Austin Ekeler's 2022 Projections & Outlook
#5 Running Back
230.1 Projected Points
DS 3D Projections
What You Need to Know:
- Ekeler set career highs last year in all fantasy scoring systems, finishing 2nd among RBs in PPR, half-PPR and non-PPR points.
- His 12.9 carries and 56.9 rushing yards per game were both personal bests.
- Ekeler hit 15 carries in 6 games after doing so just 6 times total over his first 4 NFL seasons.
- He remained efficient with the heavier rushing load. While his 4.4 yards per carry was the 2nd-lowest mark of his career, he actually earned his 2nd best Pro Football Focus rushing grade. It ranked 14th among 50 RBs with 100+ carries last year. Ekeler ranked 18th out of 50 in PFF’s Elusive Rating.
- He remained busy in the passing game, tallying 94 targets, 70 catches and 647 yards. Those marks ranked 1st, 2nd and 1st among RBs. Ekeler also ranked 3rd at his position in pass routes (417).
- His 1.55 yards per route run was good for 7th among 33 RBs with 40+ targets.
- But, most of all, Ekeler’s big 2021 fantasy season came via TDs. He scored 20 of them, tying Jonathan Taylor for the league lead and smashing his previous career high of 11.
- Ekeler definitely overachieved in that department. Based on his usage, he was expected to score 13.2 TDs.
- Those 13.2 expected TDs were still 2nd most among RBs, though, behind only Jonathan Taylor’s 16.9.
- Ekeler ranked 6th among RBs in both carries inside the 10-yard line (25) and inside the 5 (12).
- He led RBs with 16 red-zone targets.
- Ekeler will benefit from continuity in 2022:
- HC Brandon Staley and OC Joe Lombardi are back for year 2 with the Chargers.
- QB Justin Herbert enters his 3rd NFL season.
- The Chargers return 6 of last year’s top 7 target-getters, with TE Gerald Everett replacing TE Jared Cook.
- Four of last year’s 5 offensive line starters are back: LT Rashawn Slater, LG Matt Feiler, C Corey Linsley and RT Storm Norton. The 1 change will come at RG, where 1st-round rookie Zion Johnson is slated to replace Michael Schofield. Schofield ranked just 55th among 70 qualifying guards in Pro Football Focus’ run-blocking grades, so Johnson might prove to be an immediate upgrade.
- The Chargers added RB Isaiah Spiller in the 4th round of this spring’s draft.
- Spiller led the Texas A&M backfield in all 3 years on campus, totaling 2,993 yards and 25 TDs on 5.5 yards per carry.
- He also racked up 74 catches for 585 yards and a score.
- Spiller bombed the pre-draft testing, though, with a 4.64-second 40 time (32nd percentile among RBs), a 30-inch vertical (7th) and a 114-inch broad (22nd).
- We’re expecting Spiller to beat out Joshua Kelley and Larry Rountree for the #2 RB job behind Ekeler. We’ll see if Spiller claims a bigger role than the 7.6 carries and 1.4 targets per game non-Ekeler RBs averaged in Ekeler’s 16 games last season.
Draft Sharks Bottom Line:
Ekeler is coming off a massive season, finishing RB2 across fantasy scoring systems. He returns in 2022 to the same offense with the same QB and with 4 of 5 of last year’s O-line starters back.
The only real question here is whether rookie RB Isaiah Spiller will cut into Ekeler’s volume at all, especially near the goal line. But Ekeler could lose some of that work and still score as a top-5 fantasy RB.
He’s a safe pick in the 1st round of fantasy drafts, with more value in full PPR setups.