Predicting the 2020 NFL season for Chargers RB Austin Ekeler

Now clearly the Chargers No. 1 running back, does Austin Ekeler had another level in him for 2020?

Austin Ekeler, Chargers
Credit: NFL Analysis Network

When they held the line during Melvin Gordon’s holdout last year, the Los Angeles Chargers seemed ready to commit to Austin Ekeler. The two sides consummated the marriage with a a four-year, $24.5 million deal ($15 million guaranteed) in March.

In the four games Gordon sat out to start last season, Ekeler operated as the Chargers’ lead back (at least 72 percent of the snaps three times). He averaged 20 touches and 122.5 total yards per game, with six total touchdowns in those games (three rushing, three receiving). In Gordon’s first game back (Week 5), Ekeler had 15 catches on 16 targets.

The switch from Philip Rivers to Tyrod Taylor is bad news for Ekeler as a pass catcher. He’s not getting 108 targets from Taylor, let alone 92 catches for nearly 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns through the air as he did in 2019. Where the immobile Rivers might have thrown to a check down as he worked through his progressions, Taylor is more likely to move around or outright run if his first couple options aren’t there.

Ekeler is replacing Gordon as the Chargers’ lead back, as uniquely as he could define that role with his versatility. So what will the 2020 campaign look like for him?