NFL News & Analysis

Los Angeles Chargers RB Austin Ekeler expected to play Week 1 vs. Washington Football Team

Nov 29, 2020; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) runs with the ball against the Buffalo Bills during the first quarter at Bills Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler is expected to play Sunday against the Washington Football Team despite practicing just one day this week with a limited designation.

A source told PFF earlier this week that the Chargers were optimistic Ekeler, who’s dealing with a hamstring injury, would play Sunday barring a setback — even after the missed practice time.

Ekeler was present but didn’t participate in practice Wednesday and Thursday and was listed as limited in practice and questionable to play Week 1 on Friday’s injury report.

On Friday after practice, Chargers head coach Brandon Staley emphatically said, “Yes,” in that he expected Ekeler to play against the Washington Football Team.

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“We’re listing him as questionable,” Staley said. “We’ll see how it goes when we get out there. We have to fly and all of that. He looked good out there today — optimistic, for sure.”

Staley said reserve running backs Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley and Larry Rountree III would “split the load” if Ekeler couldn’t play.

Ekeler missed six games last season with a hamstring injury suffered in early October. There’s a 70% recurrence rate on hamstring injuries in the calendar year, according to PFF injury expert Mario Pilato. Pilato believes Ekeler shouldn’t be limited in Sunday’s game as long as he’s active.

FANTASY FOOTBALL IMPACT

A high-end RB2: Ekeler's hamstring injury has to push him down the Week 1 fantasy football rankings, with concerns he doesn't see a full workload.

The RB18 in PPR: Ekeler is the RB18 in PPR points, per PFF's fantasy projections, which assume a lighter workload for the stud running back in Week 1.

Ekeler has a tough matchup: The Washington Football Team boasts PFF's second-ranked defensive line, so Ekeler will have to stay heavily involved as a receiver to score fantasy points. Do not expect much in the way of rushing production. Click here to view PFF's OL/DL Matchup Chart.


NFL IMPACT

Unmatched as a receiver: Ekeler's 93.9 receiving grade over the last three seasons is the highest of any player — at any position — who has run 500 routes over that span.

As productive as they come: The Chargers back has averaged 2.23 yards per route run since 2018, making him the only running back to eclipse  2.00 yards per route run over that period.

Don't worry about his hands: Ekeler has the seventh-lowest drop rate (2.4%) among all players with at least 350 snaps since 2019.

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)

Click here to view Austin Ekeler's career in premium stats…


BETTING IMPACT

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.

Know tomorrow, today. Western Southern Financial Group.
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