As the mercury rises and we inch closer to training camp openings, our resident fantasy football aficionados, Brad Evans and Derek Brown, profile their favorite Booms, Busts, Breakouts and Bets for every NFL team. Giddy up, gamers. Today’s topic: L.A.’s Underdogs.

Fantasy Football Booms - Chargers

Keenan Allen, WR

Last season we saw Keenan Allen ascend to another tier of wide receiver excellence with Justin Herbert under center. In the 13 games with his new franchise gunslinger tossing the rock, Allen averaged 18.5 fantasy points per game. If Allen had continued this pace over a full season, he would have comfortably finished as the WR5 in fantasy points per game.

Don't let his age (29) fool you into thinking Father Time already has him on speed dial. If 2020 is an accurate barometer, Allen is still an elite receiver with plenty left in the tank. Last season, he finished 16th in fantasy points per route run (0.49) and 27th in yards per route run (among 84 wide receivers with 50 or more targets). Allen's ADP (WR10, overall 29.0) might seem pricey at first glance, but if he repeats last year's eye-popping numbers, you're looking at a possible top-five receiver you can draft in the third round. — Derek Brown

Austin Ekeler, RB

When healthy, L.A.’s pocket Hercules owns the necessary characteristics to body slam the competition. Thwarted by a gnarly torn hamstring for a large chunk of 2020, Ekeler missed six games, scoring a measly three total touchdowns. His derailed season, however, wasn’t all for naught. In the nine contests in which he saw action, he hauled in 5.4 receptions per game, catching 83.1% of his intended looks while averaging a robust 1.76 yards per route run. On the ground, he also tallied a laudable 3.14 yards after contact per attempt and forced a missed tackle on 18.9% of his touches. 

With Anthony Lynn and his RBBC mindset out of the mix, new offensive coordinator Mike Lombardi has raised arousal levels in the fantasy community by comparing Ekeler to Alvin Kamara. If deployed in a similar fashion, which makes entirely too much sense, the plucky rusher should lead NFL RBs in total receptions, possibly approaching 100 catches. Accomplish that and secure more goal-line work (2 carries inside the 5 in ‘20) behind an upgraded offensive line, and Ekeler will profit nicely at his RB11 (14.0 overall) ADP. — Brad Evans

2021 Fantasy Football Busts - Chargers

Jared Cook, TE

Full admission, this is weak sauce, but with roles well defined, the Chargers simply don’t feature many high-profiled bust candidates. Cook, an affordably priced option at what appears to be a somewhat deeper than normal tight end position, could be more than serviceable in his new digs. At 34, he can still gash defenses on seam routes, evidenced by his 13.6 yards per catch and No. 7 TE standing in completed air yards last season with the Saints. 

Still, Keenan should again be a target vacuum in this offense. Ekeler and Williams, too, will play pivotal roles. In the end, the Chef Boyardee of TEs, who accounted for just 60 targets in 2020, will have to take advantage of a minimized role. In other words, replicating last year’s seven TDs is a likely tall order. Rumors of Zach Ertz arriving via trade only enhance that prospect. Adam Trautman, Cole Kmet and Austin Hooper are better discount tight ends available at a similar time in your draft.  — Brad Evans

Jared Cook, TE

I can already feel the eye rolls right now, but bust candidates are hard to come by with the Chargers. Jared Cook is not a player who you have to bust the bank to roster (TE21, overall 163.9), so I understand if you're screaming this call is a fake or a sham. The simple fact is that with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler, all main cogs in the Chargers passing attack, Cook could struggle even to match last year's 12.4% target share. 

In Joe Lombardi's previous tenure as an offensive coordinator (2014-2015, Detroit), the tight end was not an integral part of his passing scheme. Yes, these offenses featured Eric Ebron during his first two years in the league, but let's not pretend that Cook is any greater of a talent at this stage of his career. During those two seasons, the tight end position saw 13.2-14.3% of the targets. If you're waiting on a tight end, avoid Cook and instead drop Gerald Everett or Cole Kmet into the queue, as they are going within 10 picks. — Derek Brown

Fantasy Football Breakouts for the Chargers

Mike Williams, WR

Williams' NFL career has been a curious one after being selected inside the top 10 of the 2017 NFL Draft. When he's been on the field, we've seen flashes of brilliance as a deep threat and a red-zone weapon, but never in the same season. He's stacked 10 receiving touchdowns (2018) and led the league in yards per reception (20.4, 2019). We have yet to see these two factors coalesce. 

This year could be the Earth-shattering breakout season that we've yearned for since he first donned the gold and powder blue. Williams' deep role is fully intact after finishing ninth in deep targets (25) last year. Among the top-12 wide receivers in this metric, only Williams finished with zero drops. These soft hands match well with his cannon-armed quarterback. Justin Herbert will be near the top of the leaderboard in deep passing touchdowns this year after finishing third in deep passing touchdowns (12), tied with Aaron Rodgers in 2020. Williams' WR4 price tag in drafts doesn't match his immense upside. — Derek Brown

Mike Williams, WR

His OC has talked him up. Meanwhile, his QB is rocking Thor-like biceps. Outside of Keenan Allen’s hogging role, the path to target share also remains pretty clear. It’s possible the stars are aligning for Williams. When healthy, he’s always exhibited phenomenal downfield skills. His large frame, ladder-climbing hops and terrific ball-tracking skills recorded the occasional highlight-reel catch. 

For Williams to morph into a steady WR3 contributor, it’s all about maximizing efficiency and attracting 110-plus targets. Herbert, too, must spin the ball more accurately in his general direction. Last season, Williams ranked No. 100 in catchable target rate and his QB finished outside the top-20 in deep-ball passer rating. If the universe does indeed work in his favor, he could finish with a line in range of 60-1050-7. At his WR49 price points (116.7 overall), there’s much to like. — Brad Evans

Best Bets for the Chargers 2021

(Use the FTN Prop Shop to uncover the best lines across legal sportsbooks) 

Los Angeles Chargers to make the Playoffs - (+135, DraftKings) - If the Chargers can stay healthy, this is attainable. While Brad is on the over with the win total, I’m equally bullish on this team’s outlook. If the Bolts can squeak out ten wins, that could be enough to secure a wild card berth. — Derek Brown

Los Angeles Chargers OVER 9.5 team wins (+110, BetMGM) - Sophomore slumps be damned. Herbert is due to move forward in his maturation process. If the defense can do the same, they should overcome the sixth-toughest projected schedule and reach 10 wins. — Brad Evans