Justin Herbert’s 2024 Fantasy Outlook Plummets Without Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Austin Ekeler

Jim Harbaugh is ruining Justin Herbert's fantasy outlook.

Justin Herbert is already coming off of a fantasy football season he’d like to forget. He played a career-low 13 games due to a broken finger suffered in Week 14 that required season-ending surgery. In this shortened season, he set career-worst marks in completion percentage (65.1%), yards (3,134), and touchdowns (20) as the Chargers stumbled to a 5-12 record.

To make matters worse, Los Angeles was in salary cap hell heading into the 2024 league year, causing them to take drastic measures to comply before the deadline.

As a result, the Chargers cut Mike Williams, traded Keenan Allen to Chicago, and let Austin Ekeler walk to DC in free agency. Reliable tight end Gerald Everett also left in free agency, joining Allen in Chicago.

The Chargers now have to rebuild their offense from the ground up, and even the presence of new head coach Jim Harbaugh may not be enough to return them to relevance in 2024.

WHO IS LEFT FOR HERBERT TO THROW TO?

Sitting at a projected $25 million over the salary cap on the last day of the 2023 league year, the Chargers had a choice — decimate their defense by moving on from Khalil Mack or Joey Bosa, or start their offense from scratch.

They chose the latter, and now that the dust has settled and most major free agents have agreed to deals, we have to sift through the wreckage and figure out who is even left in Los Angeles to catch passes from their Pro Bowl QB.

Despite losing their top two receivers, Allen and Williams, the Chargers have done little in the way of replacing them. Offensively, they’ve inked running back Gus Edwards to a two-year deal and added tight ends Hayden Hurst and Will Dissly, but none of this means much for Herbert’s stock.

Edwards will likely be an early-down or goal-line back, but with just 30 receptions over his five-year career, he’ll in no way fill the dual-threat running back role that Ekeler (51 receptions last year, his lowest mark since 2018) excelled in over the last seven seasons. Expect them to be in the Blake Corum rookie running back sweepstakes on Day 2 of the NFL Draft.

Hurst and Dissly are both fine tight ends who can be receiving threats in the right scheme, but neither boasts Everett’s receiving talent or athleticism. Hurst missed eight games a season ago with a head injury, and neither he nor Dissly were in the top half of tight ends in yards per route run, totaling just 35 receptions combined in 2023.

The four wideouts remaining on Los Angeles’ roster as of today combined for just 92 receptions last year, with over 80% of those coming from Joshua Palmer and disappointing rookie Quentin Johnston. Derius Davis and Simi Fehoko round out a lackluster receiving group that desperately needs an upgrade before Week 1.

But will that upgrade come?

The Chargers hold the No. 5 selection in next month’s draft and should have their pick of any pass-catcher not named Marvin Harrison, Jr. if they so choose. But if their strategy in free agency and recent comments from their new GM and revamped coaching staff are any indication, Herbert and the passing game are taking a backseat in a major way heading into 2024.

JIM HARBAUGH PRESENTS A NEW DAY IN LA

Since the start of his coaching career, Jim Harbaugh has made it clear who he is—an old-school guy who values toughness and grit above all else.

This became clearer when he brought in former Ravens OC Greg Roman to run the offense. Roman oversaw some of the most run-heavy offenses in football in his four years at the helm in Baltimore, and his recent comments indicate that he doesn’t intend to change his ways any time soon.

“I think in this league, you can really, really help dictate the defenses if you have a strong running attack,” Roman said. “If you really talk to most defensive coordinators in this league and got ’em off to the side when they’re playing a really good running team, they’re sweating a little bit. They’re sleeping a little less that week.”

New Chargers GM Joe Hortiz, who also comes over from Baltimore, echoed this sentiment in his introductory press conference, stating simply, “We want to be strong, physical, tough, and build a good run game.”

His first moves as general manager solidified this belief with the additions of Edwards, Dissly, Hurst, and center Bradley Bozeman, who had the best season of his career in 2019 on Roman’s Ravens.

What does all of this mean for Justin Herbert?

In short, it’s not good. Los Angeles has never ranked higher than 18th in rush yards per game with Herbert on their roster, and even in those pass-heavy attacks, he was a top-eight fantasy QB just once, finishing as QB2 in 2021. Now, his ceiling is rapidly lowering, and a run-focused regime at the helm seemingly has no interest in providing Herbert with a sufficient stable of pass catchers.

Even though this is satire, we wouldn’t be shocked if this were truthful, at this point.

SUMMARY: JUSTIN HERBERT 2024 FANTASY OUTLOOK

Let’s put it this way: if you have Justin Herbert on your dynasty roster, I’m sorry. And if you have him due to a blockbuster deal in which you gave up a lot of assets to acquire him, I’m really, really sorry.

There’s still plenty of time before Week 1 for the Chargers to add a receiving threat in free agency or the draft. Still, even if that happens, their trio of Harbaugh, Roman, and Hortiz calling the shots don’t seem interested in letting Herbert cook.

The Wolf seems a bit more optimistic about Herbert’s potential in 2024, placing him at QB13 in his 2024 Rankings and Big Board and referencing Roman’s past success with Lamar Jackson and Colin Kaepernick as reasons Herbert may not be doomed. But unlike Jackson and Kaepernick, Herbert will always be a pass-first quarterback, and the way this franchise is headed, that’s definitely not a good thing.

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