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A chat with ESPN’s Matthew Berry on the fantasy outlook for the Chargers

ESPN’s senior fantasy analyst gave us his thoughts on Tyrod Taylor, Austin Ekeler, and more.

Los Angeles Chargers v Miami Dolphins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Recently, I had the honor of speaking with ESPN Senior Fantasy Analyst Matthew Berry, who co-hosts the Fantasy Focus Football podcast and personally hosts The Fantasy Show on ESPN+.

Berry is one of, if not, the Godfather of fantasy football. The combination of him, Field Yates, Stephania Bell, and Daniel Dopp are unequaled in their coverage of all things fantasy football and they do it all while creating an environment that makes every listener/reader feel like they’re right there with them in the studio just chopping it up about a game so many of us are passionate about.

In our chat, Matthew broke down a lot of information. He went player by player, from Tyrod Taylor to Hunter Henry, and gave a ton of insight into his thought process behind his early PPR rankings and why he has certain Chargers players ranked where they are.

Since there was a lot of information, and the the interview format was a bit more casual than you’d expect, I’m going to share the most important parts of the conversation while highlighting some of my favorites, as well.

On Tyrod Taylor

In his most-recent rankings, Berry has Taylor just inside his top-20 at #18. I asked him what he expects of Taylor this year as the starting quarterback for the Chargers:

Berry: “My ranking of #18 would be much higher if I knew for a fact that Tyrod Taylor would be the starter for the entire year. As we’re having this conversation before the NFL Draft, the chargers are rumored to be a team that might take a quarterback high and generally, if they take a quarterback in the first round, most first-round quarterbacks play their rookie year one way or the other. We saw it in Taylor’s last stop when he was in Cleveland. The Browns drafted Baker Mayfield number one overall and eventually, during that season, he was six games in and Mayfield took that job over.”

“But if I knew Taylor was going to be the starter for the Chargers the entire year, he would be ranked much higher. Again, we’re talking just fantasy here, but when he was a starter in Buffalo he was a top-12 fantasy quarterback. Over that three-year period that he was a starter (with the Bills), he averaged over 17 fantasy points per game. And now he comes to the Chargers where he’ll have more weapons than he’s ever had in his career. Having guys like Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, Mike Williams, and Austin Ekeler, like, that’s a far-cry from what he had in Buffalo. So, my expectation here is that he’s mobile as well, he can make plays with his legs, he’s a top-12 quarterback as long as he’s the starter.”

On Austin Ekeler

Berry: “Will Taylor dump it off to the running back as much as Rivers did last year? Probably not. But again, Austin Ekeler was a top-5 fantasy running back before Melvin Gordon came back and he was still a top 10 running back even after he came back. So Ekeler is a top-10 running back whether they draft another guy or give a larger role to Justin Jackson. My expectation is Ekeler has a monster year, that obviously Anthony Lynn and the Chargers see something rightfully-so in him. It’s the reason why they signed him back and let Gordon go. Ekeler’s going to be a focal point of this offense, touch the ball a ton, maybe run the ball between the tackles more and less catching passes but he’s still going to be heavily involved in the passing game.”

When I brought up Anthony Lynn’s comments at the combine about using Ekeler with another running back in 2020 and what that could mean for his productivity:

Berry: “I saw those comments from Lynn as well and what I wrote for ESPN about that was for our purposes and maybe what that means is he’s not going to be the guy he was before Gordon came back where he was running the ball a ton. But in terms of “do I think Ekeler gets 17-20 touches per game”? 100 percent.

“Ekeler is going to touch the ball a lot. He just might not touch it a lot as a running back and more of a pass-catcher. When I heard Anthony Lynn say, ya know, you’d like to use him, how I heard it, you cover the team close than I do so you can tell me if i’m wrong, but the way I heard it was, ‘I’d like to use Ekeler WITH another running back.’ Which to me, what that means is put Justin Jackson in the backfield and now you’ve got Ekeler as another receiving weapon. But that wouldn’t be using Ekeler ‘and’ another running back, but WITH another running back and I think that’s an important distinction.

“So again, like i said, my expectation is I’d project 17-20 touches per game for Ekeler on an offense that is going to be pretty good so I’d say he’s going to be a top-10 fantasy running back.”

On Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry

I asked Berry if his projected finishes for Allen and Henry in 2020 would differ much from their 2019 finishes of WR6 and TE9, respectively.:

(Note: Allen is WR20 and Henry is TE7 in his early PPR rankings.)

Berry: “I don’t think so. Not in a significant way because here’s the thing: It’s touchdown dependent. Volume is going to be the volume for those guys. I don’t think the offense takes a significant hit. Rivers didn’t have the best year last year. So do I think what Rivers was last year is what Taylor could be this year? Do I think it’s a significant downgrade? I don’t. As far as the production goes for those guys, could Allen get two more touchdowns or two less touchdowns than last year? Sure. Touchdowns are a bit fluky and that would affect that ranking but barring significant injury, as long as both guys are healthy, Allen is going to be top-10 fantasy wide receiver on a points per game basis and Henry is going to be a top-10 fantasy tight end on a points per game basis, no question.”

On Mike Williams

Berry: “If there’s one thing, you could see an uptick in Mike Williams. Tyrod likes to throw deep. He likes to chuck it deep so you might see an uptick in Mike Williams but ultimately, if you’re Tyrod Taylor, you’re looking around for the best chance. Who’s the best player I got who is open? So Allen and Henry are going to get the ball and they’re going to get the ball a lot.”