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Chargers Position Group Preview: Runningbacks

Image: Ashley Landis/Associated Press

Leading up to the NFL Draft All-Pro running back Austin Ekeler made headlines when he requested and was granted permission to seek a trade. Going from UDFA to backup to starter, Ekeler has carried the brunt of the Charger’s offense since Melvin Gordon’s departure. For an offense filled with star-power, Ekeler has managed to shine bright. However, it’s been a challenging task for the team to find his complement. In this second episode of Chargers Position Group Previews, we’ll look at the Bolt’s group of runningbacks. 

Source - Chargers' Austin Ekeler staying, with $1.75M in incentives - ESPN

Image: ESPN

The Starter: Austin Ekeler

Despite seeking a trade, Ekeler will still be the featured back in Kellen Moore’s offense. Pound for pound one of the strongest players in the NFL, he can run the ball, catch out of the backfield, and block for his QB. With all this, Ekeler also does a great job at staying healthy. This upcoming season the Chargers will be looking to better balance their offense but it’s hard to imagine we’ll be seeing less of Ekeler. He’s a great player and the Chargers should look to milk out of him what they can before possibly losing him at the end of the season. 

Joshua Kelley Dynasty Profile: Fantasy Outlook, Value, Projections, and Rankings

Image: Pro Football Network

The Backup: Joshua Kelley

The Bolts have gone through running backs over the years looking for a quality backup. Last year, Chargers fans hoped Isaiah Spiller would have progressed enough to play this role. Instead, after a great second half of the season, Joshua Kelley will likely back up Ekeler. A high effort player, Kelley does a good job playing downhill and squaring up blitzers. He shouldn’t be relied upon out of the backfield although who knows what Kellen Moore has planned for him. Over his career Kelley has been shaky so it’s possible he’s on a short leash with a more versatile Spiller behind him. Nevertheless, unless something changes, Kelley will be the second string RB. 

Game Highlights: RB Larry Rountree III Electric Run Fourth Down

Image: Chargers

The Rest: Isaiah Spiller and Larry Rountree III

Many fans expected big things from Isaiah Spiller when he was drafted in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Instead, fans received a player who struggled to stay healthy. In the little he did play, Spiller was nothing special but he also wasn’t anything terrible. He’s large, blocks well, and can catch out of the backfield making him a threat in almost every way. If he can stay healthy and stay patient, I imagine he’ll make the most of the few snaps he gets. 

When Larry Rountree III was drafted a couple drafts ago there was plenty to be excited about for someone who was a late round selection. However, it feels like he’s regressed since his rookie season. The past few offseasons, there’s been speculation about him either being traded or cut to make room for other up and coming players. This hasn’t happened yet, but it’s difficult to see his situation changing at all.

The UDFAs: Tyler Hoosman and Elijah Dotson

The Chargers signed two running backs in their UDFA class. In my article about the Bolt’s UDFAs, Tyler Hoosman is a name I said to watch. He has the size, he has the speed, and he has the explosiveness to contribute to the offense but he’s got an uphill battle being a UDFA. Still, he should get plenty of reps this preseason to potentially prove himself useful. 

Elijah Dotson is another great example of how dangerous speed and acceleration makes a player. For a smaller back, Dotson also possesses excellent balance allowing him to play bigger than what he is. Additionally, Dotson’s experience as a kick and punt returner could prove to be useful should injuries plague the team. If this isn’t the case however, I foresee Dotson primarily as a practice squad player. 

Isaiah Spiller Dynasty Profile: Fantasy Outlook, Value, Projections, and Rankings

Image: Pro Football Network 

Dark Horse Candidates: Isaiah Spiller and Tyler Hoosman

Although Joshua Kelley is slated to be the backup, Spiller could make a case for himself this preseason with good play. With Kelley’s inconsistencies over his career, nothing is set in stone for the Chargers depth chart after Ekeler. As I previously mentioned, he can play in-between the tackles, out of the backfield, and block for his QB. But, if he wishes to rise in the ranks, he’ll need to show it consistently in the Chargers three preseason games. 

As also stated, Larry Rountree III’s up and down career has been frustrating to see. Because of this, the Chargers could bring Hoosman on as the fourth RB to get him some NFL experience even though it may be through meaningless snaps. Still, this will depend on how he and Rountree both perform during summer camp and in the team’s preseason games. 


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