Spotlight: Philip Rivers

posted by Jeff Haseley on Jul 17th

Jeff Haseley's thoughts

The 2009 season boasted the strongest group of productive QBs in the history of the NFL. Ten different QBs passed for 4,000 yards or more and twelve had 26 TD passes or more. Philip Rivers fell into both categories, finishing with 4,254 yards passing, 28 TD passes and only 9 INTs. Despite those impressive numbers, he only managed to finish 7th among all QBs. On the bright side, the finishing fantasy point totals for the league's Top QBs were very close. Only 20 points separated the 9th ranked QB from the 3rd ranked QB. This further illustrates the notion that this year's fantasy QB class is very deep, especially in the Top 10. It all bodes well for Rivers, who is currently averaging an ADP of QB7.

Can we expect more of the same from Rivers in 2010?

As mentioned, there are several QBs that are capable of being every week starters for your fantasy team that will produce desired results. Is Philip Rivers one of them? He is coming off two consecutive years of 4,000+ yards passing and at least 28 TD passes. The last two years saw Rivers enter the fold as one of the league's elite QBs. Coincidentally, the Chargers star RB LaDainian Tomlinson was starting to show signs of a decline, which drastically affected the Chargers running game. Could Rivers emergence have been a direct result of the running game's decline?

Year SDRushYds Rank SDPassYds Rank RiversRank
2009 1424 31 4506 4 7
2008 1715 21 4000 8 3
2007 2039 7 3175 26 15
2006 2587 2 3411 16 8

The good news regarding the above findings is that Rivers never finished lower than the 15th ranked QB, regardless of whether or not the Chargers running game was among the league's best. However, when the Chargers rushing output faltered (2008 & 2009), he had his best statistical passing seasons. LaDainian Tomlinson is now with the New York Jets, so it remains to be seen what the 2010 running game will have in store. It is expected that rookie RB Ryan Mathews will occupy the primary RB role and that the Chargers will look to run the ball more than they did in 2009. As a result, they should improve on their 31st ranked rushing totals, which would likely lower Rivers' passing numbers, perhaps under the 4,000 yard mark.

Uncertainty in the WR corps

Rivers could have less talent and experience in the WR corps in 2010, which could result in less overall production. Last year, Rivers had 28 TD passes with nine going to WR Vincent Jackson. Over the last two years, Jackson emerged as the leader of the Chargers WR corps. Unfortunately, he is in the middle of a contract dispute with the Chargers and is threatening to hold out if an agreement can't be met. On top of that, Jackson is slated to miss three games due to a suspension from the league for a series of off the field issues. At the very least, Jackson will miss three games, but he'll be back after week ten so he can earn an accrued season.

Not having Jackson for multiple games would likely affect the team's receiving game, but waiting in the wings to make a name for himself is Malcom Floyd, who has been buried in the Chargers depth chart for five years. He only recently started to emerge, due to the trade of Chris Chambers to division rival Kansas City. If Jackson misses multiple games, Floyd would be the one who benefits the most. Would it be enough to fill the shoes left by Jackson and keep Rivers' passing numbers similar to years past? That remains to be seen.

Rivers is not a one-dimensional QB

Throughout his career, Rivers has done a good job of distributing the ball to his RBs, WRs and TEs, as illustrated in the table below. His favorite target Antonio Gates, receives a lot of attention, but Rivers has shown that he can involve all positions.

Rivers TD Distribution

2009 28 6 21% 13 46% 9 32%
2008 34 8 24% 16 47% 10 29%
2007 21 4 19% 8 38% 10 48%
2006 22 3 14% 9 41% 12 55%


  • He has improved each of the last three years in completions, attempts, passing yards, yards per attempt and fantasy rank. In 2009, he led all starting QBs with 13.4 yards per reception and 8.8 yards per attempt. In his last two years he has 62 TD passes and only 20 INTs.
  • Rivers represents good value at the QB position, currently being selected as the 7th QB off the board. His numbers may take a dip without Vincent Jackson on the field for at least three games, but getting a QB of his caliber after six have already been chosen is not bad at all.
  • He's durable. In his four years as the starting QB in San Diego, Rivers has not missed a game.


  • Rivers will miss his favorite WR, Vincent Jackson for at least three games, if not ten if he decides to continue his hold out over contract negotiations.
  • Head Coach Norv Turner wants to run the ball more in 2010 after bottoming out as the 31st ranked rushing offense in 2009. The drafting of rookie RB Ryan Mathews confirms that notion. If the running game improves, it likely will result in a decrease in passing numbers for Rivers.
  • This will be the first year without LaDainian Tomlinson for Rivers and the Chargers. The offense may struggle to find a rhythm without the experience and talent of Tomlinson in the lineup.

Final thoughts

There are a lot of questions surrounding Philip Rivers' 2010 campaign. If Vincent Jackson continues his hold out, it could put a damper on the 2010 Chargers passing game. Combine that with more emphasis on running the ball with rookie Ryan Mathews and Rivers all the sudden doesn't look like a lock for 4,000 yards passing again. Having said that, Rivers still has Antonio Gates, his favorite receiver, plus an emerging deep threat in Malcom Floyd, who some liken to his teammate Vincent Jackson. He distributes the ball well to all positions, so if Jackson is not on the field, Rivers is capable of finding other receivers. He still represents good value for a QB that might be drafted after Rodgers, Brees, Manning, Romo, Brady, Schaub and possibly Brett Favre and/or Jay Cutler.

Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

rzrback77 said:

Philip Rivers had been a consistent performer for the Chargers for the past four years. Solid foundation includes starting all 16 games each year, averaged over 60% completion each year and over 65% the past two, averaged almost 8.0 ypa with 8.8 a year ago, and thrown 2.39 TD per int. His yardage has also climbed from lower 3,000 to over 4,000 for the past two seasons. He has finished as the #8, #15, #3, and #7 QB over that stretch. As the current QB 7 in ADP, he would appear to be a bargain.

However, he may be without his top WR target for the past few years, Vincent Jackson. He is definitely out for three games and with a hold-out or trade looming, could be permanently gone. The guys behind V Jax have talent, but not have shown much production. Malcolm Floyd had a career high 45 catches last year, Legedu Naanee has 40 career receptions, Craig Davis, first rounder in 07 has 30 career receptions, and all three combine for 12 career TDs.

In addition, the Chargers traded up significantly to draft Ryan Mathews and most projections call for them to place more emphasis on establishing the running game. Even if Mathews is successful as a rookie, he is not expected to have as much of an impact catching the ball as the departed Tomlinson has had in the past.

All of these factors seem to spell some decreased production for the CHargers passing attack and in turn, Philip Rivers. He seems to me to be placed at the top of the second tier of QBs which runs from 7 through 12. At this point in the pre-season, it seems that most that want to get a QB early will get Rodgers, P. Manning, Brees, Romo, Schaub, or Brady while the lower members of that second tier (Cutler, Eli Manning, Favre, McNabb, and Flacco) should be as consistent as Rivers in 2010.

bigmiiiiike said:

If San Diego either trades Vincent Jackson or he holds out, their WR corps will certainly be lacking a proven productive star. However, I think most will agree that Floyd, Naanee, Davis, and Reed are all talented. Most will also agree that Rivers is one of the top QB talents in the league. With the presence of Antonio Gates, I think that talent will shine through, and allow Rivers to maintain top 7 stats in 2010. I think we may see a season out of Rivers that resembles what Drew Brees does in New Orleans. While Colston in NO is the #1 guy, he was only a 6th round draft pick coming out and no one would claim that his talent is what gets him great numbers, instead what drives his stats is Drew Brees. I'm not sure, without VJax, that any Chargers WR (not counting Gates) will have 1000+ yards and 9+ TDs like Colston is capable of, but Rivers will be able to spread the ball around with an all around capable bunch at WR. Add to the mix what appears to be solid pass catching RBs (we know Sproles can, and Norv is showing confidence in Mathews), and I doubt the Rivers skeptics will be proven correct despite the absence of Vincent Jackson for much or all of 2010.

Raiderfan32904 said:

Philip Rivers is THE value play this year. As others have said, the run defense is degraded. They are relying on a rookie RB to find his way. No VJax means more targets for Gates who should be a monster this year. Rivers will have to throw a lot just to stay in games this year. Attempts will be up, but completion percentage and interceptions will be up too. He will be forced to make plays with receivers that aren't as talented as he's used to. A bit of a hothead, Rivers will need to learn patience with this WR corps. But for fantasy purposes, he will shine.

Iwannabeacowboybaby! said:

Heading into this season I felt Rivers was on a short list of Qb's I would target early (round 3) in a draft. I felt that the SD defense has gotten worse not better than last year. I think anytime you lose a guy like LT, you just don't have a NFL draft and poof, you've replaced him just like that. I think the strength of this team was definately the passing of Rivers to guys like Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates and Sproles out of the backfield.

The loss of Jackson for what looks like the majority of the season throws a wrench into my thinking. I don't like the idea of drafting Rivers without his top WR. I don't think he'll slip too far south either in his ADP to reflect his loss either, forcing you to take Rivers about where you would have with Jackson at his side. That kind of thinking just doesn't make sense to me.

Philip Rivers projections

Jeff Haseley31048539902613601
Message board consensus30350238432715401