Austin Ekeler Injury Update Week 9: Should Fantasy Managers Be Concerned?

Should fantasy managers be concerned about Austin Ekeler's injury situation, and could Sony Michel or Isaiah Spiller provide value in Week 9?

The news of Austin Ekeler’s injury has fantasy football managers worried heading into Week 9. The Los Angeles Chargers RB was added to their injury report on Thursday as a limited participant in practice.

Let’s take a look at what we know about the injury or Ekeler and what it might mean for fantasy managers’ decisions this week. Could Sony Michel, Isaiah Spiller, or Larry Rountree be a surprise fantasy asset in Week 9 if Ekeler is held out through injury?

Update: Austin Ekeler was a participant at practice on Friday and has been cleared for Week 9.

Austin Ekeler Injury Update for Week 9

This abdomen injury for Ekeler has seemingly popped up out of nowhere. The first we knew of it was when the Chargers released their Week 9 injury report. Jeff Miller of the Los Angeles Times tweeted that he “talked to Ekeler before practice and he offered no hint that he was dealing with anything.”

MORE: Week 9 Fantasy Injury IR Updates

There are a few things we can surmise from that. It would not be the first time that a player has failed to mention an injury concern to the media. Alternatively, the Chargers simply wanted to give Ekeler a quiet day at practice, and the abdomen issue gave them that chance.

The third potential reason is the most concerning. That is that Ekeler suffered the injury during practice, meaning he ended up being limited after starting practice as a full participant.

We have regularly seen that Ekeler is a supporter of fantasy football and has previously reassured fans with injuries. Therefore, if he knew he was going to be limited in practice and on the injury report but that it was nothing serious, you might have expected him to tell Miller just simply to assuage fears of it being something serious.

With no further news about Ekeler’s injury being reported Thursday, we are left wondering about his status entering Friday. Chargers head coach Brandon Staley will speak to the media Friday ahead of the team’s practice and will likely provide an update.

At this stage, we have no idea whether Ekeler will play this week. His status could legitimately be anything ranging from being completely cleared to being ruled out on Friday.

Should Fantasy Managers Trust Ekeler, Sony Michel, or Isaiah Spiller in Week 9?

This injury for Ekeler has the potential to cause real headaches for fantasy managers. If he ends up being active, how do you not have the highest-scoring RB in terms of PPG this season in half-PPR scoring in your lineup?

Ekeler has averaged 21.2 fantasy points per game so far this season. In half-PPR scoring, he has not finished below nine fantasy points this year and has scored more than 30 fantasy points on three occasions.

It is always intriguing how Ekeler produces in an unconventional way for an RB. He averages 20.71 opportunities per game, but just 12 of those have been rushing attempts. The remaining 8.71 have been targets.

MORE: Week 9 RB Start/Sit

Ekeler is averaging 105.3 yards per game and has eight touchdowns on the season, all of which have come in his last four games. The Chargers’ RB has three multi-touchdown games in his last four.

Ekeler’s work in the passing game has gone to a new level in the past two weeks. He has seen 28 targets, catching 22 of them for 143 yards and a touchdown. With Mike Williams and Keenan Allen both expected to miss the Chargers’ Week 9 game against the Atlanta Falcons, Ekeler could be in line for another huge target share if he is active.

The Falcons have been a weird matchup for RBs this season. At an average of 20.05 fantasy points allowed to the position, they essentially sit around the league average. However, in the past five games, they have allowed 27.5 fantasy points or more to the position three times. Mixed in amongst that is a 0.8-fantasy point allowed performance against the usually impactful San Francisco 49ers running game.

The way the Chargers use Ekeler makes their RB position different from most other teams. Therefore, when evaluating Ekeler, conventional statistical analysis of the opponent is tough to do. However, if Ekeler were to be out, then we could see a more conventional running game from the Falcons, fronted by Sony Michel and Isaiah Spiller.

If Ekeler is out, then the expectation is that Michel would be the lead back, with Spiller as the backup. They also have Larry Rountree III on their practice squad, who they could elevate for this game if Ekeler’s injury is a concern.

Michel has averaged 4.71 rushing attempts and 1.71 targets per game this season. However, through the first six weeks, he was often sharing work with Joshua Kelley, who himself averaged 3.83 rushing attempts per game and 1.67 targets per game before going on the IR.

Kelley was hurt early in the Chargers’ Week 6 game. In those two games, Michel was the clear backup, handling 29.4% of the rushing attempts and seeing three targets in each game. The willingness of the Chargers to use him in the passing game makes him an intriguing play for fantasy this week if Ekeler is ruled out.

MORE: Week 9 RB Fantasy Injury Report

Whether it is as a speculative Flex play in season-long leagues or as a potential value option in daily fantasy contests on Underdog Fantasy, Michel could be a fantasy asset in Ekeler’s potential absence.

It would be a boom-bust type of play because Michel is not as elusive as Ekeler and likely would not see the double-digit targets that we have seen with Ekeler. Therefore, we would be looking for him to find the end zone to have significant fantasy value.

Spiller saw his first game action of the season in Week 7. However, he played on just four snaps, carrying the ball once for a loss of five yards. If Ekeler is out, the Chargers may not have a choice but to give the rookie more work. However, they could also lean on Rountree, who had 36 carries for them last year and may provide a more “safe” option as a backup to Michel.

Based on the way we have seen the Chargers use their backfield, a combination of Spiller and Rountree could have six to eight touches this week if Ekeler is absent. However, it would be hard to trust either as a fantasy asset this week when setting lineups or looking for value in daily fantasy contests.

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