After leaving the comfortable confines of Foxboro, running back Danny Woodhead has joined the San Diego Chargers. What was once a roster chalk-full of fantasy superstars is now a roster that is highly regarded as one of the worst in football. However, whether the Chargers are awful in 2013 or not doesn’t matter at all to me. The member of this football club that I am most excited about is Woodhead, who is sporting a ton of fantasy value based on his current ADP. Here’s why fantasy owners need to target this guy, especially in PPR formats.
While the Chargers have two other backs on their roster that will certainly compete for playing time, that isn’t stopping me from grabbing Woodhead in as many leagues as possible. New head coach Mike McCoy stated that he will “play the hot hand” when it comes to the team’s running back situation. “I’ve been raised with (Denver head coach) John Fox in this league,” McCoy told FoxSports.com. “We always played with a couple of backs. It doesn’t matter who’s in there. Keep them fresh. That’s the big thing. Play the hot hand while you roll. If you’ve got to tap out for a play or two, we’ll put the next guy in.” Woodhead, meanwhile, has served as a change-of-pace guy throughout his entire career, so this will be nothing new to him. However, if he is producing, he won’t necessarily come off of the field. The beautiful thing about Woodhead is that he doesn’t need a ton of carries to be productive. Last season, he only carried the ball just 76 times, but still managed to finish the year as a top-25 fantasy running back. Now, with the assumption that he will see even more carries in 2013, there really is no reason to believe he can’t do it again, especially since the running back position is shallower this year. However, with Woodhead, you aren’t usually targeting him for carries, as much as for touches. Yes, there is a difference. Woodhead is a terrific receiver out of the backfield, and considering Ryan Mathews was outplayed as the third down back by Ronnie Brown last year, there is no reason to believe Woodhead won’t be the guy on third down. A guy who caught 40 balls in 2012, Woodhead will be heavily involved in the passing game this season. The Chargers are expected to pass the ball a lot this year, and with Philip Rivers under center, Woodhead should see a ton of targets. Rivers is no longer a prolific deep ball passer, but more of a dink-and-dunk type of guy who checks it down to the running backs. Woodhead owners will greatly benefit, especially when the Chargers are playing catch up.
Mike McCoy’s Offense
Like I said, the Chargers are expected to throw the ball a good amount in 2013, especially considering they will likely be behind in a ton of games this year. Looking back at some of the offenses McCoy orchestrated over the years, there is no reason to believe Rivers won’t be airing the ball out. Back when he was the offensive coordinator of the Broncos, certain quarterbacks were successful under McCoy, and more importantly, they threw the football a solid amount.
*Orton missed three games in 2010
Not too shabby passing totals, which obviously favors Woodhead, who will be in on passing downs and the two-minute offense for the Chargers this season. And, of course, a guy by the name of Tim Tebow (gasp!) actually threw the ball well during that magical run in 2011. During that season, McCoy’s offense targeted his running backs 18.4 percent of the time, as well as 14.4 percent of the time last season with Manning under center. Considering that McCoy already came out and said that he is high on Woodhead and that he will play a “big role” in that offense, I’m high on him. And consider this. Last season, the Chargers saw 30 percent of their total targets go to their running backs, which had to do with an atrocious offensive line and Rivers being under center. Neither have changed, and with McCoy in town, I expect similar target totals, or maybe even more, this year.
Remember when Mathews was one of the top fantasy running backs? Yeah, neither do I. Still, as bad and fragile as he has been, Mathews is still the starting back in San Diego … for now. I mean, everyone understands that Mathews had more broken collarbones (two) than touchdowns (1) last year. The guy has only played three seasons, but has already missed time in each year due to injury. If Mathews is forced to miss anytime in 2013, I’m not throwing away the idea that Woodhead runs away with the job, while Mathews becomes an afterthought. Whether or not he can serve as an every-down back is unclear, but from the looks of it, Mathews hasn’t been able to quite yet either.
Value. You don’t win your league with your early picks, but with your later-round picks. With Woodhead coming off the board as the number 45 fantasy back (via Fantasy Calculator), there is insane value there. Fantasy owners may be paying for a running back four or five in exchange for running back two or three total numbers.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy football columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.