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Austin Ekeler Signs With Commanders: Fantasy Football Impact

Austin Ekeler

Austin Ekeler has been a fantasy football monster ever since fully taking over the Chargers’ backfield in 2019 after the departure of Melvin Gordon. With his receiving ability out of the backfield, Ekeler has three PPR top-5 finishes over the course of his NFL career.

Now 28-years-old, Ekeler is entering his eighth season in the league after what was a disappointing 2023 season that saw him finish as the RB26 in PPR leagues. The upcoming season will be his first not in a Chargers’ uniform, as he was not retained following his disappointing year.

On the first day of the NFL’s legal tampering period, Austin Ekeler agreed to a two-year deal with the Washington Commanders. Where does he fall in the fantasy landscape heading into 2024?

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New Regime in Washington

After a disappointing four-year tenure under Ron Rivera, the Washington Commanders are headed into a new era with former Cowboys’ defensive coordinator Dan Quinn taking over with his second shot at being an NFL head coach. Former Arizona Cardinals’ head coach Kliff Kingsbury was brought in as the offensive coordinator, ready to plug his air raid offense into Washington.

After giving former fifth-round pick Sam Howell a shot at being the franchise quarterback, the new regime in Washington is likely to send him back to the bench in favor of a rookie. Holding the second pick in April’s NFL Draft, Washington has been tied to both Jayden Daniels and Drake Maye. Either one of the rookies would likely step in as the day 1 starter, fully transforming this Washington squad from years past.

 

Split Backfield: Good for Ekeler's Fantasy Value?

Washington’s backfield was primarily dominated by Brian Robinson Jr. in 2023, who ran for 733 yards and five touchdowns while adding 368 receiving yards with four touchdowns. Antonio Gibson, who has since departed for New England, mixed in primarily on passing downs but only ran for 265 yards.

After dominating touches with practically no running mate in Los Angeles since 2019, Ekeler will find himself in a timeshare with Robinson in Washington. Rather than being a workhorse, he will cede early down work to Robinson and will likely factor in on passing downs.

That being said, this is actually a good thing for his fantasy value. The large workloads were wearing on Ekeler, and he missed three early games in 2023 while playing banged up for most of the season. If he can work his way back to full health, less touches could mean more productivity. 

Ekeler could also serve as a safety blanket in the air raid offense for whichever rookie quarterback is under center in Washington, leading to PPR fantasy production through receptions. 

After showing signs of falling off a season ago, Ekeler will no longer be an early-round fantasy selection as he has been for the past few seasons. That being said, he could find himself as a value come draft season if he falls too far down boards. There are still a lot of moving pieces to fall into place as Washington crafts their new-look roster, but the potential is there for Ekeler to return to his early-career form as a productive pass-catcher while splitting time with another running back.



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