Austin Ekeler

Austin Ekeler

RB - LAC
Height: 5-10
Weight: 200 lbs
Age: 28
College: Western State
Los Angeles Chargers

2023 Season Outlooks

Ekeler should be a first-round pick in the majority of Fantasy drafts this year, and he's one of a handful of running backs who could finish the season as RB1 overall without surprising anyone. The two questions about Ekeler have to do with the team's new offense and Ekeler's age. The Chargers' star running back is 28 years old, which is very close to the cliff at this position. And Kellen Moore's offense has generally been more about downfield targets than running back targets. Last year, the Chargers led the NFL with a 26% RB target rate. Moore's Cowboys were at 15.8% last year (26th) and 18.6% in 2021 (20th). Those questions aren't enough to bump Ekeler out of Round 1, but they should be enough to make you nervous in Dynasty.

Ekeler is coming off a massive 2022, when he led all RBs in PPR and half-PPR points. That followed a RB3 finish in points per game across scoring formats in 2021.

Don’t bank on Ekeler repeating last year’s 18 TDs. Or 107 catches.

He also turned 28 in May, an age at which RBs often start declining.

But Ekeler could decline a bit from last year’s production and still be a top-5 fantasy RB. We like him in the back half of Round 1 in PPR and half-PPR drafts. And, even in non-PPR, he’s worth a late-first or early-second-round pick.

What We Learned Last Year:Ekeler led all RBs in PPR and half-PPR points last season. He finished second to Josh Jacobs in non-PPR points.He scored the 32nd most PPR points by a RB in NFL history (79th most PPR points per game).Ekeler carried 204 times for a career-high 915 yards and a career-high 13 TDs. Those marks ranked 20th, 17th, and 2nd league wide.He was especially lethal in the passing game, racking up 127 targets, 107 catches, 722 yards, and 5 TDs. He led RBs in targets and catches, while ranking second in receiving yards and TDs.The 107 catches are tied for the second most by a RB in NFL history.Ekeler’s usage matched his production: He led all RBs in expected PPR and half-PPR points and finished second to Josh Jacobs in expected non-PPR points.On top of the raw volume, Ekeler saw a ton of work near the goal line.He tied for sixth league wide with 24 carries inside the 10-yard line.He ranked third with 13 targets inside the 10-yard line.Ekeler overachieved in rushing TDs, scoring 13 times on 8.4 expected. But he underachieved in receiving TDs, scoring 5 times on 6.9 expected.His 15.3 total expected TDs ranked second behind only Jamaal Williams’ 17.0.Ekeler ranked fourth in Pro Football Focus’ receiving grades and eighth in yards per route run among 44 RBs with 30+ targets last season.Among 45 RBs with 100+ carries, he ranked:16th in PFF rushing grade15th in elusive rating17th in NFL Next Gen Stats’ rush yards over expected per attemptEkeler finished third among RBs in both PPR and non-PPR points per game in 2021. No RB has averaged more PPR points per game over the past two seasons. Only Derrick Henry has averaged more non-PPR points per game.
What to Expect in 2023:After a contract squabble resulted in the Chargers allowing Ekeler to seek a trade early this offseason, the two sides eventually agreed to a restructured deal that keeps Ekeler in Los Angeles for 2023.The Chargers made no significant additions to the backfield. They return RBs Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller, and Larry Rountree. They did not re-sign RB Sony Michel, who ranked third among the team’s RB with 36 carries last year.There’s a change at OC, with Kellen Moore replacing Joe Lombardi.Like Lombardi, Moore is a pass-leaning play caller. Three of his four Cowboys offenses ranked top 10 in both pass attempts and yards. This should again be one of the pass-heaviest offenses in the league.Ezekiel Elliott finished fifth, 16th, and seventh among RBs in PPR points per game in Moore’s first three seasons in Dallas. Last year, Tony Pollard ranked 10th in PPR points per game and Elliott 23rd.League-wide average RB target share is 18.8% over the past four seasons. Cowboys RB target shares under Moore:2019 - 15.2%2020 - 17.4%2021 - 18.2%2022 - 15.3%Ekeler will remain a big part of the passing game in 2023, but don’t bank on him matching last year’s production. Besides the OC change, the Chargers figure to get healthier seasons from WRs Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, who missed a combined 11 games last year. And they added WR Quentin Johnston with the 21st overall pick of this spring’s draft.The biggest concern with Ekeler heading into 2023 is that he turned 28 in May. Our aging-curve research shows age-29 is when RB production really declines. But, on average, even high-end RBs average just 88% of peak production at age-28.

Ekeler enters his age-28 campaign as one of the top players in fantasy. The dual-threat back has finished fourth or better at RB in fantasy points three of the past four seasons and his 38 TDs since the start of 2021 are 12 more than any other player. Ekeler caught 107 passes last season (fifth most in the entire NFL) and he's finished no lower than second among RBs in targets, receptions, receiving yards and receiving TDs each of the past two seasons. Ekeler's receiving ability supplies him with an extremely high floor and his heavy usage in a good Chargers offense makes him a strong candidate for the first pick in 2023 fantasy drafts.

2023 Fantasy Football Rankings

Standard

#6

PPR

#4

Half-PPR

#5

Superflex

#13

2023 Fantasy Football Draft Projections

Rush Yds Rush TD Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
845.2 9.2 78.2 583.7 3.9

2023 Average Draft Position (ADP)

Standard

#3

Pick 1.03

PPR

#4

Pick 1.04

Half-PPR

#5

Pick 1.05

Superflex

#12

Pick 1.12

Injury Risk

Injury Risk:
High

Depth Chart

Strength of Schedule

Average/Easy Season Ahead
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2
3
4
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
Fantasy Playoffs
15
16
17
18

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