5. Austin Ekeler, Running Back
Darren Sproles, Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver have a new member in the fraternity of third-down dual-threat running backs who are admired by Rivers. The fresh face of the exclusive club: tailback Austin Ekeler.
The numbers from his rookie campaign are not dazzling on the whole, but Ekeler displayed some flashes of useful production. Last season, the 23-year-old running back recorded just 47 carries for 260 rushing yards and a pair of scores, while racking up 279 receiving yards and three touchdowns off 27 receptions. He was targeted 35 times by Rivers
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Moreover, the five-foot-10 two-way back was quite efficient in the receiving game, as he boasted a 77.1 percent catch rate. Understandably, Ekeler was not leaned upon heavily in the Bolts offense last season, but he did perform considerably well in his busiest outing of the campaign. In a Week 9 match with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Ekeler hauled in five catches for 77 receiving yards and two touchdowns, to go along with 10 carries for 42 yards on the ground.
Although Los Angeles lost 20-17, the Chargers backup running back was easily the most productive playmaker on offense, especially given that Gordon rushed for a measly 27 yards on 16 carries.
Ekeler’s usage came in spurts Iast year and his heaviest workloads were predominantly during the middle portion of the season. Now that he has one NFL season under his belt, do not be surprised to see an uptick in targets and touches for the Western State alum. Rivers has shown a strong affection for pegging smaller pass-catching backs on third down, and Ekeler is primed to be the next one.