Los Angeles Chargers RB Austin Ekeler was drafted in the first round this summer, but he has three strong weeks and four poor ones since returning to action in Week 6. Is the best yet to come, or should you start preparing to blame him for a fantasy football season that didn’t end as expected?
Austin Ekeler’s Rest-of-Season Outlook
Is he still the fantasy superstar we thought he was when we picked him in the first half of first rounds this summer?
If we operate under the assumption that no player is as good as their best game or as bad as their worst, we have an interesting story to tell when it comes to Ekeler’s production on the ground.
If we look at Ekeler’s past 21 games (including the playoff loss last season) and eliminate his two best and two worst games in terms of rushing yards, here is what he averages:
- 231 carries
- 766 yards
- 3.32 yards per carry
Over the course of time, fantasy managers have been spoiled by elite RBs who are capable of both rushing and catching at the highest levels. Think LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, and today’s Christian McCaffrey. In ranking Ekeler among the elite during the draft season, we are putting expectations like that on his plate, especially with CMC delivering on similar expectations weekly.
Ekeler isn’t that. He’s proven he isn’t that, and the change to Kellen Moore as the play-caller didn’t change that.
Once you separate yourself from those expectations, it’s much easier to admit that Ekeler is still a top-five option at the position for the remainder of the season. The rushing production is capped, but the opportunities are still there, and the floor that his role in this passing game creates is nothing short of elite.
This season, Ekeler has at least five targets in six of eight games, and with a career catch rate approaching 80%, those targets are worth almost 15 carries (based on historical data that values an RB target as roughly 2.5x more valuable in a PPR setting than a carry).
In addition to his role in the passing game, Ekeler has been good for 12-14 carries per game. Ask yourself — if we made Ekeler’s targets into carries based on the fantasy conversion metric, and he was running the ball 27-29 times per game, would you have any concerns?
For the remainder of the fantasy season, the Chargers see the Patriots, Raiders, Bills, and Broncos (twice, including the fantasy Super Bowl in Week 17). Do any of those defenses strike fear in you? Maybe the Patriots, but they are a top-five unit in blitz rate, and those defenses are susceptible to the dump-off game that Ekeler thrives in.
At the end of the day, trust the process. Ekeler is healthy and is still the focal point of this offense. Try to look past the dud he laid against arguably the best defense in the league and prepare for your playoff run!
Rest-of-Season RB Rankings
- Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco 49ers
- Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
- Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars
- Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons
- Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
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