Sir Austin Ekeler. How did so many of us miss on this guy?
An undrafted free agent out of Western State Colorado public university, Ekeler was signed by the then San Diego Chargers in 2017.
Ekeler compiled 7072 yards in his 4 college years, the most I’ve got on record between 2010-2020. The next two? Chase Edmonds, and Jonathan Taylor (although only played 3 years!). For those already looking toward next year, I’m expecting Travis Etienne to eventually slot in at number 3 for total yards.
In the same database Ekeler also has the highest average dominator rating of 41.3%. Let that sink in. Across 4 years, Ekeler accounted for 41% of all his teams yards and touchdowns. Dominant.
He recorded 2.8 receptions per game, which ranks alongside names such as Alvin Kamara (3.1), David Johnson (2.8), Saquon Barkley (2.7), Christian McCaffrey (2.7), and Mixon (2.6).
Furthermore, in my RB model (will touch on it in another article), Ekeler graded out in the 93rd percentile of RBs between 2010-2020, an elite pre draft score that put him in a group of studs in the 2017 group.
Ok, so Ekeler was a stud, at a public university, but he was an undrafted free agent which means our expectations should still be low as we know draft capital is the single most predictive factor in predicting fantasy football success for running backs.
Year 1 – 2017
So once he made the team, what did Austin a Ekeler do in his rookie year?
47 carries @ 5.5 yards per attempt
27 catches @ 10.3 yards per reception
74 touches @ 7.3 yards per touch
RB47 in standard, RB45 in PPR.
Let’s add some context to these numbers.
Yards per attempt – 2nd, wedged in between other efficiency superstars in Kamara and Aaron Jones.
Yards per reception – 8th.
Yards per touch – 3rd behind Chris Thompson (7.8) and Alvin Kamara 7.7).
He was still in search of major volume, although he was sharing a field behind Melvin Gordon, but damn was he efficient in his rookie season.
Year 2 – 2018
106 carries @ 5.2 per attempt (5th)
39 catches @ 10.4 per reception (1st)
145 touches @ 6.6 per touch (3rd)
RB27 in standard, RB25 in PPR
Ekeler doubled his year 1 touches (74) to 145, and hardly a missed a beat in terms of efficiency.
Year 3 – 2019
Do I even need to detail what he did in year 3, this past year 2019?
132 rushes @ 4.2 per attempt (39th)
92 receptions @ 10.8 per reception(2nd, although 1st was Kyle Juszczyk, does he count?)
224 touches @ 6.9 per touch (1st)
RB7 in standard, RB4 in PPR
Ekeler came into the league as a hugely productive small school college player, he started with minimal volume but operated with such incredible efficiency that even though he had a volume hog stud in Melvin Gordon (342 touches in 2017) in front of him, the Chargers coaching staff had no choice but to keep putting the ball in Ekeler’s hands.
Ekeler’s college profile suggested success. His year 1 profile suggested success. His year 2 profile suggested success. His year 3 made good on those suggestions.
From year 1 we should’ve been talking about Austin Ekeler in the same breath as Alvin Kamara, but his draft capital, or lack thereof, ensured that it took time for Ekeler to be given the volume, and respect, he deserved from day 1.
So who’s the next Austin Ekeler? That’s a question for next week.