Who is Austin Ekeler's Backup? Chargers RB Handcuffs to Know for Fantasy Football

Adam Taylor McKillop
Who is Austin Ekeler's handcuff? Chargers running back depth chart, including backups to know for fantasy football.
Who is Austin Ekeler's handcuff? Chargers running back depth chart, including backups to know for fantasy football. / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Austin Ekeler is one of the top picks in fantasy football drafts this year following a monstrous 2021 campaign. Managers who spent premium capital to select Ekeler are confident in his abilities to rack up touches in a high-flying Chargers offense, including 206 rushing attempts and 94 targets a year ago.

As with any premium fantasy draft pick, managers must be aware of a backup plan should that player go down with injury. Considering the dynamic rushing and pass-catching capabilities Ekeler touts, it's important to realize the other RBs on LA's roster may not be able to do it all. There's not many running backs in football that can boast those talents.

That's why everyone, not just Ekeler managers, should know the ins and outs of the Chargers' RB depth chart for the 2022 season.

Chargers Running Back Depth Chart 2022

Following the cutdown to 53-man rosters, Los Angeles currently has four running backs in the mix. It stars with Ekeler, who put together a splendid campaign with 276 touches, a league-leading 20 total TDs and 1,558 yards from scrimmage. It should also be noted Ekeler dominated the red zone, ranking first with 18 red zone TDs and second with 63 red zone touches.

Joshua Kelley is the second running back listed on the Chargers' depth chart. A healthy season from Ekeler kept Kelley off the field for large spans of time, and the third-year pro racked up 102 yards and two touchdowns on just 33 carries. He also caught all 23 of his targets for receptions during his rookie campaign in 2020.

Then there's veteran Sony Michel, who was just brought into the fold on Wednesday, a day after his release from the Miami Dolphins. Michel played all 17 games for the Los Angeles Rams last year and tallied 845 yards, 4 touchdowns on 200+ rushes.

Finally there's rookie Isaiah Spiller, who the Chargers took in the fourth round back in April. Spiller enjoyed back-to-back monster campaigns at Texas A&M, tallying 1,000+ rushing yards and 15 total touchdowns in that span.

Who is Austin Ekeler's Handcuff?

The addition of Michel certainly complicates the answer to this question. There is some expectation that Michel will immediately step into the primary rusher role should Ekeler miss any time, although Kelley held that role all the way through training camp until this recent signing.

Michel brings a wealth of experience as a lead-back, tallying at least 200+ carries in three of his four seasons. He's also added at least 845 rushing yards each season he eclipses that mark.

Kelley will still bring value to fantasy managers in a handcuff situation, although he's more likely to simply eat up passing targets and potential red zone targets as opposed to primary rusher responsibilities.

These factors make the Chargers' backup running back situation difficult to dissect. Michel is the obvious candidate to eat up the rushing opportunities, while Kelley can remain a threat on passing downs. There's also the wild card of a rookie in Spiller. It's very unclear if Spiller will find much of the field at all this season, but any sort of strong showing will also increase his workload.

For now, fantasy managers should assume Michel as the best handcuff to Ekeler entering the campaign. Even if Ekeler stays healthy, you'll want to pay attention to the pecking order of these backups to clear up the overall picture.

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Adam Taylor McKillop is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Adam Taylor also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username atmckillop. 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.