Austin Ekeler has really made a name for himself on the LA Chargers. The former undrafted free agent made the most of his chances, turning a strong season into a roster spot, into a role in the offense, and eventually into an extension with the Chargers.
Ekeler has been the lead back in LA for two seasons now and the results have been great. When healthy, Ekeler has proven that he is one of the best running backs in the entire sport and might just be the best dual-threat running back in the league.
However, despite his strong performance, Ekeler is still getting slept on by most of the league. ESPN's Jeremy Fowler has continued his yearly tradition of polling NFL executives, players and coaches to find out who the top-10 players are at each position. The running back list dropped on Tuesday and Ekeler's placement on the list is absurd.
Ekeler did not even crack the top 10 and instead had to settle for an honorable mention title. While he did receive some top-10 votes, he did not get enough to make the list despite his stellar season in 2021.
Chargers' Austin Ekeler is undoubtedly a top-10 running back in the league
While there is a lot of talent at the running back position, it is really hard to name 10 running backs who are better than Austin Ekeler. Ekeler is by no means the best all-around running back in the game, but he certainly is in that upper tier of elite running backs.
Sure, he does not have a 1,000-yard rushing season under his belt and that is ultimately what is holding him back against some of these other backs. What he does have is a season with 20 total touchdowns and over 1,500 yards from scrimmage.
That is a really big deal. In the entire history of the NFL, there have only been 27 seasons in which a running back picked up 1,500 or more yards from scrimmage and scored 20 or more touchdowns. It is even rarer in today's game, as it has happened just six times since 2010.
There are some really talented running backs that made the top-10 list but there are three that I take exception with. First is Christian McCaffrey, who ranked seventh.
How long are we going to let one really good season put him in the top 10? In terms of most talented, yes, McCaffrey belongs there. But the guy has played 10 games over the last two seasons and everything we know about running back injuries says he will regress.
The other two running backs that should not rank above Ekeler is Najee Harris and Javonte Williams, who rank eighth and 10th, respectively. Neither had a better season than Ekeler did last year and they only have one season under their belt. It is impossible to rank them ahead of Ekeler.
But hey, the NFL has slept on Austin Ekeler for his entire career, so perhaps this is a good thing that he is still not held to as high of a standard as he should be by his peers.