Who are you, Philip Rivers?
A year after finishing as the 21st-scoring quarterback in fantasy, the NFL saw a rejuvenated Rivers, as the veteran signal caller threw for nearly 4,500 yards, 32 touchdowns and scored more fantasy points than all but five quarterbacks in 2013. The change in offensive scheme and coordinator clearly helped Rivers, as well as the Chargers offense as a whole. It’s the main reason the Chargers threatened the Broncos in their meetings, but which is the real Rivers? Is he really the 6th-best fantasy option at the quarterback position? No, I don’t think so. But I also don’t think he’s as bad as 21st, either. So, what will it be, Mr. Rivers?
Who are you?
2013 was a tale of two halves for Rivers’ fantasy production. To start the year, he was spectacular, and it seemed like everyone was waiting for him to come back down to earth. But, each week, it failed to happen, and Rivers was steadily producing as a number one quarterback in fantasy land.
Rivers’ 1st Half
Rivers had five top-12 fantasy finishes during the first eight games of the season, averaging a strong 19.5 fantasy points per contest during that span. He also averaged a healthy 37 passing attempts per game during those eight contests for fantasy owners. He was very, very good, drawing no concerns for fantasy owners.
Rivers’ 2nd Half
The second half, meanwhile, wasn’t as good, as he only posted three top-12 outings, averaging just 16.35 fantasy points during the second half of the season. So he averaged about three less fantasy points per contest, while also only attempting 31 passes per game, six passes per game fewer than the first half of the year. The reason why? San Diego transitioned into a more balanced, and, if anything, run-heavy offense. They tried to keep their offense on the field, and more importantly, keep the opposing offense off of it. To finish the season, the Chargers ran the ball 46.6 percent of the time, while quietly ranking 6th in rushing attempts per game (30.2). They also only ranked 24th in the league in pass attempts per game, while throwing the football just 53 percent of the time (26th).
San Diego brought in Donald Brown, force-fed a healthy Ryan Mathews the football and I think they want to stay with the approach they implemented during the second half of last year. Having said that, I see Rivers regressing a bit, especially when you consider that under Mike McCoy, a short-passing coordinator, Rivers actually ranked third in football with 120 fantasy points on vertical passes. They were surprisingly 6th in the league in passing plays of 20 yards or more, while McCoy’s offenses since 2009 have only ranked inside the top-10 in that category once (2012 with Manning in Denver). River’s final numbers were good, but he wasn’t as consistent as you’d like, finishing as a top-12 fantasy quarterback just 37.5 percent of the time. I’m not sure if I believe that Rivers has the upside that he portrayed last year, and with a pedestrian receiving corp outside of Keenan Allen, I’m also not sure McCoy and this offense will attempt as many big plays as they did a season ago.
Trust me, you could do worse at quarterback than Rivers. Much worse. However, I don’t think people should look at his numbers from 2013 and assume that is his floor because the guy has been up and down over the last three or four seasons.
He’ll be serviceable, not great.