Would You Rather: Draft Kenyan Drake or Austin Ekeler in 2019 Fantasy Football

Dan Israeli
Atlanta Falcons v Miami Dolphins
Atlanta Falcons v Miami Dolphins / Michael Reaves/Getty Images

At certain points in your fantasy football draft, you will be forced to decide between two players at the same position who have very contrasting outlooks for the upcoming season.

A good example of that in 2019 comes in roughly the sixth or seventh round, depending on league size, when two of the top running backs available are likely to be Austin Ekeler of the Los Angeles Chargers and Kenyan Drake of the Miami Dolphins. While both players are similar in that they are especially valuable in PPR leagues, the rest of their respective 2019 outlooks couldn't be farther apart.

Starting off with Ekeler, there is good reason why many drafters are high on the Chargers' satellite back this season. Incumbent starter Melvin Gordon is still holding out due to a contract dispute, which the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said is expected to spill into the regular season.

Ekeler, although somewhat undersized at 5'10" and 200 pounds, has been an efficiency monster so far in his NFL career, averaging 5.3 yards per carry and 10.3 yards per reception through two seasons. He played three games without Gordon in 2018, combining for 40 rush attempts and 20 targets in those contests.

Drake, on the other hand, enters 2019 in a committee backfield, projected to split touches with second-year RB Kalen Ballage. Drake was dealing with a foot injury earlier in camp, but he recently shed his walking boot and is expected to suit up in Week 1. Drake also had to split carries with Frank Gore in 2018, but he broke out as a receiving back, catching 53 passes for 477 yards and five touchdowns.

Now, there are two major wrinkles that could drastically affect the values of both Drake and Ekeler this season. Starting with Drake, he has been involved in trade rumors in a possible Jadeveon Clowney deal, which would move him to another committee backfield in Houston. If Drake were to become a Texan, he would lose passing down work to Duke Johnson Jr., but would benefit from playing in a far better offense than he does now.

Meanwhile, a report from ESPN Chargers reporter Eric Williams projects Melvin Gordon to be on the Chargers 53-man roster for Week 1, which would drastically change Ekeler's outlook this season.

While both Ekeler and Drake are still enigmas just one week before the regular season kicks off, their value is very different.

Ekeler has more upside, by far, as the potential lead back in one of the league's best offenses if the Gordon holdout continues. Drake's ceiling is much lower in Miami, but he is the safer option, locked in as the top back in the Dolphins' committee. That safety might help give Drake an edge if we were talking about a higher draft pick, but a solid PPR floor isn't too hard to find in the middle rounds of drafts. Ekeler's upside, though, is far less replaceable, which could make him a far more valuable (albeit riskier) pick.

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