Austin Ekeler agreed to a four-year, $24.5 million deal with the Chargers early this offseason. Of course, as ESPN.com suggested, by letting Melvin Gordon walk, the Chargers had already committed to Ekeler, who emerged as a key contributor over the past two seasons -- even if he's not used in a traditional featured role. In case you missed it, in 2019 Ekeler ran 132 times and caught 92 passes while notching 11 overall touchdowns. Among all running backs last season, Ekeler finished at the top in receiving TDs (eight) and second in receptions. Beyond that, he led all NFL players in catches without a drop (92); his 993 yards receiving were 12th most ever by a running back; he had 10 games with five-plus catches, and was one of five running backs with 1,500-plus total yards and 10-plus total TDs. HC Anthony Lynn wants Ekeler to get 15 to 20 touches a game, a trend that should continue in 2020.
Ekeler has yet to prove himself capable of handling a front-line role and may not be asked to this year either with rookie Joshua Kelley and holdover Justin Jackson standing by to handle early-down and between-the-tackles work as needed. In addition, the departure of Philip Rivers, who clearly locked in on Ekeler regularly last year, opens the door to concerns about this year's QB, whether it's Tyrod Taylor or Justin Herbert, having the same locked-in connection that Ekeler enjoyed with Rivers.
2020 Bottom Line
Whatever the case, Ekeler finished fourth in fantasy points at the position last season. That's impressive. In fact, Ekeler averaged nearly 27 fantasy points a game over the first four weeks of the season and he finished with six top-5 performances -- tied for third-most in the league among running backs. And, as NFL.com noted, his seven 20-plus point games tied for second with Dalvin Cook, Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry. These numbers will lead some to overpay; you should not be among them. Instead, viewing Ekeler as a very high-end RB2 seems like a wise course of action for us.