Where should Chargers RB Austin Ekeler fall in the fantasy football running back rankings after his breakout season and departure of Melvin Gordon?
The Los Angeles Chargers offense will look different this fall. Not only did they let longtime starting quarterback Philip Rivers walk in free agency, but they also let running back Melvin Gordon sign with a division rival. Tyrod Taylor will replace Rivers for now and Justin Herbert will eventually replace Taylor down the line. It’s also Austin Ekeler‘s time to shine in the Bolts’ offense.
During The Fantasy Footballers‘ first fantasy football mock draft for the 2020 NFL season, Mike Wright brought up an interesting discussion point: Is Ekeler now a top-10 running back in fantasy football? Though he’s not a top-tier running back in the league, is he good enough to be your fantasy team’s RB1 en route to victory this season?
Let’s keep in mind how ground-centric the Chargers’ offense will be under head coach Anthony Lynn. It was certainly that way when he was the Buffalo Bills’ offensive coordinator under Rex Ryan before getting the Chargers gig. He had LeSean McCoy in the backfield and Taylor playing the best ball of his career out of Virginia Tech. Ekeler could be a lesser version of McCoy this fall.
While we should expect Ekeler to get significantly more carries now that Gordon plays for the AFC West rival Denver Broncos, the Bolts also drafted UCLA Bruins running back Joshua Kelley in the 2020 NFL Draft. He’ll certainly get more than a few available carries out of the Chargers backfield. The question remains if Lynn will let Ekeler be the bell-cow needed to be an RB1 in fantasy.
Wright’s colleagues are not as high on him because they believe the expanded workload Ekeler would receive is overstated. He may get a few more carries, but it won’t propel him all the way to RB1 status on any fantasy team. If he’s your RB2, you have a great chance of winning each week in fantasy. In short, he’s the Allen Robinson of running backs this year.
So is Ekeler a top-15 running back in fantasy this year? Yes, that sounds about right. While we should look for the Chargers to have a more run-dominant approach in 2020, eventually they will want to see what Herbert is all about as a passer. Though he ran a little bit down the stretch at Oregon, the Bolts drafted him to throw the ball and not to run with it.