Austin Ekeler has quickly made a name for himself in the NFL since being signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2017 NFL Draft. Playing in a limited role as a rookie last season behind Melvin Gordon, Ekeler was able to stay productive, finishing the season with 260 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on just 47 attempts. He added 279 yards and 3 touchdowns on 27 receptions.
Now in his second season in the NFL, Ekeler remains the backup behind Gordon, but is seeing much more action. Through Week 12, he has already surpassed his rushing attempts by 23 and has been targeted 4 more times in the passing game compared to last season. Up to this point, he has 409 rushing yards and 1 touchdown on 70 attempts, adding 354 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns on 32 receptions.
With Melvin Gordon recovering from an MCL sprain that he suffered in Week 12, the Los Angeles Chargers will be forced to lean on Austin Ekeler for several weeks; however, they can still rest assured knowing their running game is in good hands.
As mentioned above, Ekeler went undrafted in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Chargers took a chance on signing him as an undrafted free agent, and haven’t looked back ever since.
The 5’10’’, 200-pound running back played his college ball at Western State from 2013-2016. Ekeler quickly emerged as a talented back after starting 9 games his freshman year and recording 1,049 yards and 7 touchdowns in the process. He followed that up by setting new school records with rushing yards (1,676 yards), all-purpose yards (2,093 yards), and all-purpose yards per game (190.3).
It only got better in his junior and senior seasons, leading all of Division II in all-purpose yards per game with 203.9 his junior year, where he also added a whopping 19 touchdowns. His senior year finished with 1,494 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.
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Ekeler's 2018 Season
The Los Angeles Chargers have embraced his ability to make defenses suffer both on the ground and through the air. Through Week 12 of the 2018-19 season, Ekeler leads all NFL running backs (with at least 200 snaps) in overall grade (89.5) and receiving grade (90.7).
Ekeler also leads all NFL running backs (with at least 100 touches) in yards per touch (7.5 yards), while ranking second in forced missed tackles per touch (0.25) and yards after contact per touch (4.01 yards) and ranking third in percentage of touches ending in a first down/touchdown (34.3%).
With Ekeler turning into the featured back in Gordon’s absence, he will have a prime opportunity to prove what he can do with an uptick in touches. He has only seen more than 10 rushing attempts twice this season and set a new season high with 10 receptions in their last meeting with the Arizona Cardinals.
For those fantasy owners that need a running back due to injuries or bye weeks, Austin Ekeler is available in almost half of the leagues around ESPN. With just 9% of owners starting the back, he could also be a great option for a trade if your deadline is extended.
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