Austin Ekeler Fantasy Outlook With Melvin Gordon Gone Makes Him a Surefire First-Round Pick

Jason Schandl
Austin Ekeler's fantasy football value is set to explode with Melvin Gordon gone from the Chargers backfield in 2020.
Austin Ekeler's fantasy football value is set to explode with Melvin Gordon gone from the Chargers backfield in 2020. / Rob Leiter/Getty Images

If you didn't feel certain that the Los Angeles Chargers' backfield belonged solely to Austin Ekeler heading into the NFL offseason, you should now.

With Melvin Gordon officially a Denver Bronco and Ekeler boasting a fat new contract, the Chargers have all but announced that Ekeler is not only their lead back, but that he's going to be a workhorse.

Ekeler's 2020 breakout season saw him rack up 557 yards and 3 touchdowns on 132 rush attempts, as well as 92 receptions, 993 yards and 8 touchdowns on 108 targets. He finished the year as fantasy football's RB4 in point-per reception (PPR) scoring — trailing just Dalvin Cook, Aaron Jones and Christian McCaffrey.

His 19.4 PPR fantasy points per game were made even more impressive by the fact that he spent 12 weeks sharing the backfield with Gordon, essentially forcing Gordon to end his holdout thanks to a strong start to the year. Gordon ultimately finished the season with more rush attempts (162) while also soaking up 55 targets.

That committee approach is what makes Ekeler's ceiling so incredibly appealing in 2020. Starting with Gordon's return in Week 5, Ekeler averaged 13.2 opportunities (6.3 carries plus 6.9 targets) per game while seeing the field on 52 percent of the Chargers' offensive snaps.

When Gordon wasn't in the way, and the backfield was all Ekeler in Weeks 1 to 4, however, he played 71 percent of the snaps, turning 20.3 opportunities (14.0 carries plus 6.3 targets) into a massive 27.9 PPR points per game.

Volume is king for running backs in fantasy football, and that's especially true of receiving volume — which Ekeler offers in spades.

The Chargers' offense may not be an exciting unit in 2020, with Tyrod Taylor currently slated as their starting QB (pending the likely addition of a rookie in the 2020 NFL Draft), but playing from behind often won't crush Ekeler's value at all, since he also stands to be heavily involved in the passing game.

With both an outstanding floor and massive ceiling, Ekeler should be going off the board as a first-round fantasy football pick in 2020.

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Jason Schandl is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Jason Schandl also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username Jaymun. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.