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Chargers RB Austin Ekeler, a rare example of fantasy football adoption - Los Angeles Chargers Blog

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COSTA MESA, Calif. — Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen can admit a mistake when he makes one.

Recently, Allen regretted passing Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler with the first overall pick in his fantasy football draft.

“I’ve been successful generally, this year not so much,” Allen said of his fantasy football team. “I screwed up by not drafting Austin.”

Ironically, Allen said this to Ekeler in the weekly Yahoo! podcast, “Ekeler’s Edge”.

However, it’s surely a sentiment shared by countless other fantasy owners, and likely several NFL general managers, as Western Colorado University’s 2017 undrafted free agent — a Division II program — continues to prove his worth in the NFL in both fantasy and reality. .

“He’s playing tough,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “Give the example.”

The Chargers are 7-6 and one spot outside the AFC playoff picture, as they prepare to host the Tennessee Titans 7-6 to top AFC South at SoFi Stadium Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS). ESPN Analytics currently lists them with a 74% chance of making the playoffs.

But in an uneven season plagued by injury problems, Ekeler has been a constant.

“He’s like the Energizer Bunny,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “He is everywhere.”

The 5-foot-10, 200-pound Ekeler can close the gap between tackles as quickly as he can bounce on the outside. His hands are sure as a sleight of hand and his legs keep spinning.

“He’s playing a lot bigger than he is,” said Vrabel, whose defense is tied for first in rushing touchdowns allowed this season. “He’s fast and he’s hard to tackle.”

Ekeler ranks first in the NFL with 728 yards after the catch, ahead of San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (552) and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (515).

He ranks second in the league, behind Detroit Lions running back Jamaal Williams, with 13 touchdowns – despite not scoring in the first three games of the season.

And he’s had 1,247 scrimmage yards this season, which ranks eighth in the league.

“He’s so tough out of the backfield,” quarterback Justin Herbert said. “And being able to catch passes like that also adds a whole other dimension to our offense.”

Ekeler, who is in the third season of a four-year, $24.5 million contract extension, caught 93 passes for 623 yards, the most of any running back this season.

Last Sunday in a 23-17 win over the Miami Dolphins, Herbert found Ekeler on a short pass before navigating a few holes and being driven to the yard line. He then scored on the play that followed and celebrated by strumming an air guitar.

Ekeler finished the game with eight receptions for 59 yards, to go with 45 rushing yards on 15 carries, and became the all-time leader in catches by an undrafted running back in the Common Draft era (1967) with 375 career receptions.

“I’m not really sure how I feel about that because we’ve had receiver injuries, so it’s like, man, I wish those balls went in the field to some of our guys,” Ekeler said. “Also, as an individual, looking back on my career, it’s going to be a pretty cool mark in my career.”

Also a pretty cool brand? The business Ekeler keeps in fantasy football, a place he’s embraced over the past few seasons – even if some teammates decide it’s still not the place for them.

“For me, it was like, there are, so, there are literally millions of people around the world who love fantasy football,” Ekeler explained. “And [they] have me on their team, so why can’t I tap into the people who support me? »

Staley smiled when asked, no – he’s never done fantasy. Neither did Herbert, he said. What about receiver Mike Williams? It’s a no thank you for him too.

“I only know fantasy when, like, I get a take and I get tweets like, ‘Go home! You weren’t here today! said Williams with a laugh. “I’m like my brother, I don’t care about your fantasy.”

But owners featuring Ekeler — who is on ESPN’s All Active League roster — might not suffer such issues.

Ekeler is averaging a fantastic 22.52 points per game this season (PPR score), which is on pace to be the highest by a Chargers player since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2007 (22.97).

He is also one of four players with more than 10 fantasy points in every game this season (PPR score). The others are all quarterbacks.

“For me at this stage it’s just about being consistent and continuing to increase my role and what I can do for this season,” Ekeler said of his performance on the pitch this season. “At this point, that’s kind of my expectation now.”

Ekeler has six fantastic teams, but a manager oversees them given Ekeler’s other responsibilities.

“Competitive leagues, so yeah, people don’t let me take myself,” laughed Ekeler.

In one league, he even traded to snag the No. 3 overall pick in a bid to get on the roster.

But no luck. He went first overall.

So maybe his fantastic farewell advice to Allen somehow holds up.

“When you have an opportunity, you always take yourself first,” Ekeler told Allen. “It’s the only thing you can bet on, as it’s the only thing you’re out there that you can control.

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