Austin Ekeler Injury Update: Is he playing in Week 10?

Week 10 is about to kick off, and fantasy football managers are still wondering if Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler will return from his injury this week. Ekeler is eligible to come off of injured reserve at any time now, but head coach Anthony Lynn has not signaled that he would be activated any time soon. With the Chargers sitting at 2-6, is Austin Ekeler playing in Week 10, and should he even bother coming back this season?

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Austin Ekeler has resumed running and is eligible to come off the IR at anytime

Thanks to recent social media posts made by Austin Ekeler in recent days, rumblings have begun to get louder in the hopes that Ekeler is going to make his long-awaited return to the field. However, we need to consider what the injury that Austin Ekeler is coming back from is before getting overly excited about a guy jogging, though that is something he couldn’t do before. 

Initially reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Chargers’ RB Austin Ekeler suffered a Grade 2 hamstring strain during the team’s Week 4 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It later came out by Ekeler himself during a live stream that part of the tendon essentially ripped off the bone, which is much closer to a Grade 3 injury.

Related | Fantasy RB Injury Report Week 10: Joe Mixon, Austin Ekeler, Nick Chubb injury updates

Initially, the diagnosis was 4-6 weeks for his recovery period, but head coach Anthony Lynn said that Ekeler’s return would come “later rather than sooner,” according to Daniel Popper of The Athletic a few weeks ago.

The initial diagnosis on Austin Ekeler’s injury set his return for around this time period. He is actually able to come off of the injured reserve anytime if the team decided he was good to go and fully healed. Knowing that he is running, should fantasy managers expect to see him back this week?

Is Austin Ekeler playing in Week 10?

Fantasy managers continue to ask is Austin Ekeler playing in Week 10? The answer is probably, no. There is a massive difference between jogging and being ready to play in an NFL game. We need to remember how bad Austin Ekeler’s injury was. Usually, these take several months to heal, and they are at very high risk for re-injury. The fact he is using a zero-gravity treadmill shows that he is nowhere near coming back in Week 10. 

There is no question the team would want him back just as bad as anyone who selected Ekeler in the draft this year. He came out of the gates on fire and continued the hot streak he was on in 2019. In the first four weeks, Ekeler rushed 47 times for 236 yards (5.1 avg) and had one rushing touchdown. He was also extremely efficient in the air, catching all 16 targets for 143 yards (8.5 avg). 

When can we realistically expect Autin Ekeler to return from injury?

The way things are looking right now, it seems Austin Ekeler is still a few weeks away from coming back if he is just now starting to run again. If that is the case, anything in the Week 12 window makes sense. 

The Chargers play the New York Jets in Week 11, so there is no need to rush him back for that game and then face the Buffalo Bills followed by the New England Patriots. While this sounds like a perfect boost for anyone about to hit the playoffs, there is a chance Austin Ekeler might not return from his hamstring injury at all in 2020. 

The Chargers right now are sitting with a 2-6 record entering Week 10. They are dead last in the AFC West and also 0-2 in their division. Say the Chargers get to Week 13 and are 3-8; even if they won five straight to get to .500, that likely wouldn’t be enough to make the playoffs.

Related | Fantasy Football Trade Analyzer: Lamar Jackson is a trade target heading into Week 10

With the playoffs out of the list of possibilities, what would be the point of risking Austin Ekeler and his hamstring when there is nothing on the line? The team could just as easily shut him down at that point and enter 2021 with a clean slate and full bill of health. 

I know some are touting Ekeler as a buy-low, and you certainly could get him for cheap if he misses another game, but there is just as likely a chance he will sit on your bench the remainder of the season as well.

Who should I start between Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley, or Kalen Ballage?

Los Angeles Chargers running back Justin Jackson was extremely limited in his team’s Week 9 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders because of a knee injury, and his status for Week 10 is up in the air. He did not practice on Wednesday, so there is a chance that he misses time.

Joshua Kelley has been consistent so far throughout the year. However, it hasn’t been a very positive consistency. Kelley has more than 30 rushing yards in one game since Week 4 and hasn’t tallied at least 10 carries in two weeks.

In the biggest surprise of the week, Kalen Ballage made his first start with the Chargers after being let go by the New York Jets. He actually looked really good, rushing for 69 yards and a score on 15 carries. He also caught two passes for 15 yards.

If Jackson is out, I think Ballage is going to be the back to own in Los Angeles. Kelley looked good at the beginning of the year but hasn’t been able to replicate that success. Ballage seems to have fresh legs, and with this game expected to be incredibly high scoring, Ballage might be able to get into the end zone.

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Tommy Garrett is a Fantasy Analyst for Pro Football Network and is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can read all of Tommy’s work here, listen to him on PFN’s Fantasy Football podcast, and check out his contributions in PFN’s free fantasy newsletter. Give him a follow on Twitter: @TommyGarrettPFN.