The question of if Chargers running back Austin Ekeler is a top-five fantasy football running back at the moment is a loaded one. He has never had the chance to completely take over the offense like this season, but at 25 years old and entering his fourth professional season, his ceiling is extremely high.
Ekeler went undrafted in 2017 from Western Colorado University, and ever since he signed his three-year contract with the Chargers, he was always riding in the backseat. The Chargers had their guy in Melvin Gordon, but Ekeler was there when they needed him. When Gordon sat out the first four weeks of the 2019 season, Ekeler stepped in. But this season is different for Ekeler because he’s going to be their RB1 now that Gordon is in Denver and Philip Rivers is in Indianapolis. He is also playing behind a new starting quarterback in Tyrod Taylor.
He isn’t a top-five running back in fantasy, but he’s undoubtedly in the upper top-10.
ESPN has him ranked No. 8 while NFL and Yahoo! has him at No. 7. You have to put Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, and either Saquon Barkley or Ezekiel Elliott in your top-three, and Dalvin Cook deserves to be in the top-five. The only other running backs that are acceptable above Ekeler right now are Aaron Jones and Derrick Henry. The others aren’t in the same tier.
If you are big on fantasy football advice, you know that ESPN’s Matthew Berry has him ranked 10th among all players in 2020, so there’s that fact as well.
Ekeler finished fourth in the 2019 fantasy football season with 309 points and finished ninth among all offensive players. That is a big feat. McCaffrey ran away with that No. 1 spot, more than 150 points over Jones and Elliott, but those two were only a touchdown away from Ekeler.
Ekeler finished the season with over 500 rushing yards with three touchdowns and almost 1,000 receiving yards with eight touchdowns in 16 games.
The numbers from the 2017 and 2018 season weren’t close. He played in all 16 games, but his touches were limited. He finished the season ranked No. 22 among running backs with 168.8 points in 2018 and ranked No. 24 with 106.9 points in 2017.
One thing that Ekeler has over a lot of the running backs in the league is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and gain a lot of yards. He averaged just over nine yards a catch in 2019. Roto Baller’s Michael Florio says the loss of Philip Rivers is going to hurt Ekeler’s numbers because Rivers throws the most to running backs compared to other quarterbacks. Tyrod Taylor threw to his running back the last full season he played under center, but it wasn’t nearly as often.
Ekeler has always been the second option with the Chargers, but he is finally expected to get the bulk of the load unless head coach Anthony Lynn decides that Ekeler has to share with Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley. It should be fun to see where Ekeler’s numbers end up at the end of the season.
As far as your fantasy team goes, if you’re drafting and he is on the board, he shouldn’t be overlooked. You may be sorry if you pass on him. He might not be your first option, but he is definitely a great second running back. He doesn’t deserve any time on the bench.
What do you think? Vote below!