Just as you expected, Austin Ekeler scored more than 23 fantasy points in Week 1. Was his performance a fluke or should you be running to your waiver wire to add Ekeler to your fantasy team? Ekeler is definitely worth a pickup, especially in PPR leagues. With a few games remaining to be played in Week 1, Ekeler is one of my top waiver wire pickups for a few reasons.
Ekeler only had five carries for 39 yards in Week 1, meaning the majority of his production came in the passing game. We know that Melvin Gordon is going to be the workhorse back in San Diego, but where Ekeler can contribute is in the passing game. Ekeler had five receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown. This means his production can be sustainable as the Chargers have shown a desire to use multiple running backs in the passing game.
While preseason performances should be taken with a bit of skepticism, Ekeler had some strong showings prior to the start of the season. Ekeler earned a start against the Saints and had six carries for 50 yards along with a touchdown in limited action. Ekeler also added three receptions for 13 yards.
Ekeler showed flashes last season with 119 total yards and two touchdowns against the Jaguars in Week 10. Towards the end of last season, NFL Network’s James Koh broke down why Ekeler possesses fantasy upside (stats are based on the 2017 season).
The explosive Ekeler got on the NFL radars after posting a 4.43 40-yard-dash time to go along with a 40.5-inch vertical. Despite the eye-popping pro day numbers his diminutive size (5-foot-10, 200 pounds) and unknown background led him to going undrafted. He eventually signed with the Chargers…
Per Next Gen Stats, Ekeler has averaged an incredibly impressive 5.21 yards after a defender closes within one yard (YGAC). It’s a small sample size given his 25 carries on the season but to put his YGAC number in perspective, Alvin Kamara has a 4.69 YGAC number and Kareem Hunt is posting a 4.68 YGAC…
As for Ekeler himself, he is a high variance player but someone you absolutely need to roster. He has stand-alone value as a volatile player that you can manage your roster around if you are so inclined. But as a stash, should something happen to Melvin Gordon, the upside is enticing as well. He doesn’t profile as a traditional handcuff given his size but it’s fair to assume his snap share would increase in the case of a Gordon injury.
Ekeler has definite flex appeal going forward, but fantasy owners will need to be patient if you add him to your roster. He is not an automatic start until you see how the Chargers plan to use him the rest of the season. If Week 1 was any indication, Ekeler is going to see an uptick in touches.
Here’s a look at some of Ekeler’s top plays.