Heading into Week 12 of the NFL season, there was a looming question of whether the Los Angeles Chargers would let Melvin Gordon play through his injuries. The talented running back was dealing with multiple ailments ahead of the matchup with the Arizona Cardinals. In the end, Gordon convinced the coaching staff to let him play and had a brutally unfortunate end to his day.
After suffering a hit to the knee, Gordon left the game having already scored two touchdowns and was well on his way to 100 yards. But it wasn’t the fact he wouldn’t be able to build on his impressive start to the game that caused concern, but instead was the new knee injury. As NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport revealed after the game, the Chargers back suffered a grade 2 MCL sprain.
It’s brutal news for Gordon, the team and even fantasy football players, as he will now likely miss multiple weeks, including the fantasy playoffs. So while players who have Gordon on their fantasy roster attempt to choose what direction to go on waivers, one name makes for an interesting discussion.
Although Austin Ekeler is expected to receive a fair amount of the workload with his backfield mate out, rookie Justin Jackson logged more carries on Sunday. In the 45-10 win over the Cardinals, Jackson was given seven carries, resulting in 57 yards while Ekeler turned five carries into 35 yards and a score.
There’s a lot to be considered when figuring out whether to use a waiver on Jackson, especially if Ekeler is still out there, so let’s evaluate the fantasy impact of the situation.
Should You Add Justin Jackson on Fantasy Waivers?
Although Jackson was able to carve out a solid role in this game, he only played 19 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, per Football Outsiders. For comparison’s sake, Gordon played 38 percent before the injury while Ekeler also received 38 percent and Detrez Newsome picked up 12 percent.
Jackson did receive work before it was full-blown garbage time, but when you consider that Ekeler finished the game with 10 catches on 11 targets, it’s hard not to lean that way on waivers. Assuming the Chargers wind up playing in games that are closer than the one we saw in Week 12, it will likely be Ekeler receiving the bulk of the work with Jackson spotting him.
I don’t mind targeting Jackson as a potential waiver wire option if you have a roster spot, but Ekeler would be my primary target if available. Expectations should also likely be tempered if you do pick up Jackson, as it’s unknown if he’ll continue the strong play moving forward. After all, the former Northwestern back had just five carries for seven yards all season before this game.
I’d lean towards targeting Jackson as an option in 14-team leagues or above, as there’s not much reason to drop down to 10 or 12-teamers unless you badly need a running back.
Should You Start Justin Jackson in Week 13?
Although I’m intrigued by Jackson as a fantasy streamer in a primetime matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 13, I’d wait it out a week. We really have no idea how the situation will look in a potentially close game, and there’s a chance Ekeler could wind up doing the bulk of the heavy lifting.
As ESPN’s Eric D. Williams revealed, Ekeler is playing less special teams this week to focus on being an every-down running back. This is less than ideal for Jackson’s outlook and points to the exact reason why holding out on using him in fantasy lineups makes sense.
The Steelers have also been solid against opposing running backs, allowing 884 yards on the ground, 42 receptions or 308 receiving yards and 11 combined touchdowns to the position. It’s good news that the matchup isn’t so appealing that it may push you into starting the Chargers back this week. I’d recommend leaving Jackson on the bench in all leagues this week unless you simply have no other options.