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What to do with Austin Ekeler on Thursday Night Football

Austin Ekeler has seen his workload diminish since the return of Melvin Gordon. Does he get the opportunity he needs to be a strong fantasy football play in Week 10 TNF?

Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler is defended by Green Bay Packers defensive back Tony Brown during the second quarter at Dignity Health Sports Park. Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Ekeler’s touches have dropped since Melvin Gordon returned from suspension, but he has continued to be a viable fantasy play. Before Gordon came back, Ekeler averaged 14 rushing attempts for 55 yards and .8 touchdowns on the ground and six receptions on 6.3 targets for 67.5 yards and .8 touchdowns through the air. That totals out to 20.3 touches for 122.5 yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game through four games.

Since Gordon’s return, Ekeler has averaged 5.6 rushing attempts for 20.2 yards and no touchdowns and 6.2 receptions on seven targets for 52 yards and .4 touchdowns. That totals 11.8 touches for 62.2 yards and .4 touchdowns. His targets are buoyed by a huge 16 target game against Denver, but overall this is a decent look at how his workload has fallen.

Last week against the Packers, the Chargers got a lead and ran the ball a lot, as Melvin Gordon had 20 attempts, and Ekeler had 12, which was by far his highest number since Gordon returned. That number also came under a new offensive coordinator but could have been due to the lead.

Fantasy football analysis: Los Angeles Chargers RB Austin Ekeler

This week Ekeler takes his 11.8 touches to Oakland. The Raiders have given up 6.25 receptions for 48.9 yards on average to running backs, ranking them fifth-worst in receptions. They’ve also allowed four receiving touchdowns by running backs, which is more than they’ve allowed on the ground with three. Those four receiving touchdowns have come in the last three games to Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Duke Johnson, and J.D. McKissic. Football Outsiders ranks the Raiders 28th in DVOA against receiving running backs.

The stats bode well for Ekeler, who does his best work as a receiver. But game flow will likely be a more significant factor, as we will probably need the Chargers to trail to maximize Ekeler’s receiving prowess. All scenarios lead to a game where you should start Ekeler, especially with six teams out with a bye. But we can’t guarantee an upside game from him with Gordon getting an average of 17 touches to Ekeler’s 11 over the last three games to go along with goal-line and receiving work.

Traditional Fantasy Start/Sit Recommendation

Start.

DraftKings DFS Recommendation

DraftKings is full PPR scoring, so Ekeler has upside, but he also needs a price to go along with his recent demotion. In Thursday-Monday leagues, Ekeler costs $5,500 to Gordon’s $4,600. And in the TNF Showdown, Ekeler is $7,000 to Gordon’s $7,200. The Showdown pricing is much more in line with their recent usage and would likely be the only spot I will use hin on DraftKings this week.