5/24 update: Chargers draft franchise left tackle prospect, Rashawn Slater, to further bolster the offensive line and improve the 2021 fantasy outlooks of Austin Ekeler and Justin Herbert.
In what has been a loud first week of free agency around the NFL, one signing that has flown somewhat under the radar is the Los Angeles Chargers signing All-Pro center Corey Linsley. Although the big guys up front very rarely get the spotlight in any aspect of the game, this move marks a big step forward for an offense that boasts the likes of Justin Herbert and Austin Ekeler.
LAC found their franchise QB last season as Herbert brought home Offensive Rookie of the Year hardware and outdueled the two Heisman finalists in his rookie class in Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts, and the 2019 Heisman winner, Joe Burrow.
After securing Herbert, Chargers’ general manager Tom Telesco finally realized that the offensive line was an obvious issue that needed to be fixed.
“There’s a lot of improvement that needs to be made in that area,” Telesco said about the offensive line at his end-of-season press conference.
The addition of Linsley should provide a much-needed shot in the arm to a Chargers offensive line that Pro Football Focus ranked dead last in 2020. Linsley is in line to become the highest-paid center in the league, providing Herbert with an absolute monster upfront and some much-needed pass protection.
Herbert’s center last year, Dan Feeney, allowed the most hurries (24) and the most pressures (33) of any center in the league. Conversely, Linsley only allowed one hurry and four pressures, all while not being penalized once in Green Bay. The Chargers are betting on a continuation of this production going into 2021, hoping to give Herbert more time to find his big-play targets downfield.
It’s been a growing trend in the NFL that second-year QBs have elevated MVP odds in the preseason, and the trend continues with Herbert. As of February 14, Herbert sits ninth in MVP odds at +1800, along with the likes of Deshaun Watson, Tom Brady, and Dak Prescott. For all those futures bettors out there, a sprinkle of Herbert would never hurt with value like that.
If not for Herbert, running back Austin Ekeler is another top candidate to benefit from the Linsley signing.
Over the past two seasons, Ekeler has been the sixth-best RB in PPR leagues, averaging 18.4 points per game. That production has come with the aforementioned offensive line giving an Oscar-worthy sieve impression. Over the same timeline, Corey Linsley has been the third-best run-blocking center per PFF. Adding G/T Matt Feiler from the Pittsburgh Steelers will also shore up a restocked front line.
Health is a minor concern heading into 2021 following a hamstring injury that left Ekeler out for the majority of the season last year. If he can stay on the field, expect RB1 value in a back that’s been criminally undervalued in terms of ADP previously.
Prior to the two signings, Herbert landed at QB8 (+1 vs ECR) on The Wolf’s 2021 Fantasy Football Rankings, while Ekeler sat at RB8 (+2 vs ECR).