Austin Ekeler has done it all this season for the Los Angeles Chargers. The running back is coming off a record-setting performance, and his 25+ fantasy points per game makes him the second-leading scorer at his position in 2019.
However, with Melvin Gordon getting more adjusted into the Bolts offense, is it time for fantasy owners to start looking ahead, and possibly elsewhere, to get the once-stellar fantasy production they had been getting from Ekeler?
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Austin Ekeler’s Fantasy Outlook vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
On the surface, Ekeler soured Melvin Gordon’s return to the Los Angeles Chargers lineup. Numerous fantasy owners were left with great anguish and disdain towards Ekeler and his 22.30 fantasy points. While Gordon was left to pick up the pieces on his way to a meager 7.80 points.
However, if you take a closer look you’ll realize how easily those numbers could have been switched around. Gordon led the way in rushing for the Chargers, and to be frank, it wasn’t even close. Gordon rushed the ball 12 times against the Broncos, to just three attempts for Ekeler. That is a drastic dropoff for a running back who averaged nearly 16 carries per contest over three of the first four games of the 2019 season. Those numbers may have been even more spread if it wasn’t for the Chargers’ struggles in the passing game a week ago. Philip Rivers tossed two interceptions and struggled to move the ball, in return falling behind and needing to abandon the run game.
Ekeler saw his lowest snap total of this season last week, while Gordon received 46% of the snaps in his inaugural performance of 2019.
Not all was bad for Ekeler a week ago, in fact, he finished with an absurd 15 receptions on the day, tying a Chargers franchise record for most receptions in a game. Unfortunately for Ekeler owners, that is highly unlikely to occur this Sunday. Melvin Gordon is no slouch in the passing game, accumulating 106 receptions over the past two seasons.
Pittsburgh is middle of the pack in terms of defending fantasy running backs. They’ve surrendered the 14th most points to the position in the NFL. They have, however, allowed four rushing touchdowns over the past four games. If Ekeler’s touch count in the run game a week ago tells you anything, it’s that he will likely not be the running back to score the fifth touchdown in as many games.
Offensively for Pittsburgh, they will be starting a third-string undrafted free agent at Quarterback on Sunday night. This likely means they will struggle to move the ball. This also means the Chargers will not have to get into pass-only mode as they did a week ago. In return, you can expect the Bolts to feature the run game as a way to chew up the clock, which also means featuring Gordon, not Ekeler.
Should You Start or Sit Austin Ekeler in Week 6?
I firmly believe that Ekeler is the better fit between him and Gordon within the Chargers offense. So much so that I feel he’s single-handedly made Gordon expendable following the season. However, the return of Gordon has pushed Ekeler’s value down exponentially. Fantasy owners should take last week as a warning sign, and curb their expectations for the one-time RB1 lock. Ekeler is pegged as more of a flex play in Week 6.