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Fantasy Football | Is Austin Ekeler worth waiver claim?

Nov 12, 2017; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) tries to stay in bounds as he runs downfield for a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second quarter at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Ekeler recorded 119 offensive yards and two touchdowns in the Los Angeles Chargers’ Week 10 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. On his way to his best game as a pro, Ekeler set career highs in carries, receptions, yards and touchdowns. After a performance like that, the fantasy football community will ask what to make of L.A.’s backup running back. The fantasy free-agent pool is awfully thin by the end of Week 10.

The easy answer is that the running back should be a popular waiver claim this week. Should you expect performances like this from him every week? Absolutely not, but Ekeler has fantasy value.

Charger lead back Melvin Gordon has been banged up this season. More importantly, Gordon has been ineffective of late. In his last three games he has rushed for more than 40 yards just once. In the one game he did accumulate more than 40 rushing yards, he picked most of it up on one play.

In Week 8 against the New England Patriots, Gordon’s final box score stats showed he rushed for 132 yards, but 87 came on one carry. Take that rush attempt out of the equation and Gordon rushed for just 45 yards on his other 13 carries against New England.

While Gordon’s lack of success probably won’t cost him his job, it has cost him carries. After rushing the ball a total of 45 times in Weeks 5 and 6, Gordon has just 48 carries in his last three contests. Those lost attempts by Gordon have gone to Ekeler. During Weeks 5 and 6, Ekeler had a total of just five carries, but in the Chargers’ last three contests he has seen an increased role with 10 carries.

In addition to the extra carries, Ekeler has done most of his recent damage as a pass catcher. The backup running back has three receiving touchdowns in his last three games. His role in the passing game should continue — he is a superior pass catcher compared to Melvin Gordon, who has just a 67 percent catch rate on the season. If you play in a PPR league, you should view Ekeler as a must-add.

While in standard scoring leagues, Ekeler’s fantasy value is limited as long as Gordon is suiting up, at the bare minimum he is a must-have for those who rely on Gordon to carry their fantasy teams. Even if you don’t have Gordon on your roster, Ekeler is worth rostering — his role in the offense continues to evolve. The running back is just one play away from being the feature back for the Chargers. While it is impossible to predict injuries, Gordon has not shown an ability to be durable in his NFL career.

Put in your waiver claim for Ekeler this week and keep an eye on Gordon.

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