The Fantasy Football Impact of Gus Edwards to the Los Angeles Chargers

Mar 26, 2024
The Fantasy Impact of Gus Edwards to the Chargers

The first free agency move of the new Jim Harbaugh/Joe Horitz regime in Los Angeles was officially reuniting Gus Edwards with offensive coordinator Greg Roman. The Chargers signed Edwards to a two-year, $6.5 million contract in the same free agency cycle that they allowed three pillars of the former offensive regimes to leave town (Mike Williams, Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen). The running back finds himself in a great situation to produce immediately.

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Gus Edwards Running Back Profile

Coming out of Rutgers in 2018, Gus Edwards was profiled as a two-down back who could move piles for extra yards and was a near-zero in the passing game. That profile left NFL teams hesitant to pull the trigger, as he wound up finding a home in Baltimore as a UDFA and immediately began to produce in that specific role right off the bat.

Between 2018 and 2020, Edwards provided the backfield with physicality, rotating in with the likes of Kenneth Dixon, Mark Ingram, and J.K. Dobbins to supplement a rushing attack around Lamar Jackson. Edwards was set to continue that “thumper” role in 2021, but an ACL injury completely erased the entire year, and by the time he returned in 2022, he was merely the third option in a three-headed backfield.

Gus Edwards Career Stats
Year G Starts Att. Rush Yards Targets Rec. Rec Yards Scores Half-PPR FP/G FP/G Rank
2018 11 6 137 718 2 2 20 2 7.9 RB45
2019 16 1 133 711 7 7 45 2 5.6 RB63
2020 16 6 144 723 13 9 129 6 7.7 RB46
2022 9 4 87 433 2 0 0 3 6.5 RB58
2023 17 9 198 810 13 12 180 13 10.6 RB29

Edwards’ moderate achievements leading up to the 2023 season did not foreshadow the most fruitful year in his career so far. Not only was he fantasy viable, but he was even a consistent RB2/3 option due to his new-found goal-line work. With the team becoming more conservative with Lamar Jackson’s usage from within the five-yard line, the Ravens turned to their 6’1”, 238-pound back to handle a league-high 23 goal-line attempts in ‘23.

While Edwards had only run 479 routes over his five-year sample with Baltimore, we’ll see if his role changes at all in Los Angeles.

How Gus Edwards Fits in Los Angeles

Though the Chargers are missing the second-highest percentage of running back targets from last season (91.4%), it was likely Edwards’ former (and current) offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, was the one who pined for him to jump to the West Coast in the first place. We can assume that this means his role will be incredibly similar to the one he just had, as the two have been working together for the entirety of Edwards’ career.

With the max exodus of aging pass-catching options, including one of the best receiving backs in NFL history, there is still an opportunity for upside for the newest Charger, though. Even before Roman’s time with the Ravens, he was tied to Harbaugh in the 2011-2014 seasons with the 49ers. Those teams ranked in the top seven of team rushing percentage in all four years, with three finishes in the top three. Those numbers aren’t adjusted for game situation —being that it was 14 years ago— but it gives a broad view of how Roman has preferred to run his offense, even on teams that didn’t have Lamar Jackson at the helm.

Edwards has the advantage of taking over the vast majority of the boring between-the-20s carries and is an obvious choice when the team gets closer to the end zone. Will this 2024 Chargers team have 500+ rush attempts like so many of those Ravens and 49ers teams had? That’s to be determined. But if Gus Bus stays healthy, his raw carry total should still be more than acceptable.

Fantasy Outlook for the Chargers Backfield

The truth is, there’s not much to the Chargers backfield at the time of this writing. The team allowed Austin Ekeler to walk, and sneakily, Joshua Kelley is no longer under contract, either. That tandem accounted for 87.9% of the team’s rushing attempts in 2023 and also handled all 19 of the team’s running back goal-line attempts.

What remains is 2022 fourth-rounder Isaiah Spiller and UDFAs Elijah Dotson and Jaret Patterson. That trio of backs has combined for 59 career attempts and has no ties to this new regime.

It would come as a shock if the Chargers left the NFL Draft without investing a mid-round pick at the running back position, with obvious ties to Blake Corum, who Jim Harbaugh just won the National Championship with at Michigan. In a weaker RB draft class, a fourth-rounder coming into the season certainly shouldn’t block out a ton of opportunity for Gus Edwards, but a specific build like Corum —an all-around back who can stay on the field for three downs— would be the worst-case scenario.

Here in the pre-draft process, Edwards still stands on solid ground and should be considered a fringe RB3. He might be a better dart to throw after the NFL Draft, as drafters might discount him after the team inevitably brings in another option.

Bottom Line

  • Gus Edwards is reunited with Greg Roman, the Ravens' 2019-2023 offensive coordinator, with whom he just led the league in goal-line attempts.
  • After a mass exodus of skill position players, the Chargers don’t have many playmaking options, and could easily be one of the heaviest neutral-situation running teams in the league.
  • According to current Underdog ADP, Edwards is coming off of draft boards as the RB39 in the 11th round. The trepidation is understandable, but there aren’t a ton of routes for a complete bust on a team devoid of options. There are scenarios in which a rookie back usurps the RB1 role in the second half of the season, but that shouldn’t keep the veteran from handling the goal-line work throughout 2024. If he drops into the RB40s after the inevitable RB selection in the NFL Draft, he will turn into a great late-round pick.
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