In The Blitz, RotoViz writers react to the latest news and help you place it within the context of our 2020 research and recommendations.
It has been a challenging year for highly drafted running backs. Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, and Ezekiel Elliot have all disappointed for fantasy in their own way. For some, injuries and missed games have resulted in what many have felt was a wasted pick. For others, subpar offensive play and transitioning quarterbacks have created a lack of consistency. For Austin Ekeler and his fantasy managers, Week 12 signified a fresh hope as the fantasy playoffs inch closer.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler returned to action after being sidelined since Week 5 with a hamstring injury. Ekeler looked healthy and received 73% of the backfield snaps versus the Buffalo Bills in Week 12. Ekeler had 14 carries for 44 yards and cleaned up in the passing game by catching 11 of his 16 targets for 85 yards. Managers couldn’t have asked for more out of Ekeler in his return. Ekeler should remain a focal point of the Chargers offense and is especially valuable in PPR leagues. Ekeler should be safely deployed as an RB1 in Week 13 versus the New England Patriots.
New Quarterback, New Opportunities
Ekeler erupted onto the fantasy scene last year by totaling over 1,500 yards from scrimmage — almost 1,000 of which came through the air — and scoring 11 total touchdowns. He parlayed his RB4 finish into a four-year, $24.5 million contract this past offseason. As the page turned to the 2020 season, Ekeler and the Chargers welcomed future franchise quarterback Justin Herbert. Ekeler began this season similar to how he finished last season until an injury derailed him for multiple weeks.
Now, with his first game under his belt following a successful rehab process, Ekeler looks primed to help carry his fantasy managers deep into the fantasy playoffs. He’s a workhorse running back who is virtually matchup-proof and is dynamic every time he touches the ball.
High Floor, High Ceiling
After Herbert took over for incumbent quarterback Tyrod Taylor, Ekeler’s fantasy production exploded, particularly in the receiving game. It was a small sample size, but before his injury, here is how Ekeler performed in the receiving game with and without Herbert earlier this season.
That’s a sharp contrast and highlights the importance Ekeler has on this offense when utilized correctly. His receiving work might take away from some of the other pass-catchers, but his role is secured. In Week 12, Ekeler saw 16 targets as the Chargers trailed throughout much of the game. Looking ahead, three of Ekeler’s next four games are at home, and he should be getting back into playing shape as the season continues. At just 25 years old, Ekeler remains a high floor, high ceiling RB1 regardless of the matchup. Fantasy managers who were patient throughout his recovery process will be richly rewarded in the coming weeks.