Fantasy Football 2024 Debate: Brian Robinson Jr. vs. Austin Ekeler

Every season, offseason additions shake up a team's depth chart, making it tougher to project a player's fantasy football value. One of the most challenging situations to assess is the Commanders' running back room after they added Austin Ekeler to their lineup.

The Case for Drafting Austin Ekeler

Austin Ekeler battled a high ankle sprain from week one that lingered all season, hampering his performance. Despite this, his low mileage and productivity make him a solid signing for the Commanders, as he doesn’t need many touches to be effective.

A critical factor often overlooked is the Chargers' loss of center Corey Linsley in week four due to a heart condition, likely ending his career. Linsley, the highest-paid center just three years ago, was instrumental in Ekeler's success over the past two seasons. Without Linsley, the Chargers' offensive line struggled, statistically opening some of the fewest running lanes in the NFL. Before the injury and with a healthy line, Ekeler rushed for over 100 yards in week one, demonstrating his potential when fully supported. Despite returning, he had little room to run, highlighting the impact of the offensive line's struggles on his performance.

With a healthier season and a potentially stronger offensive line, Ekeler could be a valuable fantasy asset in the Commanders' backfield.

The Case for Drafting Brian Robinson Jr.

Brian Robinson's overall stat lines don't fully reflect his impressive performance last season. He was the RB14 in fantasy points per opportunity and the RB22 in fantasy points per game. His efficiency was notable, ranking 22nd in explosive run rate and 13th in yards after contact per attempt.

In the 12 games where he played at least 40% of the snaps, Robinson averaged 15.5 touches and 77.9 total yards per game. He quietly demonstrated a three-down skillset, excelling on passing downs by ranking fifth in yards per route run and 12th in PFF's pass-blocking grade (minimum 20 targets and 50 pass-blocking snaps).

ADP vs ECR: Brian Robinson Jr. and Austin Ekeler

Brian Robinson Jr. is being undervalued by many casual fantasy players, with his Average Draft Position (ADP) at 103, compared to his Expert Consensus Ranking (ECR) of 86. While this may change as drafts approach in August, Robinson offers solid value at his current ADP.

In contrast, Austin Ekeler has an ADP of 78 but an ECR of 108, indicating that experts believe he is being misvalued. This discrepancy highlights the importance of considering expert opinions when drafting to maximize value and avoid drafting players too early.

The Impact of Kliff Kingsbury's Arrival on Washington's Backfield

With the arrival of Kliff Kingsbury as the new offensive coordinator, Antonio Gibson's departure and the addition of Austin Ekeler, Washington's rushing attack will look a lot different. 

Historically, Kingsbury's run rate at Arizona varied widely (21st, 8th, 12th, 27th), while Washington ranked 32nd in run rate this past season.

Overreaction to Austin Ekeler's Addition: Why Brian Robinson Jr. is Still a Strong Pick

Many people are likely overreacting to the addition of Austin Ekeler. If the team's run rate increases, Brian Robinson Jr. stands to benefit the most. He is still expected to handle early down, short yardage, and goal line carries. Meanwhile, Ekeler will likely take on more third-down work and pass-catching opportunities.

It's important to note that Ekeler is aging—he's 28—and he battled a high ankle sprain throughout 2023. This makes Brian Robinson Jr. an even more compelling pick. We are strongly advocating for drafting Robinson, as he remains a solid option despite the changes in Washington's backfield.

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