We’re approaching the 2024 season. Every year, a few players seize on the right opportunity and surprise for fantasy players. The value comes from trying to predict who it will end up being this time of year and stashing them. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at some 2024 sleeper candidates at each of the key fantasy positions: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end. Hopefully, these are players you can acquire at a value that will propel you to fantasy glory.

Today, as I look at my final running back selection, I move to a player going under the radar in a new situation. And yet, it’s a promising situation for rushing, and he could well have the ability to lead the backfield. In short, if Greg Roman runs a rush offense, you want a piece of it. And if you roster Gus Edwards—at least for 2024—you could have the best possible piece of it. Let’s take a look at the arguments.

The Case for Gus Edwards

The 2023 Los Angeles Chargers weren’t great. Nor could they really run the ball. Austin Ekeler struggled. Having previously been RB1 the two prior seasons for fantasy, he couldn’t get off the ground with only 628 yards rushing. His RB2, Joshua Kelley, had just over 400 yards. The team, in total, finished as 25th in rushing yards. Now, both Ekeler and Kelley are gone. So, too, are the coaches that ran that scheme.

In their place, Jim Harbaugh has taken over as Head Coach, bringing in Roman to run the offense. For fans of the run, that’s very good news. Roman has served as Offensive Coordinator for ten seasons and three different teams. That includes four years working in San Francisco with Jim Harbaugh. In that time, his teams have never finished lower than Ninth in rush attempts and Eighth in rush yards. Often, he’s led the league in one of both categories.

So, who gets that opportunity? The leader right now has to be Edwards, a free agent who signed with the Chargers this off-season. He comes from the Ravens and has played for Roman before. In three seasons, he rushed for 1,867 yards and 11 touchdowns. Last season, though Roman was gone, Edwards was tapped to lead the Ravens’ backfield. He rushed for a career-high 810 yards and 13 touchdowns. He finished as RB25. That is promising for a player who should have a chance to lead the backfield in a run-first offense.

The Case Against Gus Edwards

The case against him is his history and potential competition. First, it’s Edwards’ history. He’s been the lead back in the past but not necessarily the definition of a workhorse. In his first two seasons with Roman, in 16 games each season, Edwards saw 133 and 144 carries, respectively. Last season, he saw 198 carries.

So, perhaps he gets up to 200 or 220 carries, but being as his yards-per-carry average last season was just 4.1, it’s possible he doesn’t explode. Much of his RB25 finish had to do with 13 rushing touchdowns, more than double his next-best season. Edwards isn’t much of a receiver, with just 30 career receptions in five seasons. That means he needs to earn his points on the ground.

The next challenge is potential competition. The Chargers also signed former Raven J.K. Dobbins. On paper, Dobbins is a better and more explosive runner. He’s also a better receiver. But he’s struggled to stay healthy. In fact, in four years, he’s managed just 24 games—15 of those in his rookie year. That means he’s only been available for nine games over the past three seasons, including just one in 2023. Beyond Dobbins, the team has former fourth-round draft pick Isaiah Spiller, who was taken by the previous regime, and rookie Kimani Vidal. Neither have NFL experience and remain relative unknowns at this point.

The Bottom Line

We know the Chargers want to run the football. That’s why, with the No. 5 overall pick and lacking receivers, the team took tackle Joe Alt as its top pick. That bodes well for whoever gets the carries. Edwards, currently going as RB38, seems to be the man first in line. He was a high-end RB3 in 2023 and could be poised to get his biggest workload yet. At this price, he’s worth a stash. Dobbins might be the more explosive back, but Edwards has proven to be the more reliable choice, especially for fantasy.

Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.

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