We need to talk about Danario Alexander

Danario Alexander

Danario Alexander, the shot of life into the decaying corpse of the Chargers’ passing game, is more than a waiver wire flier, more than a guy worth a plug and play and a prayer for a fluky 80-yard score this week against the Broncos.

Alexander is the 24-year-old free agent signing last seen in a Rams uniform, gimping on his decrepit knees while the team gave him every chance to be the centerpiece of another toothless passing attack. Fantasy owners who listened to Norv Turner last week when he pledged that Alexander would take on a big role in San Diego may have had an out-of-body experience when he scored just a few minutes into Sunday’s tilt.

Alexander played his second game as a Charger in Week 10. Not only did he torment the Buccaneers’ sieve of a secondary for five receptions, 134 yards and a touchdown, but most importantly, he was freed from the chains of a wide receiver rotation with free agent mega-bust Robert Meachem. Alexander, to the surprise of even his most ardent supporters (apologists), played more snaps than any Chargers pass catcher last week (59 of a possible 66 snaps).

In his very first game with the Chargers, against the Chiefs in Week 9, Alexander ran as many pass routes as the team’s unquestioned No. 1 receiver, Malcolm Floyd. Alexander drew seven targets that day, the same as Floyd.

To say that DX – as he’s known – is an integral part of the San Diego offense is to say Philip Rivers throws a football like a live grenade from a bunker.

Alexander is 6-foot-5 and 217 pounds – he’s physical off the line, creating separation right off the snap, he can sky over defenders for jump balls, and he’s a bear to take down, as he showed on his 80-yard score against Tampa on Sunday. He’s fodder for any coach or fantasy owner who looks for unknowable potential in overlooked guys of ideal size and ability.

In 18 games in the NFL, DX has caught 46 passes for 747 yards, an average of 2.5 catches and 41.5 yards per game. It’s a miniature sample size, to be sure, and there were a handful of statistical duds in those 18 games. DX, however you feel about his fantasy football potential, has overwhelming big play ability. In fact, before cutting Alexander after he missed training camp with a nagging hamstring injury, Rams’ offensive coaches were reportedly enamored of the big receiver’s potential.

Now for the reasons he’s not already starring on your pretend football team. Alexander has been plagued by chronic knee injuries that have required multiple surgeries over his brief career – enough, at least, to keep him out of the 2010 NFL draft after a career at the University of Missouri that saw him catch 81 passes for 1,238 yards and 11 touchdowns in his senior year.

Reading through Alexander’s college highlights is a depressing task. Alexander sets school freshman record, hurts wrists…Alexander catches a team-high 10 passes, limps off with knee injury…Alexander scores game-winning touchdown on beautiful, leaping grab over defenders, sidelined with leg injury.

And that’s where your willingness to gamble comes into play. You’re not risk averse until you plug DX into your lineup.

Last week, upon hearing the news that the Chargers would start Alexander opposite Floyd against Tampa, I inserted DX into my The Fake Football Writers’ League lineup and reaped the riches of his 19-point outburst. I did not, however, use Alexander in my keeper league lineup, choosing instead to go ultra conservative, starting Jonathon Dwyer as a flex instead of DX. The difference, as you know, was 13 points.

The argument over injury proneness – whether it exists, and if so, to what extent – has raged this since the summer, as fantasy owners debate the pros and cons of investing heavily in guys like Darren McFadden and Ryan Mathews.

As prone to nicks and bumps and bruises as those guys are, DX has them beat, by a healthy margin. It’s important to acknowledge that the man’s legs are ticking time bombs that could submarine your fantasy faith with a single misstep.

Rivers, Turner, and the Chargers have given us reason to take the chance though. And against Denver, where he’ll likely avoid the fantasy death knell of Champ Bailey’s blanket coverage, I love Alexander’s fantasy prospects in Week 11.

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C.D. Carter Fantasy Football Analyst
C.D. Carter is a reporter, author of zombie stories, writer for The Fake Football and XN Sports. Fantasy Sports Writers Association member. His work  has been featured in the New York Times.