Joshua Kelley Fantasy Outlook Rises, Justin Jackson Now Fantasy Relevant After Austin Ekeler Injury - Roto Street Journal
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Joshua Kelley Fantasy Outlook Rises, Justin Jackson Now Fantasy Relevant After Austin Ekeler Injury

The amount of muscle Austin Ekeler packed onto his frame didn’t matter in Week 4 when he was stood up by a pack of Buccaneers on the sideline, resulting in a severe hamstring injury that will keep him out 4-to-6 weeks. With the three-down stallion on the shelf for a while, it opens up a massive chunk of fantasy football usage for both Joshua Kelley and Justin Jackson. While Kelley looks like he’s going to assume the starting role, Jackson has been solid in the past when given the opportunity.

At first glance, Kelley is the main beneficiary of Ekeler’s injury. Through three weeks, Ekeler and Kelley basically split carries and Kelley even took some targets away from Ekeler. The rookie also carried the ball six times inside the 10-yard line and three times inside the five through the first three games.

However, both come with some question marks.

For Kelley, the rookie was initially eating into Ekeler’s touches and looking great, but he’s fumbled twice in the last four games. Unfortunately, the most recent fumble might have cost the Chargers the game, when he and his fellow rookie, Justin Herbert, screwed up the exchange on their own nine-yard line.

“It was quarterback-running back exchange, something we work on every single day,” Anthony Lynn said. “For that to happen is inexcusable.”

So while Kelley’s shown he’s a bruiser in between the tackles and a capable pass-catcher, Lynn has shown to have short leashes with rookies and could lean on Jackson, who he’s been a fan of in the past. In the preseason, he said he was favoring an RBBC with Ekeler and Jackson.

“Justin is a good 1-2 punch,” Lynn said in early March. “Before Melvin came back, Justin was running the ball and doing a good job. He has probably the best instincts in the backfield right now. I have a lot of confidence in Justin, he’s just got to stay healthy.”

As Lynn said, Jackson needs to stay healthy to remain involved. Unfortunately, that’s something he hasn’t been able to accomplish throughout his three years in the league.

Coming off a quad injury he suffered in Week 1, Jackson gets another crack at being a 1B to someone’s 1A for the next few weeks. Jackson has played well in his stints off the bench, grabbing 24 of his 30 targets and toting the rock 87 times for 419 yards (4.8 YPC). But, he’s yet to put it all together for an extended period of time.

Can Jackson be the Austin Ekeler to Kelley’s Melvin Gordon? We shall see.

Kelley will likely resume goal-line work and early-down work, while Jackson will spell the rookie on most passing downs and get a handful of carries.

Overall, this will be a bit of a committee, probably 70-30, but Kelley holds the true fantasy football value here.

The Wolf is a little down on Kelley, ranking him as his RB31 (-7 vs ECR) on the Rest of Season Rankings, while Jackson comes in at RB46 (+3 vs ECR).

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