Michel & co. exploited a porous Chargers run defense to the tune of 150+ yards.
The Chargers have since placed an emphasis on rectifying some of these weaknesses. The selections of Jerry Tillery and Nasir Adderley should provide immediate upgrades at what were previously weak spots. Perrymans return from injury certainly helps the run D, as should the addition of Thomas Davis. The Chargers also drafted a couple of intriguing players at LB who add depth to what was a weak unit at times.
Lets take a look at these Chargers IDP tiers.
Tier 1 – Draft Targets
DE Joey Bosa
2nd game back from injury, 2nd sack of the day for Joey Bosa
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) November 25, 2018
2018 Stats: 23 Tackles (18 solo), 6.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 1 FR in 7 games.
Sadly Bosa missed the first 9 games of the 2018 season with a bruised bone in his foot. Frustratingly, it wasn’t immediately apparent that he would miss as much time as he eventually did. Nevertheless, he performed well upon his return, registering at least a half sack in all but 2 of the 7 games he played.
In the two seasons prior, Bosa had already established himself as a premier fantasy DE. He even set a new record for most sacks recorded in a players first 20 career games. His total of 19 sacks surpassing Aldon Smith‘s previous mark of 18.5.
The one thing holding Bosa back has been health. Despite reports of how strong and healthy he looked in recent practices, Bosa’s recent comments gave cause for concern for the 2019 season, too. He had this to say:
“It’s not causing a limp or anything, it’s just there. It’s just something I notice. It’s been getting better all offseason, so I could definitely see by camp or maybe even next year where it kind of starts fading away. Once you get into season, it gets pretty intense, so we’ll see.”
The injury clearly remains a worry until proven otherwise. The 5.5 sacks in 7 games last year was proof enough for some that he could play through the discomfort. How he starts and ends 2018 will be telling.
2019 stat projections: 66 tackles (48 solo), 13 sacks, 3 FFs, 2 PDs
DB Derwin James
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 30, 2018
2018 stats: 105 tackles (75 solo), 4.5 TFL, 13 Passes Defended, 3 INTs, 3.5 Sacks.
James is the no.1 Safety in the IDP Guys consensus rankings and for good reason. In what was only his rookie year he was hands down the Chargers best defender. He took the league by storm, justifying the pre-draft hype and leaving many confused as to why he fell to the Chargers at number 17 in the draft.
He lined up everywhere. D line, LB, FS, Slot CB, Outside CB. He fulfilled a variety of roles on a Chargers team bereft of good safeties and healthy linebackers. No matter what James was asked to do, he excelled at it.
A few things happened in the 2019 draft which may affect James going forward. Perhaps most notably, the Chargers drafted Nasir Adderley at Safety. Adderley should provide the Chargers with a quality option at deep safety, a position they have filled in recent years with players not ideally suited to the role. What does this mean for James? He may not be asked to play deep as often, something he did on 220 of his 1219 overall snaps in 2018 (per PFF). Deep safety is generally less valuable in fantasy terms, so this is more likely to help James value, if anything.
The Chargers also drafted additional linebackers. In time this may affect how much they ask of James in a LB role, but none of those LBs are likely to make a meaningful contribution in 2019. Besides, if the Chargers have any sense they will continue to use James in multiple roles to take advantage of his versatility.
2019 stat projections: 103 tackles (69 solo), 5 TFL, 11 Passes Defended, 3 INTs, 4 Sacks, 1 FF
Tier 2 – Depth Players
DE Melvin Ingram
2018 stats: 43 Tackles (28 solo), 11.5 TFL, 7 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR, 3 PDs and 1 INT.
At this point last season an argument could be made for Ingram in Tier 1 of the Chargers IDP tiers. He had a solid 2018 season but his numbers did drop off slightly from previous years. In comparison to the 2018 numbers above, 2017 saw him register 56 Tackles (43 solo), 17.5 TFL, 10.5 sacks, 1 FF, 2 FR and 1 PD. A cursory glance at his total hits and hurries over the two years suggests the difference between the seasons was negligible, but he played 151 more snaps in 2018 and rushed the passer on 97 more snaps, so the drop-off in stats is a legitimate concern.
Ingram is one of those players who has been around a little longer than most realize, he turned 30 in April. Clearly plenty of players continue to have success well into their 30’s so that isn’t a reason for concern just yet unless he continues to show a decline in numbers. Owners in dynasty and keeper formats should pay particularly close attention how he performs relative to previous years.
One thing is clear. A healthier Bosa and the addition of Tillery should provide Ingram with every opportunity to produce. I predict his production may be somewhere between the levels of 2017 and 2018.
2019 stat projections: 49 Tackles (32 solo), 13 TFL, 9 sacks, 1 FF, 2 PDs.
Tier 3 – Rotation Players
2018 stats.: 51 Tackles (30 solo), 1.5 TFL, 2 PDs, 1 INT in 9 games.
Perryman signed a contract extension in March 2019 which should see him remain with the Chargers for another 2 years. It was a low-key move but could prove to be one of the most important.
Perryman is a difference-maker when healthy. An extremely physical player, he can really impose his will on a game. This distinguishes him from the majority of the other linebackers on the roster, as the Chargers now seem to favor lighter, faster guys such as Kyzir White, Drue Tranquill and Jatavis Brown.
Two things may hinder Perryman’s future value. First and foremost, health (do I sound like a broken record?!). He has never started more than 11 games in a season. He has appeared in only 28 games in the last 3 seasons.
Secondly, the Chargers do have better coverage linebackers. In obvious pass situations, whether Perryman remains on the field enough to put up solid fantasy numbers remains to be seen. He played 72% of snaps in 2018 when healthy.
2019 stat projections: 87 Tackles (59 solo), 4 TFL, 3 PDs, 1 INT, 1 Sack, 2 FF.
DT Jerry Tillery
2018 Stats: N/A – Rookie.
I am a huge Tillery fan, I think he has elite potential. I’m surprised he didn’t warrant even more attention ahead of the draft. Part of that may have been due to the strength of the DI class. Part of it may have been because of minor character concerns.
That may lead you to wonder why I am ranking him in tier 3 of the Chargers IDP tiers. I think he has potential to be in tier 2 by this time next season, possibly even tier 1 soon after. It is just a fact that rookie DTs often don’t reach their potential in their first year. I suspect the Chargers will ease him in, expanding his role over the course of the season.
A gradual approach on the Chargers part may be justified. It has been said before that Tillery is a little raw at times. Lance Zierlein noted during his pre-draft analysis that Tillery was “Raw with his hands and hasn’t learned to properly weaponize them in his rush attack”.
If a ‘raw’ Tillery is good enough to earn him the top pass rushing grade of all DI linemen in the 2018 draft, it does make you wonder what he’s capable of if he can refine his technique a little more.
Tillery has marginal value in seasonal formats. Owners in dynasty and keeper leagues that require DTs should make acquiring Tillery a priority.
2019 projected stats: 28 Tackles (17 solo), 3 TFL, 4.5 sacks.
CB Desmond King
2018 stats: 62 Tackles (47 solo), 10 PDs, 3 INTs (1 INT TD) 1 FF. 23 Punt Returns for 318 yards and 1 TD. 22 Kick Returns for 522 yards.
Desmond King has turned heads since entering the league in 2017. He doesn’t quite have the name recognition of CBs taken earlier in the same draft such as Marshon Lattimore, Tre’Davious White and Marlon Humphrey, but King has been excellent value considering he was taken in the 5th round.
King predominantly plays as a slot CB, registering more tackles but less PDs than his 2017 draft contemporaries. However, he has added value as a return man, a role he has performed admirably in his 2 years in the league, firstly with kick returns in 2017 and then both kick and punt returns in 2018.
Check out this return vs the Steelers:
— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) November 4, 2018
I had a tough time choosing a Chargers IDP tier for King, it largely depends on your league scoring settings and positional requirements. If you are in a league that requires CB positions then King is attractive due to his tackle numbers. If your league also rewards return points, there is a strong case for him being the no.1 CB right now.
2019 projected stats: 66 Tackles (49 solo), 13 PDs, 2 INTs, 1 FF. 26 Punt Returns for 299 yards. 25 Kick Returns for 539 yards and 1 TD.
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