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What to do with Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley in Week 2 fantasy football

Can the Chargers backfield produce two viable weekly options for fantasy lineups?

Los Angeles Chargers running back Joshua Kelley runs during the fourth quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Melvin Gordon left town after a tumultuous 2019 campaign, and those who drafted Austin Ekeler hoped this would lead to an opportunity for Ekeler to serve in a true workhorse role for the first time in his career. The Chargers coaches and Joshua Kelley had other plans, however, and it seems that there is yet another RBBC in the NFL. How will this timeshare play out and what role do these backs deserve in your lineups going forward? We break down the fantasy implications below.

Fantasy Football analysis: Chargers RBs Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley

Even with Melvin Gordon in town last season, Austin Ekeler was able to produce for fantasy owners on a weekly basis, as he finished the season with three rushing touchdowns and eight receiving touchdowns, while totaling 557 rushing yards and 993 receiving yards. In the season opener in 2020 he rushed 19 times for 84 yards and added one reception for three yards. While the volume was certainly there for production, he finished with a mediocre 9.7 fantasy points in ESPN PPR leagues. While the point total is mildly concerning, what is more concerning is that Joshua Kelley received valuable goal line touches and scored the lone rushing touchdown of the game for the Chargers. Ekeler still owns this backfield, but expectations must be minimally lowered due to the lost volume and goal line touches that he is likely to cede to Kelley. Head Coach Anthony Lynn did make it a point to say that getting Ekeler touches is “still a priority,” and Ekeler should certainly not be left out of lineups due to a small decrease in volume.

Joshua Kelley was widely touted as a sleeper candidate prior to the season, and those who invested in him in the late rounds may receive the payoff they had hoped for. Kelley carried 12 times for 60 yards and a touchdown in the season opener. If Kelley continues to receive double digit carries on a weekly basis, and, more importantly, becomes a trusted goal line back he could provide a decent fantasy floor for lineups in deeper leagues. The Chargers take on the Chiefs in Week 2 and will likely have to look to the passing game to keep up with the high octane Kansas City offense. This may hurt Kelley’s upside due to his low usage in the passing game, and he may be best thought of as a wait and see prospect at this time. Justin Jackson is doubtful with a quadricep injury, which boosts Kelley’s value.

Fantasy Start/Sit Recommendation

Start Ekeler as an RB2 with RB 1 upside in all formats.

Start Joshua Kelley as a flex play in deeper leagues, but keep as a bench stash in 10-12 team leagues.