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A 10-year snapshot of the Chargers’ WR3

How the team’s third wideout has performed over the past decade.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Chargers came into the 2020 with one of their biggest questions marks being who they’re third wide receiver was going to be behind Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. After all, when you look at the receiving distribution from the year prior, Dontrelle Inman, whether you go by receptions or yardage, was considered the Bolts’ WR3 with just eight catches and 132 yards and zero touchdowns.

To put that in perspective, Inman finished with the eighth-most catches on the team and the sixth-most receiving yards. Three running backs and two tight ends caught more passes than him that year. That’s by far the least amount of catches and yards by a team’s WR3 in over a decade.

By the end of 2020, two receivers had asserted themselves into the conversation for the team’s WR3: Jalen Guyton and Tyron Johnson. Guyton got the nod and was the team’s third wideout in qualifying formation, but Johnson’s late season surge keep him in the discussion. Both were utilized as deep threats with Guyton averaging 18.3 yards per catch on 28 catches while Johnson notched just under 20 yards per reception on 20 catches.

Despite the similar numbers, I thought Johnson showed he could win in more ways than Guyton. During weeks 13 and 14, “T-Billy” recorded nine catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns with Mike Williams hampered by an injury. He won on short, intermediate, and deep routes while Guyton didn’t show a whole lot outside of his vertical route tree during the year.

It’s too early to tell, especially since we haven’t seen how third-round pick Josh Palmer looks in a Chargers uniform, but I still think it’s worth a look at how the team’s WR3 has performed over the past decade, just to get a rough idea of what we can likely expect from whomever wins the job in camp.

Below is the final stat line of the Bolts’ WR3 from each of the past 10 seasons.

Chargers WR3 (2011-2020)

  • 2020: Jalen Guyton - 28-511-3
  • 2019: Dontrelle Inman - 8-132-0
  • 2018: Tyrell Williams - 41-653-5
  • 2017: Travis Benjamin - 34-567-4
  • 2016: Travis Benjamin - 47-677-3
  • 2015: Stevie Johnson - 45-497-3
  • 2014: Eddie Royal - 62-778-7
  • 2013: Vincent Brown - 41-472-1
  • 2012: Eddie Royal - 23-234-1
  • 2011: Vincent Brown - 19-329-2

Rounded to the nearest whole yard, the average stat line for a WR3 in the Chargers offense is 35 receptions for 485 yards and three touchdowns. Without the major outlier of Inman’s 2019 season, the average line gets bumped up to 38 receptions for 524 yards and the same three touchdowns.

That roughly 500 yards (let’s meet in the middle) was around 11.5 percent of Herbert’s 4,336 passing yards in 2020.

Now for some other math things.

Justin Herbert threw for 289.1 yards per game and his 16-game average would have placed him at a total of 4,625. Now we add on another 289 for this year’s 17th game and you get roughly 4,914. 11.5 percent of 4,914 is 565 which means we can gauge that the Chargers’ third receiver should end somewhere in the ballpark of that yardage total.

Of course there is an expected regression by Herbert in his second year and we have yet to know just how many wideouts the staff will rotate in this year. You figure Palmer will work his way in, but Guyton and Johnson aren’t expected to go anywhere. With Austin Ekeler also being such a vital part of the passing game, along with the assumption that Jared Cook and Donald Parham will see their own share of looks, 500+ yards and a handful of scores isn’t too bad of an expectation for any of the team’s wideouts playing behind Allen and Williams.