As CBSSports.com recently pointed out, Austin Ekeler has been wildly efficient as a change-of-pace back behind Melvin Gordon. He's averaged better than 5 yards per carry and more than 10 yards per reception each of his first two seasons in the NFL. He has been one of the rare NFL backups who have fantasy value even with the starter healthy. And if Gordon goes down again -- or if the contract squabble that has Gordon promising a training camp holdout (and requesting a trade if unresolved), Ekeler should become an instant starter.
The concern for fantasy owners will be whether Ekeler actually gets a majority of the workload even if Gordon isn’t available. When Gordon was hurt last year, the Chargers' backfield became another committee between Ekeler and Justin Jackson, and Ekeler's efficiency suffered while Jackson at times looked like the better back. As it stands there is just no guarantee Ekeler, who missed time down the stretch last year due to concussion issues, beats out Jackson for the secondary role, and certainly no guarantee either will be must-start if Gordon goes down. Detrez Newsome, who was impressive last preseason, would also be in the mix here.
2019 Bottom Line
Nonetheless, Ekeler appears to be the best bet to see playing time if Gordon is signed, healthy and on the field. His role as a receiving back and change-of-pace makes him a viable RB3 or Flex option in PPR leagues.