Heading into 2021, Chargers RB Austin Ekeler was a question mark on most people’s draft boards. The 27-year-old had shown flashes in the years prior, but an injury-riddled 2020 season opened the door for doubt to creep in. This year, that’s not the case.
Ekeler had a stellar 2021 campaign, rushing for 911 yards and 12 touchdowns on 206 carries. It was the first time fans got to see what he could do as a primary rusher, considering he was much more of a receiver in his early seasons. That’s not to say he didn’t rack up the receiving yards last year, though; Ekeler had 70 receptions for 647 yards and eight touchdowns.
On the year, he tied Jonathan Taylor for most total touchdowns, and set a career-high in yards-from-scrimmage with 1558. His combination of speed, agility, and strength make him a highly desirable back who can beat you in almost every way. Shutting him down in the run game? He’ll get active as a receiver. Covering him on screens and in the flats? He’ll break off a run for 50+ yards.
The Chargers are coming into this season with the 12th ranked offensive line, according to Pro Football Focus; the only major issue being their right tackle position. Aside from that, Los Angeles puts up a mighty front that works well with Ekeler behind them. On top of that, third-year QB Justin Herbert has continued to ascend the ladder to stardom, and 2022 should be no different.
Ekeler is in a great position to repeat the success he had last season. He was the #2 running back at the end of the year – behind Jonathan Taylor – with 272 points. If the Chargers can figure everything out, he may be able to surge past Taylor to claim the top RB spot. That’s a big “if,” especially when you consider his injury history.
The most glaring of Ekeler’s injuries have been lower body muscular strains (calf, hamstring, hip), and while that’s not necessarily good, it is impressive he’s avoided a major injury. At this point, it’s safe to assume Ekeler will deal with some strain or similar injury in 2022, which means he may or may not miss time. However, the upside could easily be worth it.