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Fantasy fallout: Good time to buy low on Chargers offense

Hunter Henry’s ownership nearly doubled this week in ESPN fantasy leagues after he caught eight passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns in his return from a knee injury.

And if your league is part of the 10% in which the tight end remains unowned, you should probably stop reading this and go grab him.

But Henry is not the only buy-low opportunity on a Los Angeles Chargers offense that has been in a recent funk.

ESPN Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams said there is reason to expect better results from running back Melvin Gordon and receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams now that the offense is getting healthier across the board — including left tackle Russell Okung’s return to practice on Thursday.

Williams ranked the fantasy-buying opportunities as Henry-Gordon-Allen based on their current market values and their chances to exceed them.

“I would go Hunter first, because I think [QB Philip Rivers] is gonna look for him. Then I would go Melvin, because I think he’s gonna get touches. Then I would go Keenan, just because he’s really good,” Williams summarized.

Henry has consistently produced when healthy during his four-year career. But he missed the entire 2018 regular season with a torn ACL in his right knee. Then he suffered a tibial plateau fracture in his left knee in Week 1 this year. But he “feels really good” now, Williams explained.

“The thing about his injury was there really wasn’t a lot of pain involved. It was really about just letting the fracture heal. So now that he’s out there, he feels good and healthy and he’s moving well,” Williams said. “And Philip likes throwing to the tight end. And he’s gonna get favorable matchups because teams are rolling coverages to Keenan.”

Likewise, the emergence of Henry might prevent defenses from concentrating so heavily on Allen — who got off to a hot start to the season with a total of 29 catches, 404 yards and four touchdowns in the first three games.

But over the past three games, Allen has been limited to 11 catches, 99 yards and zero touchdowns while under increased scrutiny.

Williams said Allen’s production should go up because of his talent, because the Chargers do a good job of moving him around the offense (including the slot) — and because he’s not shy about requesting more opportunities.

“He’s in Philip’s ear all the time that he’s open,” Williams said. “So perhaps we’ll see his targets go up — particularly if teams pay more attention to Hunter. But really they have to find a way to get Mike Williams more involved to open things up, too.”

Mike Williams was expected to play a bigger role this year, especially in the red zone after he caught 10 TD passes last season. So far he has zero touchdowns, in part because of nagging back and knee injuries. But he also told Eric D. Williams that he is feeling better this week.

Last but not least is the RB duo of Gordon and Austin Ekeler. Gordon has run for just 49 yards on 20 carries, with seven catches for 37 yards and zero touchdowns in two games since returning from his extended contract holdout. And because the Chargers have been playing from behind, Gordon hasn’t had a single carry in the fourth quarter.

But Gordon’s solution is simple: more touches, because “there’s no rhythm you can get into with eight carries.” And Williams thinks he will get his wish.

“Well, you have a former running back who’s a head coach [in Anthony Lynn], and you have a workhorse running back that would like to get more touches. So I think he’s probably gonna get more touches,” Williams said. “Anthony wants to run the football, it’s at his core of what he believes. … And I think they want Melvin to be the lead guy there. I think you’re seeing that kind of reflected in their snaps.”

Indeed, Gordon led Ekeler in snaps 35-27 last week — even though the game was significantly pass-heavy. Ekeler played great in Gordon’s absence and still has fantasy value in PPR leagues, in particular. But Williams said he expects something similar to last year’s split, when Gordon got about 40 snaps per game when healthy and Ekeler got about 25.

Now for the rest of our weekly tour around the league with ESPN’s NFL Nation reporters:

Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants: Josh Weinfuss and Jordan Raanan took a detailed look at the top two quarterbacks in the 2019 draft — Kyler Murray and Daniel Jones — as they get ready to meet for the first time.

Baltimore Ravens: Remember when Lamar Jackson said “I hate running” last month? Well, he hides it well. Because he is on pace to shatter Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record for a quarterback after he ran for 152 yards last week, as Jamison Hensley wrote.

When asked if he has had a change of heart, Jackson chuckled and said, “No, I take advantage. … If I’ve got to run, I’ve got to do it.”

Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey would have to do something extra special to win the MVP award as a running back, wrote David Newton. But he’s giving it his best shot. He’s on pace for 2,461 yards from scrimmage and 24 touchdowns while fueling the Panthers’ four-game win streak.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette’s career appeared to be at a crossroad earlier this year because of questions about his health, work ethic and maturity. But he has taken huge steps forward, as Michael DiRocco detailed, and there is cautious optimism that will continue.

Miami Dolphins: RB Mark Walton helped ignite the Dolphins’ offense last week with 75 yards on 11 touches. And as Cameron Wolfe wrote, he has a chance to emerge as the leading man in Miami’s crowded backfield.

Minnesota Vikings: Seven catches for 167 yards and three touchdowns should help alleviate Stefon Diggs’ frustration with the Vikings’ offense. As Courtney Cronin wrote, Diggs was highly complimentary of QB Kirk Cousins afterward, saying: “I guess Kirk answered all your questions.”

But the Vikings need to prove they can continue to strike the right pass-run balance. Because as Cronin wrote, their offense will go as high as Diggs and Adam Thielen can push it.

New York Jets: Quarterback Sam Darnold isn’t known for bold statements, wrote Rich Cimini. But he stepped out of character by saying that once tight end Chris Herndon returns from injury and the entire offense is together, “I think we’re unstoppable as an offense — or we can be.”

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Daniel Dopp gives the IBM Watson smarter decision of Week 7 as he recommends starting the Titans’ A.J. Brown vs. the Chargers.

Tennessee Titans: The Titans switched QBs this week to try and provide a spark for the NFL’s 29th-ranked passing offense, as Turron Davenport wrote. Davenport thinks the switch from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill could benefit all of the receivers — but especially rookie A.J. Brown, because he is so special gaining yards after the catch.

“The quicker, more decisive throws from Tannehill will give him more chances to get the ball,” Davenport said. It also can’t hurt that they worked together a lot this summer while Brown was running with the No. 2 offense.

Washington Redskins: Terry McLaurin has heard all the nicknames (he prefers F1 McLaurin to Scary Terry). But the NFL’s most productive rookie receiver is more interested in being a “force to be reckoned with on the field,” as John Keim wrote in this deep dive on his background.

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