Austin Ekeler to the Commanders: Why It’s Intriguing

The first two days of NFL free agency were largely highlighted by big-name running backs finding new homes.  Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs particularly cashed in with deals that have...

The first two days of NFL free agency were largely highlighted by big-name running backs finding new homes.  Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs particularly cashed in with deals that have mostly been absent from the running back market as of late.

Austin Ekeler, who at one time was a fantasy football superstar, joined the Washington Commanders on a modest two-year contract worth a little over $11 million.  While this was one of the more under-the-radar signings among running backs, it’s one of the most intriguing when it comes to fantasy football.

Just last season Ekeler was a sure-fire first-round pick.  He’s been a touchdown machine, scoring 69 in his seven-year career.  However, as most know in the fantasy football world, Ekeler took a huge step back in 2023.   It seems like he was never quite able to shake the ankle injury he suffered in Week 1. Those who invested a high pick in Ekeler surely wished they had gone in a different direction.

While the days of Ekeler being a first-round pick in fantasy football are over, his signing in Washington means a fresh start for him and, most importantly for our purposes, a fresh new average draft position (ADP).  The heart of fantasy football draft season is, of course, still several months away, but Underdog Fantasy already has rolled out best ball drafts for 2024.  To say Ekeler’s ADP took a tumble is an understatement, with his average draft slot being at pick 82, according to

Sure best ball ADPs aren’t exactly the same as re-draft, but this early in the off-season it’s a good guide. I’m no math wizard, but in a 12-team league that’s a seventh-round pick.  The major discount to draft him is exactly why he should be on your fantasy radar in 2024, while Barkley, Jacobs, and Derrick Henry in their new homes likely won’t come so cheap.

Ekeler was never a true bell-cow back, and at 29 years old he never will be.  The good news?  Signing in Washington means that won’t be expected with the presence of third-year back Brian Robinson.  The Alabama product, who was infamously shot a few weeks before his rookie season began in 2022, should handle most of the early down work and the carries in-between the tackles.  This lets Ekeler do what he does best, catch the ball.

The Commanders almost certainly will take a quarterback with the #2 pick in the upcoming draft.  While a rookie quarterback could concern some in terms of Ekeler’s fantasy prospects, I argue it can actually help.

It’s often said a tight end is a rookie quarterback’s best friend.  What about one of the best pass-catching running backs over the past five years?  That’s Ekeler, who can act as an excellent safety blanket for a first-year signal caller.  If I’m Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels, I would happily dump the ball off to Ekeler to keep the offense on schedule.

As mentioned earlier, Ekeler has a knack for finding the endzone.  While it would be almost shocking if Washington signed him for any sort of workhorse role, it wouldn’t be too surprising if he took away some goal-line carries from Robinson.  Why not give the guy who has almost 70 touchdowns in his career a chance to punch it in from a yard or two out?  That just adds to his intrigue considering where you will likely be able to draft him.

So you’re telling me that I can draft Austin Ekeler as my third or fourth running back and he’s going to a situation that likely allows him to thrive as a pass catcher while still having some touchdown upside?  That sounds like a situation at least worth exploring.


Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

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