Dynasty Fantasy Football: Will Philip Rivers Rebound in 2013?

2012 was a frustrating season for Chargers QB Phillip Rivers, can he turn it around for your fantasy team in 2013?

A few months ago in his weekly Stock Report, Ryan McDowell broached the concept of roster cloggers.  As Ryan stated, these are the types of players “stuck on the end of your bench who are not actually deserving of a roster spot.”  In these cases, it’s an easy fix:  open up a bottle of Drano and rid your team of any and all obstructions!

What about players whose roster candidacy isn’t so black and white?  You know, the types of clogs that might loosen up and drift away on their own accord, requiring nothing more than time and patience.  Instead of taking a hardline approach, these are the types of situations where we need to make like EL James and view them in shades of grey.

I’m referring to the players on our rosters who for various reasons are currently devalued, maybe even to the point of benching, but are not worthy of banishment to the waiver wire.  It’s almost as if they exist in a state of “roster purgatory.”  For whatever reason, these players just didn’t have the year(s) we were expecting, but they still carry value and name recognition.  If we were to overzealously drop these guys, they wouldn’t stay unclaimed for long.

Since the off-season is officially upon us, roster evaluation and maintenance moves to the critical forefront of our dynasty ownership obligations.  As such, this is an optimal time to consider those stuck in roster purgatory and what we should do with them.  In that spirit, this semi-regular column will analyze players with clouded futures, and attempt to clarify and valuate their future prospects.  The initial installment will begin with quarterback Philip Rivers.

The Essentials

Age:  31

Team:  San Diego Chargers

Years in the NFL:  Nine

Three-Year Statistical Arc

Year

Games

Completions

Attempts

Comp. %

Yards

YPA

TD’s

INT’s

QB Rating

2010

16

357

541

66.0

4710

8.71

30

13

101.8

2011

16

366

582

62.9

4624

7.95

27

20

88.7

2012

16

338

527

64.1

3606

6.84

26

15

88.6

Rivers had the best season of his career in 2010, when he finished with the most passing yards in the NFL and was also in the top-five in terms of both passing touchdowns and quarterback rating.  2011 saw a slight regression in terms of yards and touchdowns, despite an additional 41 passing attempts (1.21 extra games relative to 2010).  Rivers also became increasingly turnover-prone, throwing an alarming 20 interceptions (1.25 per game, one per every 29 passes) and he experienced drop-offs in yards-per-attempt and quarterback rating.

This past season saw the bottom fall out.  Rivers threw for a mere 3,606 yards (225 yards per game), which was his lowest total since 2007.  It also represented a 23.1% decrease from his total in 2010, and was also only #17 best among quarterbacks, behind such luminaries as Sam Bradford, Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco.  Slightly mitigating this precipitous drop-off was a top-ten finish in passing touchdowns, a stronger touchdown/interception ratio and an increase in completion percentage relative to 2011, but in terms of standard scoring Rivers finished as the QB21.

Reasons to Keep the Faith

1.  WR Carousel:  Deep threat Vincent Jackson signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the off-season, and free agent busts Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal could only muster 441 receiving yards between them.  On top of that, promising sophomore Vincent Brown broke his leg in a preseason game and missed the entire regular season.  The only receiver to offer any semblance of big-play ability was free agent pickup Danario Alexander, who was only on the team for ten games.  With Brown and Alexander back in 2013, Rivers should have an upgraded stable of pass-catchers.

2.  An Offensive Offensive Line:  A suspect offensive line led to Rivers being sacked 49 times in 2012, fourth most in the league and eleven more than in any other season.  A big part of the reason was the Chargers’ best lineman, Jared Gaither, played in only five games.  If the Chargers upgrade their line and afford Rivers more time in the pocket, look for his statistics to increase.

3.  Get Off My Lawn!:  Compared to 2011, the Chargers’ offense was on the field significantly less (939 offensive snaps versus 1,018, a 7.8% drop).  With an intact receiving corps and the return of running back Ryan Mathews, the Chargers should be able to sustain more drives in 2013.

4.  Back to Reality:  Despite the decrease in yards, Rivers’ completion percentage and touchdown/interception ratio both increased relative to 2011.  In other words, Rivers didn’t forget how to play the position.  The fantasy numbers weren’t there, but Rivers wasn’t as inept as it seems.

5.  Old Man Rivers:  Quarterbacks (Brett Favre, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, etc.) have recently been playing well into their late thirties.  Rivers is “only” 31, so the hope remains that he can turn it around and still have several good seasons remaining.

Reasons to Abandon Ship

1.  Bro, Do You Even Lift?:  Inarguably the biggest concern about Philip Rivers is the notion that his arm strength is diminishing.  While he always had a bit of a funky throwing motion, there were times in 2012 it appeared that Rivers’ would float his deep passes instead of driving the ball to his target.  This led to underthrows as well as interceptions, and a sub-7.0 yards-per-attempt statistic.  Rivers denies that his arm is injured, but this is a trend to keep an eye out for in 2013.

2.  As the World Turn(er)s:  Chargers head coach and perennial punching bag Norv Turner was fired at the conclusion of the 2012 regular season.  Whoever replaces Turner will undoubtedly implement his own system, which might not be beneficial to the passing game.

3.  Running Back Shenanigans:  While the afore-mentioned Ryan Mathews didn’t have the breakout year many were expecting of him, he’s still the Chargers’ most talented back.  So why did Norv Turner constantly pull him for Ronnie Brown and Jackie Battle?  Mathews could be more involved in 2013, which could potentially come at the expense of Rivers’ passing attempts.

4.  Closing Gates:  Speaking of disappointments, tight end Antonio Gates was only able to corral 49 passes for 538 yards in 2012.  It appears to be the end of an era of dominance for Gates, who will be 33 years old before the 2013 season begins.  Talented but raw rookie backup Ladarius Green only saw action in four 2012 contests, and will likely not pose an immediate threat in the passing game.

5.  Building for the Future:  During his career, Rivers has been backed up by pedestrian talents such as Charlie Whitehurst and Billy Volek.  With a 2013 draft class rich in middle-round talent, the Chargers might attempt to find an eventual heir to Rivers’ throne.

Conclusion and Recommendation

While Rivers didn’t have the bounce-back season many of us were hoping for in 2012, he has shown us enough over the years to give him one more benefit of the doubt.  If the Chargers can get upgraded play from the offensive line, as well as continuity with their receivers, Rivers should wind up having an improved 2013.  While fears about his arm strength are well founded, it’s not the be-all, end-all of quarterbacking (just ask Stewie Award Winner Jay Cutler).

With that said, the QB21 isn’t going to claim a starting position in most fantasy leagues, save for those who employ two quarterbacks.  Additionally, in the “what have you done for me lately?” world in which we live, no one is going to sell the farm for that kind of relative talent.  Therefore you’d be getting quarters on the dollar if you tried to move Rivers right now, and Dynasty 101 dictates you don’t sell low!

The ultimate recommendation here is to hold onto Rivers through the off-season and hope he starts 2013 off on the right foot.  At that point, as long as you have sufficient quarterback depth, it would be advisable to sell him to a quarterback-needy team.  Even if he doesn’t improve, his value won’t be much lower than it is now.  Conversely, if you’re a daring owner looking to get some veteran talent on the cheap, wait until your league’s draft begins, and see if the Rivers owner comes down with a case of “rookie fever.”  You could wind up getting a steal, and if he returns to previous form, Rivers could help your team flow to a championship.

Follow me on Twitter @EDH_27

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