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Melvin Gordon Returns: Fantasy Scenarios to Consider


Controversy reigned throughout the preseason during the Melvin Gordon holdout. No one knew if and when it was going to end, and when was exactly the right time to take a shot on him during a fantasy football draft. Ultimately, it did not turn out to be a Le’Veon Bell season-long holdout, but it was not a happy Ezekiel Elliott ending either.

So, some controversy and uncertainty is brewing again, although now we have a timeline of when this will all end. As first reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Gordon intends to end his holdout and will report to the Chargers on Thursday. The watch for his return to the Los Angeles lineup now begins, and with it will come the impending end to Austin Ekeler’s short-lived run as a top fantasy running back.

Ekeler’s owners truly knew he could be removed from his featured back role with the Chargers at any time. As proved by the varying lengths of the Bell, Elliott and Gordon holdouts, every one of these situations is unique. So those who roster Ekeler simply had to enjoy and benefit from his production while they could. They should still get high-quality totals from Ekeler for at least two more games. What should we expect of Gordon the rest of this year though?

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Automatic RB1? Not So Fast

According to ESPN, the Chargers will likely seek a two-game roster exemption for Gordon as they evaluate his physical condition and game readiness. As head coach Anthony Lynn pointed out, we cannot expect Gordon to immediately come in and be ready to emulate his past production or Ekeler’s current output.

"I don't think you just walk in camp and just play right away without going through any practice," Lynn told reporters Wednesday. "You can run and do all the drills you want, but it's hard to simulate real football."

Gordon will not play this week against Miami and it appears the earliest he may return is Week 6 against Pittsburgh. After missing the entire preseason and the first six or more of the regular season, it remains to be seen how soon he can regain his better form. Also, missing so much time and trying to play catch-up to get into game shape makes him an injury risk. Gordon has already failed to finish four of his first five pro seasons because of injuries.

Ekeler is currently the third-highest scoring RB formats, behind only Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffery. He has rushed for 160 yards and two TDs and caught 19 passes for 208 yards and two scores. Ekeler has averaged 4.2 yards per carry but has been boosting his production with his receiving skills. Gordon is more of a workhorse runner than Ekeler can be, even though Ekeler has more than adequately filled the void.

The San Diego Union Tribune, however, which still covers the Chargers, noted that while Ekeler has been posting quality Fantasy numbers, the absence of Gordon has been felt in some negative ways on offense. The Chargers rank 21st in points, and in the second half of their Week 3 loss to Houston, they only had 16 runs and 46 passes. Last season Los Angeles ranked seventh in the league in points scored.

As good as Ekeler has been, there is a sense that Gordon simply makes the offense better, as he may be considered a bigger threat and more of a superstar talent at RB that defenses have to account for. Ekeler is a more distinctive type of threat, arguably more so as a receiver than a runner. Opponents do have to prepare for him differently.

 

Back to the Bench

The Chargers, especially in light of Lynn’s comments, won’t rush Gordon back into action too quickly and may conceivably utilize him in a timeshare with Ekeler upon his return. So we could be looking at Gordon not being a true starter until Week 7 against Tennessee. Still, if you originally drafted him to stash him, you can look forward to getting your fantasy return from him in the second half of the schedule.

Ekeler’s owners will now be looking at him returning to fantasy RB4 status within as soon as three weeks, Last season he averaged just over 10 touches per game. Even if Gordon did not hold out he would have been drafted as a prime RB4 or handcuff. Noting Gordon’s injury and the risk he is after his holdout means that Ekeler could still be pushed into a starting role again at some point.

The return of Gordon makes Justin Jackson a cut candidate, as he was the clear RB2 behind Ekeler while Gordon was out. Now he obviously has no appeal at all. QB Philip Rivers remains a very good and underrated fantasy asset. He should continue his steady play in the midst of any RB change.

Gordon would have been drafted as a fantasy RB1 this season if he did not hold out. He may not retain that sort of value until later in the schedule. If you happen to not own Ekeler and do own Gordon, now is a good time to trade for Ekeler. His current owner will only be too willing to ship him off at a reduced rate. In the short term, you will get the bonus of a matchup against Miami this week.

If you do have Ekeler and not Gordon, do not expect much in return in a trade. You’ll likely have to include him as part of a larger package to get rid of him. If you cannot, then keep him on your roster for possible bye week usage and for his value to potentially rise again in the event of another Gordon injury. Missing the entire preseason and possibly six games raises Gordon’s status as an injury risk as we have indicated.

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