It’s no surprise the Los Angeles Chargers were going to move on from Melvin Gordon as he hit free agency, but now it’s basically official.
According to multiple reports, the Chargers have signed running back Austin Ekeler to a new four-year, $24.5 million contract with $15 million guaranteed.
Gordon held out into the regular season last year, and did not play until Week 5. From Week 1-Week 4, Ekeler averaged an even 20 touches per game and 122.5 total yards contest. In fantasy football terms, he was RB2 in both full-point PPR and standard scoring over that span. In three of those four games, he played at least 72 percent of the Chargers’ offensive snaps.
Even from Week 5-Week 16 last year, Ekeler was RB7 in full-point PPR and RB15 in standard scoring. He had double-digit carries just once over that span, when Gordon was in the mix, but buoyed his fantasy value with 68 catches and five touchdowns over those 12 games.
For the season, Ekeler was RB4 in full-point PPR.
Overall for the season Ekeler played 57 percent of the offensive snaps, never clearing a 60 percent rate after Gordon’s first game back.
If Ekeler were a wide receiver, with just his 92 receptions, 993 yards and eight touchdowns to take account of, he would have been WR7 in full-point PPR scoring (239.3 fantasy points) and WR15 in standard scoring (147.3 fantasy points).
Gordon played 40.4 percent of the snaps for the Chargers in 2019. Siphon off a quarter of those snaps (10 percent of the team total) and give them to Ekeler, and only seven running backs in the league would have had a higher snap share than he did.
It’s usually hard to say a top-five or top-10 fantasy running back (depending on scoring format) from one year has a ton of upside heading into the next year. But that’s where we are with Ekeler, who has a clear path to being a lead back and is now in the conversation to be a first-round pick in fantasy drafts this summer.