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NFL Insider: Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Chargers' RBs Not a Fantasy 'Slam Dunk'

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVAugust 13, 2021

Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Chargers running back position reportedly may not be a treasure trove of production for fantasy football players this season.

According to ESPN NFL insider Jeremy Fowler, it doesn't seem as though the Chargers plan to lean heavily on a single running back in 2021, which could make for a dicey fantasy situation and the lack of a "slam dunk" selection for fantasy managers.

Fowler noted that Chargers head coach Brandon Staley said: "We really believe in having that diversity, that variety of runners that can really change the pace on a defense."

Austin Ekeler is set to enter the season as the Chargers' No. 1 back, but the expectation is that Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley and rookie sixth-round pick Larry Rountree III could see plenty of action as well. 

If any of that quartet is going to find a way to put up elite fantasy numbers, it would be Ekeler, especially after the Chargers signed him to a four-year, $24.5 million contract extension in March 2020.

Ekeler was a fantasy beast in 2019, rushing for 557 yards and three touchdowns, but most importantly catching 92 receptions for 993 yards and eight scores. Even more impressively, much of that production came when he was sharing the backfield with Melvin Gordon.

After Gordon left for the Denver Broncos in free agency, Ekeler seemingly had the backfield all to himself in 2020. Injuries cost him six games, though, and he wasn't quite the same player even when healthy.

Ekeler finished the year with 530 yards and one touchdown on the ground, plus 54 catches for 403 yards and two touchdowns.

Although his receiving numbers were down quite a bit last season after transitioning from veteran Philip Rivers to Herbert as his quarterback, Ekeler should still be a valuable commodity in point-per-receptions leagues in 2021 as a safety valve for Herbert.

Ekeler has never been a true bell-cow back as a runner, however, which could open the door for some of L.A.'s other running backs to have a significant role.

Last year, Kelley rushed for 354 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games, while Jackson recorded 270 yards and no touchdowns in nine games. They combined for over 40 receptions and over 300 receiving yards as well.

Ekeler's fantasy owners may also have to worry about Rountree, who Fowler noted that the Chargers coaching staff is high on.

While Ekeler is undoubtedly still the Chargers running back fantasy managers want to target because of his ceiling as a pass-catcher, spending a pick on him in the first two rounds could be a risky proposition given how crowded the backfield is.

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