The LA Chargers are turning to Joshua Kelley and Justin Jackson to hold it down while Austin Ekeler is hurt.
The LA Chargers took a massive blow in Week 4 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The team is already dealing with a surplus of injuries and took perhaps the biggest blow of the year, losing Austin Ekeler to a hamstring injury.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Ekeler is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a hamstring strain, although he is seeking a second opinion. With the Chargers’ bye week being in Week 10, a good return date to cirlce for Ekeler is probably Week 11 against the Denver Broncos.
Now, the Chargers are turning to the tandem of rookie Joshua Kelley and undrafted free agent Justin Jackson, who has been with the team for three years now but cannot stay healthy himself. He was banged up to start this season and was forced into the game in Week 4 after Ekeler was hurt.
Many beleive that Kelley will end up being the better fantasy football option in lieu of Ekeler’s injury, but I would argue the contrary. Yes, Kelley had a great Week 1 and made history in the process, but with Ekeler out, it will be Jackson that proves to be the higher scorer.
Why Justin Jackson is the better fantasy option:
Kelley has been fantastic as an RB2 option to bounce off of Austin Ekeler in the offense and get looks to change up the tempo of the drive. Quite frankly, I am not sure if he is ready to be the bonafide RB1.
The most likely result is going to be that Kelley and Jackson share time on the field and take up an even workload. However, when things really matter in the game and the Chargers need their best unit out there, I do think it is Jackson that gets the looks.
If there is one thing that Anthony Lynn and the coaching staff value it is familiarity/experience in the system. Jackson has that. Sure, he has been banged up, but he has been in this offense for three years and has more familiarity with those around him.
Plus, Jackson’s numbers are absolutely insane, he just has never gotten the chance to fully let go. Prior to 2020, Jackson was averaging 5.1 yards per carry on 79 carries in his career. Yes, it is a minimally small sample size, but he has shown the ability to make tacklers miss and extend plays when given that chance.
Asking a rookie to outright be the RB1 is a bit of a tough ask, especially considering Kelley has two fumbles in the last two games. Turnovers are absolutely killer and the LA Chargers’ M-O for this season has been to cut down the turnovers.
After turning the ball over twice in a row, I would not be surprised if Lynn uses Kelley slightly less than he otherwise would have.
Finally, the last and most important reason why Jackson is going to be a better fantasty option is because of his ability in the passing game. Jackson is a better receiving back than Joshua Kelley is and just because Ekeler is out does not mean the running back-designed passing plays will be taken out of the playbook.
Sure, they will probably be used less, but there still will be designed plays to get the ball in the running backs’ hands via the passing game. Jackson should be the primary target in those plays, making him much more valuable than Kelley in PPR leagues.