The Duel

Would You Rather: Austin Ekeler or Justin Jackson in Fantasy Football Amid Melvin Gordon Holdout

By Stephen Knox
Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Chargers
Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Chargers /

The Los Angeles Chargers backfield is one of the most interesting subplots of NFL training camp, especially when it comes to fantasy football. Melvin Gordon is holding out for a new contract, and, with rumors that it could last into the 2019 season, that means the Chargers' starting running back will likely either be Austin Ekeler or Justin Jackson come Week 1.

Ekeler is listed ahead of Jackson on the team's depth chart, but neither is a truly proven commodity. Ekeler, who signed with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2017, started three games for the Bolts last season, totaling 106 carries on the year. What was most impressive was the back's yards per carry (YPC), at 5.3 YPC. He also caught 39 passes for 404 yards and three touchdowns, pointing to potential fantasy upside with Gordon holding out.

Jackson also showed flashes last season. He had solid performances against the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers in Weeks 8 and 9 when the back totaled 110 yards on 15 carries during that two-game stretch, and showed promise as a receiver later in the season, with seven catches for 47 yards in Week 15 against the Baltimore Ravens. He also got his first career start, in Week 13, when injuries to both Gordon and Ekeler shot him to the top of the team's depth chart. While he rushed for 58 yards on 16 carries against the Kansas City Chiefs, lots of RBs struggled against the KC defense last season.

All in all, it seems like Ekeler is the player to select in the mid-to-early rounds of upcoming 2019 fantasy football drafts. His numbers have been better than Jackson's overall, and Ekeler would likely be used in the team's passing game, if Gordon does ultimately return.

But if this holdout stems into the season, your smartest play would likely be to handcuff Ekeler and Jackson. That would cover all of your bases in the Chargers' backfield, something that could lead to a quality fantasy season in 2019.

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