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Koh Knows: Austin Ekeler a fantasy soccer must-own



Given his measurement, pace and versatile sport, Austin Ekeler actually reminds you of Danny Woodhead jittering round in that Chargers jersey.

And in Week 10, Ekeler exploded, placing on a Woodhead-in-his-prime-type efficiency: 42 yards dashing, 77 yards receiving to go together with two receiving touchdowns.

So the query is, is that this unheralded, undrafted participant the actual deal or simply a kind of one-week taking pictures stars we have seen so typically in fantasy soccer, leaving a superb impression however by no means to be seen once more?

AUSTIN three:16 SAYS …

A Danger Zone alumn, it was enjoyable studying about Ekeler’s journey from small city stud to stunning sleeper.


Growing up in Eaton, CO, a tiny city with a sub-5K inhabitants, Ekeler did not get a variety of seems from main applications and ended up at Division II Western State Colorado.

He posted massive numbers in video games, however it was his efficiency at University of Colorado’s professional day that actually turned heads. The explosive Ekeler acquired on the NFL radars after posting a four.43 40-yard-dash time to go together with a 40.5-inch vertical. Despite the eye-popping professional day numbers his diminutive measurement (5-foot-10, 200 kilos) and unknown background led him to going undrafted. He ultimately signed with the Chargers.

BAH GAWD, IT’S AUSTIN!

Ekeler’s weekly volatility and lack of title worth scared off most from including him prior to now, however I feel that modifications this week after a formidable real-life and fantasy day versus the terrifyingly good Jags protection.

So after popping up right here and there with lengthy touchdowns and popping off versus Jacksonville to the tune of two touchdowns, I sat down and popped in his tape. (Sidebar: what a humorous, dated reference folks nonetheless universally perceive contemplating nobody truly makes use of videotape, not to mention “popping in” stated tape right into a participant. Anyways, again to the column.)

Watching Ek run is like watching lightning on three cups of espresso. It’s all suddenness and burst. And talking of quick, the factor I actually preferred was his how fast he was to learn gaps and blocks.

The play above is just one spotlight of what’s a season-long development. Per Next Gen Stats, Ekeler has averaged an extremely spectacular 5.21 yards after a defender closes inside one yard (YGAC). It’s a small pattern measurement given his 25 carries on the season however to place his YGAC quantity in perspective, Alvin Kamara has a four.69 YGAC quantity and Kareem Hunt is posting a four.68 YGAC.

(Remember, this YGAC quantity is a good measure of a operating again’s elusiveness as defined in better element right here.)

WHAT? … WHAT? … WHAT? …

So elusiveness is one factor for a small, fast again however the man performs a lot stronger than you’ll anticipate. Just watching Ekeler play, you’ll by no means know he was barely pushing two payments as a result of he DEFINITELY doesn’t get tackled like a small man.

Scanning each contact on the season, what I discovered was that it was extraordinarily uncommon to see a linebacker or security line up a giant hit as Ekeler makes use of his pace and shiftiness to not solely break tackles however to achieve constructive yards after contact as properly.

Here’s the factor, I knew I used to be seeing a variety of damaged tackles and constructive yards after contact however once I noticed the precise quantity … bruh. Ekeler and his three.zero yards after contact per carry is simply outrageous. That’s higher than Jordan Howard, Marshawn Lynch and LeGarrette Blount who’re all within the high 10 on this class. Those are massive, highly effective punishing operating backs. So say regardless of the hell you need about small pattern measurement however Ekeler’s all of 200 kilos!

And this skill to achieve constructive yards in opposed situations is a crucial high quality of any high quality operating again. You need to hold the offense in constructive down and distance. Negative runs severely harm script.


GIVE ME A HELL YEAH

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I do know what you are considering. “None of this matters for fantasy if he can’t get on the field!”

And sure, it is true, Ek’s snap share is terribly precarious. He’s been enjoying on about 30 % of the staff’s offensive snaps the final three video games. Melvin Gordon is clearly the bell cow, dominating the backfield touches on a weekly foundation.

But here is the factor. Ekeler’s position is rising, and at a major charge.

Through Week 6, Ekeler performed largely on particular groups, barely touching the sector when the Chargers had been on offense. But beginning in Week 7, Ekeler acquired built-in into the offense in a extra significant method enjoying about 30 % of the staff’s offensive snaps in each sport since. It’s ensuing right into a dip in Gordon’s enjoying time.

Yes, Gordon continues to be very a lot an every-down again however his snap share has gone down a contact. This will imply elevated volatility for him from a fantasy perspective.

But like we’re seeing in New England’s backfield, it could possibly be value it to at the least add and presumably play a number of backs on the identical staff. Because as a credit score to offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, he is discovered a method to make use of Ekeler all around the subject and never simply as a straight backup to Gordon.

It’s fully doable Ekeler finds work not solely as a operating again but in addition as a receiver given his utilization within the slot and out broad, areas the place he has confirmed to be distinctive in as properly.

According to Next Gen Stats, Ekeler is averaging 5.58 yards of separation from the closest defender at time of goal. It’s the second-highest quantity within the NFL amongst operating backs with at the least 20 targets.

What does it imply? Well, whether or not he is slipping out of the backfield or out operating a route as a receiver, he’s largely broad open. He’s changing into a dependable check-down goal for Philip Rivers. And oh by the way in which, his three.58 yards after catch common is in step with what Kareem Hunt (three.75 YAC) and Chris Thompson (three.79 YAC) are doing. So not solely is he broadly out there for Rivers to throw to, Ekeler is gaining loads of yards after the catch as we noticed on this nice catch-and-run landing versus the Jags.

AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE …

The Chargers in actual life appear to search out new and artistic methods to endure brutal losses and the frustrations related to that cloud what many managers really feel about this offense from a fantasy perspective.


If we’re focusing strictly on the faux sport, the Chargers could possibly be a staff that could possibly be a reasonably high-scoring unit all through the again half.

From a expertise standpoint, the roster is superb. We know Rivers goes to sling it, for higher or worse. Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Hunter Henry as your primary pass-catching corps is properly above common. We’ve talked extensively in regards to the residence run skill of Ekeler however Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams could make massive performs as properly. Melvin Gordon can hold the chains transferring.

Just as attractive is the schedule. The Chargers over the following three weeks have Buffalo, Dallas and Cleveland. The Bills have been dunked on defensively since they traded Marcell Dareus. The Cowboys are more likely to be with out Sean Lee and within the three video games Lee has missed absolutely or partially this season, Dallas has given up greater than 32 factors per sport. Cleveland is giving up practically 27 factors per sport on the season, the third-most within the NFL.

After that, in Weeks 13-15? Washingon, Kansas City and the Jets. There will not be a single matchup on the docket the Chargers ought to concern from an offensive standpoint.

So let me make this clear: YOU WANT A PIECE OF THIS OFFENSE MOVING FORWARD.

And the nice factor is, the general public notion that the Chargers are unhealthy will show you how to make these strikes.

As for Ekeler himself, he’s a excessive variance participant however somebody you completely have to roster. He has stand-alone worth as a unstable participant that you would be able to handle your roster round if you’re so inclined. But as a stash, ought to one thing occur to Melvin Gordon, the upside is attractive as properly. He does not profile as a standard handcuff given his measurement however it’s honest to imagine his snap share would improve within the case of a Gordon harm.

James D. Koh is an anchor and host for NFL Network. He can be a bunch of the NFL Fantasy Live Podcast and a visitor columnist for the NFL fantasy soccer editorial employees. Follow him on Twitter @JamesDKoh to inform him how a lot of an fool he’s for penning this column.




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