Joshua Palmer Fantasy Outlook: Can the Demoted Los Angeles Chargers WR Be Relevant?

    Los Angeles Chargers WR Joshua Palmer has transformed from an ascending starter to a questionable asset. What is his 2023 fantasy outlook?

    At PFN, we’ve researched more than 350 fantasy football players, trying to identify which ones are overrated, underrated, and priced right. With that in mind, here is Los Angeles Chargers WR Joshua Palmer’s fantasy outlook for 2023.

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    Joshua Palmer’s 2023 Fantasy Outlook

    The NFL Draft provides plenty of intel to fantasy managers seeking to understand the mindset of all 32 teams. As with anything, we can’t know everything teams are thinking. But sometimes, the clues are strikingly clear.

    Despite possessing one of the league’s top passing attacks on paper, the Chargers invested first- and fourth-round picks on two more wideouts: Quinten Johnston and the John Brown-like Derius Davis. Let’s zoom in on the Johnston selection and what it means for Joshua Palmer’s fading fantasy value.

    L.A. had a lot of great options with the No. 21 overall pick. They could have traded down and then snagged someone like Zach Charbonnet or Tank Bigsby to shore up their top-heavy backfield. Or they could have nabbed Dalton Kincaid to pair with ceiling-capped TE Gerald Everett. Or they could have bolstered their defense or offensive lines.

    Instead, in what became the first four-player run on wideouts in NFL first-round draft history, the Chargers acquired Johnston. Jaxon Smith-Njigba had just come off the board, and the WR-needy Ravens and Vikings were on deck. Trading down would work only if they didn’t want a top-flight WR prospect.

    But they clearly did want one, and the NFL-ready Johnston fit the bill. He’s not only a great long-term fit as a future primary target for Herbert; he’s also a great “win-now” fit for a team that’s all-in on a Super Bowl run.

    Austin Ekeler might not return next year, Keenan Allen will turn 32, and Mike Williams will turn 30. If they’re going to make a run with their current core in their prime, it’s now or never.

    That’s the backdrop for sizing up Palmer, a 2021 third-round pick who’s been expected (fairly or not) to help elevate this offense. And in fairness, he played capably last season while Allen and Williams missed a combined 11 contests. Essentially, Palmer has checked all the key boxes as an above-average No. 3 WR.

    So what’s the problem? Again, it comes down to context — namely, that this franchise came deceptively close to toppling the Chiefs in the AFC West. They lost both contests to their rival by merely three points, including once when Herbert broke his ribs and Allen was sidelined.

    This team doesn’t want to roll the dice again. While a trio of Allen, Williams, and Palmer might be all they need to win one of two against K.C. and at least have a shot at the AFC West title, a trio of Allen, Williams, and Johnston — with Palmer as perhaps the best No. 4 WR in football — would give the Chargers the firepower and depth to make a hard charge at the AFC’s No. 1 or No. 2 seed.

    As a result, Palmer is now a fringe Best Ball pick and is essentially undraftable in even the deepest leagues, where No. 4 WRs generally are waiver fodder unless two of the top three receivers go down.

    The only advantages for Palmer consist of (a) the potential above-average injury risks to Allen and Williams, and (b) the fact that Palmer already has proven he can deliver if needed. There might be a week or two (or more) where Palmer is forced into the starting lineup. In such a scenario, he could certainly rustle up double-digit fantasy points as a trusted option for Herbert.

    Backup WR DeAndre Carter started seven games last year for L.A., finishing as the WR61. Palmer realistically can’t approach those numbers barring significant upheaval in this receiving corps. For now, he’s a fairly safe non-top-50 fantasy WR who could fall outside the top 75 if Johnston is NFL-ready in Week 1 and if the Allen-Williams-Johnston trio remains healthy.

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