I haven’t drafted a whole lot of Austin Ekeler this year. At the price that he’s going, I’m drafting way more of the top 4 WRs, and CMC. And by the time all 5 of those guys are off the board, Ekeler is off the board, too, but by someone else. Does Ekeler have the upside he’s been showing the last few years? Of course… but here’s why I haven’t been drafting him.
If you’re drafting Ekeler, you have relatively full confidence that he’s going to be that guy… but the Chargers just changed their offensive coordinator. And yes, Ekeler is a weapon in the receiving game on a pass heavy offense, but Justin Herbert checked it down at the 2nd highest rate last year - is that going to happen again with Kellen Moore coming in?
When Keenan Allen was hurt last year, who was Herbert supposed to throw it to? You had Mike Williams, but he was a downfield target. Who was their short to intermediate target? They just didn’t have one. And now you have Keenan Allen potentially staying healthy this year, you have Quentin Johnston, one of the best after the catch receivers in this class - you know he’s going to get the ball to see what he can do with it after the catch. We can also see the tight ends more involved, specifically Gerald Everett with a higher route participation this year with Moore who used Dalton Schultz heavily in Dallas…
And with Keenan Allen on the field last year? Ekeler’s targets dropped by almost 4 per game…
I’m looking at Fantasy Life NFL Data profiles right now on FantasyLife.com, and it’s interesting that Ekeler last year was targeted on 28% of his routes run - absolutely insane. In contrast, Pollard was targeted on only 20% of his routes run… and from an efficiency standpoint, looking at yards/route run, Ekeler was at 1.55 YPRR, and Pollard was at 1.45. Yards after the catch/reception, Ekeler was at 7.9, and Pollard was at 8.5 - 3rd highest in the league last year among qualifying RBs.
Is it possible that Ekeler isn’t as ridiculously utilized in the receiving game, especially given the fact that the Chargers have more weapons this year than the Cowboys did last year? It’s possible. And is dumping it down to your RB an efficient way to run an offense? No, it’s not. Is it utilizing Justin Herbert’s strengths? No, it’s not. A 6.9 average depth of target for Justin Herbert last year? Come on. That was 29th in the league last year among qualifying QBs.
And we haven’t even hit the fact that we don’t know how this goal line role is going to shake out. Ekeler has been the most efficient RB within the 5 yard line - those goal line carries, he’s been getting it done. But that was really just a thing with his previous offensive coordinator. Joe Lombardi was the one who made that change 2 years ago when he came in. He had 9 rushing TDs before that year, and 25 rushing TDs over the last two seasons, and now we have Moore who clearly preferred a bigger back at the goal line last year, despite Pollard being a lot bigger than Ekeler.
Just not a rock solid pick, and I think there’s a chance, given his price, that he busts.