A source confirmed to PFF's Doug Kyed on Thursday that the team is optimistic the fifth-year back will be good to go on Sunday.
Chargers RB Austin Ekeler (hamstring) worked with trainers off to the side at practice yesterday, but the team is optimistic he can play Week 1 barring any setbacks, per a source.
Ekeler missed six games with a hamstring injury last season, so it’s a situation worth monitoring.
— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) September 9, 2021
The former undrafted free agent missed six games last season with a hamstring injury but still tallied 530 rushing yards and one touchdown on 116 carries and 54 receptions for 403 yards with two touchdowns. Justin Jackson is listed as Ekeler’s backup on the Chargers’ depth chart.
The Chargers have one final practice on Friday before taking on the Washington Football Team on Sunday at 1 p.m. EST.
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Major blow if Ekeler misses time: The Chargers' offense will undoubtedly take a hit if Ekeler is out for any time. The unit would be riding with a mix of Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley and Larry Rountree III.
RBs lack value, but Ekeler helps in pass game: The running backs who do generate some value are those who make a dent in the passing game. And that's Ekeler. He leads all running backs in receiving grade and yards per route run since entering the league in 2017. Click here for PFF's NFL premium stats.
Find a contingency plan: Ekeler’s hamstring injury is particularly concerning because it was the same ailment that derailed the majority of his 2020 campaign. Mid-week injuries are never good, so fantasy managers should prepare like they may not have the Chargers running back for Week 1. Click here for PFF's fantasy projections.
Austin Ekeler Three-Year PFF Grades
|Season||PFF Overall Grade||PFF Rushing Grade||PFF Receiving Grade|
|2020||77.0 (18th)||74.8 (31st)||81.5 (5th)|
|2019||85.2 (4th)||68.8 (33rd)||93.6 (1st)|
|2018||82.8 (6th)||79.9 (12th)||84.6 (5th)|
Add Justin Jackson: After spending the majority of offseason hurt, Jackson is reportedly a full go for the start of the regular season. As the direct backup to Ekeler, he should see the majority of passing work out of the backfield while Joshua Kelley/Larry Rountree work on early downs. In his three starts last year, Jackson averaged 16.6 touches and 97 yards from scrimmage. Click here for PFF's fantasy stats.
Move Keenan Allen up the rankings: Allen commanded a massive 30% target share and averaged 20.6 fantasy points per game when Ekeler missed time last season. Click here for PFF's 2021 fantasy rankings.
Chargers Win Total: The Chargers sit 23rd in PFF's against the spread power ratings, despite Justin Herbert ranking as the 12th-best quarterback. The betting market is more optimistic about the Chargers' chances than PFF's simulation, as we show value on under 9.5 win total. Ekeler's injury shouldn't impact their futures outlook, but he's a top-two skill position player for the Chargers, so any time missed could be detrimental to Herbert avoiding the sophomore slump. PFF's Betting Futures Tool reveals betting opportunities within season win total and future markets.
Justin Herbert Player Props: PFF's Fantasy Projections see Herbert dropping back to pass more than the betting market expectation. This is driven by our projected game script but does benefit Herbert's raw passing yardage numbers. Our projections have him finishing almost 200 yards over his modest prop total. Lock in the over 4,450.5 passing yards with the expectation that Ekeler requires only a short stint as an injury designation. Click here for PFF's Fantasy Projections.