Every single offseason, ESPN’s Mike Clay, one of the main voices for their fantasy football content and all-around stats guy, produces these nifty spreadsheets showcasing each NFL team’s projections for the 2020 season. These spreadsheets include the average expected win total, individual stats for each player on either side of the ball, as well as overall grades per position group on the team.
- CB: 4.0
- EDGE: 3.8
- TE: 3.2
- WR: 2.1
- S: 1.9
- RB: 1.6
- Off-ball LB: 1.0
- Interior DL: 0.9
- OL: 0.6
- QB: 0.3
Overall, Clay as the Chargers’ offensive group ranked 29th out of 32 teams and their defensive group ranked 8th.
Unsurprisingly, the cornerback and edge groups are the two strongest on the team. The addition of Chris Harris gives the Chargers three former All-Pros while Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram do the heavy lifting in their respective unit.
Some might think that the wide receiver and safety units are a little low, but I can understand Clay’s decisions here. Keenan Allen is Keenan Allen, there’s no reason to nit-pick him. Mike Williams has had two viable seasons as a pro but they were both viable in completely different ways. In 2018, Williams caught 10 touchdowns but managed less than 700 yards receiving. In 2019, he caught just two touchdowns but went over the 1,000-yard receiving plateau for the first time in his young career. Clay obviously takes into account the third wide receiver and the Chargers do not have a player there that brings any confidence to this group. The Chargers will likely draft someone for that spot later this month.
As far as the safety group, it’s Derwin James and then everybody else. While the athletic Rayshawn Jenkins led the team with three interceptions, he missed twice as many tackles and allowed far too many big plays. 2019 second-round pick Nasir Adderley was expected to be the starting FS last year before aggravating a hamstring injury that ended up taking his rookie campaign. We later found out it was much more severe than we all thought as he later admitted a “hamstring split” diagnosis. This group is one of the few that can easily outplay the expectations if they can sure-up the tackling and Adderley gets on the field at all.
As far as the rest of the unit scores, I can’t really argue with them. Quarterback is definitely the weakest at this point in time and off-ball linebacker is going to be viewed as weak with so many veterans gone and new/young bodies making up most of the top spots.
Turning our attention to the actual statistical projections, let’s start with the quarterbacks. And yes, I said the plural version of that word. That’s because he predicts both current rostered quarterbacks to see significant snaps were the team to forego drafting a rookie QB this year. Tyrod Taylor’s projections are based on 12 games while Easton Stick’s are based on five.
Taylor is projected to throw for a 2,714 yards with 15 touchdowns to seven interceptions. He’s also projected to rush for 296 yards on 58 carries with another two scores. Stick is projected to reach 1,070 passing yards with six scores and five picks to go along with 55 yards and a score on 13 carries. These projections aren’t all that surprising to me as one could easily expect there to be a time when Tyrod struggles and Anthony Lynn decides to give Stick some run before switching back between the two as one struggles more than the other.
Austin Ekeler is expected to get the lion’s share of total touches but Clay expects carries to be split almost down the middle. Ekeler is projected to rush for 808 yards and five touchdowns while Justin Jackson is predicted to tote the rock 147 times for 625 yards and four scores. Receiving production is expectedly skewed in Ekeler’s direction with some obvious regression from last season’s career year. Clay predicts 63 catches for 605 yards and another three touchdowns for Ekeler and 193 yards with a score for Jackson.
Allen and Williams are expected to be the biggest losers on the team in the event Taylor and Stick share starting snaps. Clay has Allen failing to reach 100 catches and 1,00 yards this season as he projects 85 catches, 979 yards, and five touchdowns for The Slayer. Williams is forecasted to snag 47 passes for just 627 yards and four scores. Henry’s stat line doesn’t look that bad until you realize it’s not much better from last year when he missed four games. As of now, Clay sees Henry ending third on the team with 53 catches for 627 yards and four trips to the end zone.
While it may be tough to picture Allen falling short of either of those receiving thresholds, it’s tough to argue with. Allen is a target vacuum that will potentially have to catch passes from one of the most conservative QBs in the league. If Taylor wants to be the starter in L.A., I’m sure Lynn will have to beat the conservative nature out of him in order to maximize their vertical passing game.
The defensive side of the ball is much easier to look at since their isn’t much to be seen out of what the majority of people would predict. Derwin James is set to lead the team in tackles with 105, followed by Drue Tranquill with 91, and Joey Bosa with 70. Linval Joseph is expected to lead the interior with 58 tackles and has a projection of three sacks for the Bolts. Bosa and Ingram and set to lead the team in quarterback takedowns with 11 and 9, respectively.
James is projected to pick 1.9 passes which leads the entire secondary. Casey Hayward (1.7), Jenkins (1.5), and Chris Harris (1.3) round-out the top four.
Clay predicts the starting five on the offensive line to be, from left to right: Trey Pipkins, Dan Feeney, Mike Pouncey, Trai Turner, and Bryan Bulaga. I think I speak for all of us that no one wants to see Pipkins as the starter at left tackle this season. Expect the Chargers to grab someone on day two at the latest.
Finally, Clay predicts the Chargers to win an average of 7.9 games in 2020. That’s definitely not what any of us want to hear regardless if it’s an improvement from their 5-11 record in 2019. For our sake, I hope the football gods smile on us a little more after what the team went through last season.
So what do you guys think of Clay’s projections? Remember, these are not what he personally thinks will happen, they’re based off algorithms and he just plugs in his data before they spit out the projections. But we can still argue for the sake of entertainment.