2014 Outlook: Last year qualified as Mathews' breakout season, as he set career highs in carries (285) and yards (1,255). But it also provided more of the same: He suffered a high ankle sprain late in the year and was a shell of himself in the playoffs. And now that the Chargers have signed Donald Brown to go along with Danny Woodhead, they have a wealth of alternatives if (and when) Mathews gets hurt again. But there's no debating which San Diego running back has the most value when healthy. Despite less-than-perfect footwork at the line, Mathews offers a rare power/speed combination. If you draft him, just be sure to own some pretty good backups too.
2014 Outlook: Allen compiled just three catches in the Chargers' first three games, and his rookie season looked like it would be a complete waste. But then the fireworks began. He shot up to borderline WR1 status after notching 138 points the remainder of the season, which ranked 10th among wide receivers over that span. Allen doesn't do much on stretch vertical passes (only 65 yards at that depth), but he makes up for it on passes that travel less than 20 yards (981 yards, tied for eighth among WRs), which happens to be where QB Philip Rivers thrives.
2014 Outlook: Life isn't fair for Woody. His first season in San Diego, he did everything the Chargers asked. He became the league's No. 2 receiving RB with 76 grabs. Early in the year, he took over for a sputtering Ryan Mathews in short yardage. And all told, he found the end zone eight times. Then this winter, his team spent sizable free agent dollars on Donald Brown. Where does that leave this mighty mite? Presumably he's still the main pass catcher in this backfield, but will he come close to 106 carries again? Nobody knows for sure. As it stands now, it seems Woodhead will have to wait for the inevitable Mathews injury before he'll be worth more than a flex in standard leagues.
2014 Outlook: The fact that the Chargers have Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead signed on the cheap makes their acquisition of Brown this winter a curious one. Ronnie Brown was the third-string back in San Diego last year, and he had 53 touches. But you don't pay Donald Brown $4 million guaranteed for 53 touches. So how will this shake out? Ronnie Brown was an elite pass blocker; Donald Brown is, um, not. Will the Chargers trust him on third down? Will they mix him in sparingly until the brittle Mathews gets hurt? Or will they make him part of a legit three-headed monster, rendering each of these RBs unpredictable on a week-to-week basis?
2014 Outlook: Mike McCoy's short-passing offense didn't hold back Rivers on downfield throws, as his 120 fantasy points on vertical passes ranked third in the league. This helped Rivers reach at least 18 total fantasy points (a good gauge for whether a guy is top five) eight times last season. He's flaky for sure, finishing 21st in fantasy points in 2012 and sixth last year. But his numbers in year one with McCoy were a staggering improvement. And with second-year WR Keenan Allen emerging as a go-to receiver, you could do worse than Rivers as your starter in deep leagues.
2014 Outlook: Novak has been hounded by inconsistency his entire career. Even last season, his best as a pro, he alternated between single- and double-digit fantasy point performances seven times, more than any other kicker in the league. On the plus side, he did lead in fantasy points on field goals of less than 40 yards (69) and was 11-for-11 on kicks of 40 or longer. The good news for Novak owners -- and perhaps bad news for Chargers fans -- is that San Diego had the NFL's highest percentage of drives that ended in a field goal, 20.2 percent. If you can't get an elite kicker, Novak is a solid fallback. Just buckle in for a bumpy ride.
2014 Outlook: Last season Gates finished third among tight ends in receiving yards, third in targets and fourth in catches. So why isn't he an elite fantasy option anymore? Because his understudy is ready. Ladarius Green is a decade younger and several steps faster than Gates, and he's learned at the foot of the master for two seasons. Plus, after years of leading TEs in average yards at the catch, Gates is now near the bottom of the pack. At 34, his legs have simply left him. We can envision one valedictory season for Gates in which he shares the job with Green. But the end is near.
2014 Outlook: Through Week 11 last season, Green hadn't played more than 21 snaps in a game. The rest of the season he averaged 36.5. He had only six catches for 147 yards in those games, but you could see his rawness wearing off. Now that Green has learned the finer points of route-running from Antonio Gates, his physical freakiness can take over. At 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, he runs a 4.53 40. (Yes, you read that right.) He won't completely supplant Gates right away, but if we were drafting one Chargers tight end for upside, it would be Green.
2014 Outlook: The Chargers' D/ST went from No. 4 in fantasy points in 2012 to tied for 28th last season. The difference? Two years ago, San Diego scored 7 defensive TDs. Last season it scored 1. Good fantasy owners know defensive scores are fluky and usually unrepeatable. Unfortunately, this unit can't hang its hat on superb talent either. The pass-rushing tandem of Melvin Ingram and Dwight Freeney is enticing, but can they stay healthy? Young DEs Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes have shown flashes, but can they put it all together? Safety Eric Weddle is great in the back end, but will he get better help from his corners? There are too many questions here to warrant your investment.