The Duel

Austin Ekeler's Fantasy Value Continues to Climb as Melvin Gordon Contract Talks Are Put on Hold

Jason Schandl
Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos
Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos / Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
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It's no secret at this point that Melvin Gordon is likely to miss some regular season games as he holds out in hopes for a contract extension. This has been one of the NFL's big stories since July, and we haven't had many concrete updates.

This has been a huge boon for Austin Ekeler's 2019 fantasy football outlook. The third-year back went from being drafted as a handcuff to being taken at an average draft position (ADP) of RB28 (64th overall), per FantasyPros.com.

As we head into Week 1, reports have surfaced that Gordon and the Los Angeles Chargers have completely ended contract talks, not intending to resume until after the season.

If you were holding out any hope that Gordon was going to play in Week 1, you can let go of that now.

This doesn't mean that Gordon is likely to pull a Le'Veon Bell and miss the entire year though. Gordon needs to return by Week 10 for the season to count toward his upcoming free agency, so barring a trade he can be expected to return by that time.

The stalled negotiations also mean that there isn't much incentive for Gordon to return before he has to.

We already knew that Ekeler was likely to spend a couple of games as a lead back, but now it's looking likely that he holds the Chargers' No. 1 RB spot through most of the fantasy football season.

Ekeler averaged 20 opportunities per game when playing without Gordon in the 2018 season, racking up 40 rush attempts and 20 targets over three contests. Only eight backs averaged at least 20 opportunities per game for the entire season, and one was Gordon. The Chargers were not shy about feeding their lead back whether Gordon was playing or not. That creates an amazing fantasy opportunity in one of the NFL's best offenses.

Already a sixth-round pick, Ekeler's price-tag shouldn't climb too much higher with the most recent news about Gordon's contract — he's still a guy whose value is likely to take a big hit as the fantasy football playoffs approach.

There's still a chance Gordon is traded though, and there's also no guarantee that he's in game shape and ready for a full workload as soon as he re-joins the team, so we can't completely rule out Ekeler spending more than 10 weeks as the lead back.

Ekeler's upside with Gordon on the shelf is massive. Even though it may not last the entire season, he's got a high enough ceiling to be worth rolling the dice on in the middle rounds. His week-winning upside is something you're not usually finding outside the first three rounds of drafts, so his ADP is appropriately discounted to account for that late-season concern.


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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.

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