As we inched closer and closer to the running back group in ESPN’s positional rankings, I couldn’t help but convince myself that Charger fans were about to be letdown once again as Austin Ekeler was left out of the top 10 for another year.
Fortunately, that’s not the news I’m bringing you today.
On Friday morning, ESPN dropped their top-10 running backs — all voted on by league executives, coaches, and players — and the Chargers’ RB1 finally broke through (just barely) to make the list at #10. The nine running backs ranked ahead of him were (in descending order): Nick Chubb, Christian McCaffrey, Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley, Derrick Henry, Jonathan Taylor, Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, and Tony Pollard.
Here’s what analyst Jeremy Fowler had to say about his ranking:
“Ekeler’s massive production helped him vault over the likes of Aaron Jones and Joe Mixon, but this was close. It’s hard to argue with his 38 scrimmage touchdowns over the past two seasons — 12 more than any other NFL player.”
An AFC executive supposedly said that if Ekeler was a legitimate 5’11, he’d be considered a top-five running back in his mind. However, he’s listed at 5’10 and Fowler makes a note that many don’t actually believe he’s even that tall.
Another NFL assistant coach called Ekeler a “really explosive player” that “runs tougher than you’d think for his size.” However, he also knocked Ek for his pass protection skills.
In the end, it sure seems like execs and coaches are still far too focused on his size than all of the scoring he’s been doing on the field over the past two seasons. Heck, one anonymous personnel executive said that he doesn’t see a “elite or major impact player” in Ekeler, despite a whopping 38 touchdowns scored since the start of the 2021 season.
I don’t know about you, but scoring touchdowns is probably the biggest impact a player could have on their respective team. Either way, even when Ekeler gets some respect from those around the league, they sure still continue to call out shortcomings that really haven’t been all that problematic.
Heck, the fact that Kamara is still seen as the better back is wild to me. His 13 touchdowns over the past two seasons would have sealed the deal for Ekeler to NEVER break onto this list, but instead, it didn’t cost Kamara much respect at all as he’s still ranked three spots ahead while Ekeler fell one touchdown short of literally tripling his scoring total across the same span.
Make it make sense, anonymous NFL people.