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2017 Chargers Analysis: Running Backs

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Let’s take a look at the Running Back room for the 2017 Chargers

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Pro Bowl Halfback of the formerly known San Diego Chargers will be returning next season but to the newly minted Los Angeles Chargers. As one of the biggest supporters of him in his sophomore season, I expect even better things from him in 2017. In an interview after the season, he communicated that he was still disappointed by this season, partially due to the yards per carry and his disappointing injury to end the season. Still, he ended up with 1416 yards rushing and receiving, with 12 touchdowns, after scoring none in his rookie season.

The Chargers rushing attack solely flowed through him as he watched as Branden Oliver, Danny Woodhead, and Kenneth Farrow all end the season on injured reserve. He expects to train again with his friend and mentor, Adrian Peterson. Considering how much he improved last offseason by training with one of the GOATs, expect even greater things from him in 2017.

Melvin Gordon will be joined by second-year player Kenneth Farrow, who saw his UDFA rookie season end with 262 yards rushing and receiving on 73 touches. He ended the season on injured reserve. Kenneth Farrow started the season as a fan favorite during the Preseason, after amassing over 3500 yards of offense and 37 TDs over his four years on the Houston Cougars. I have no idea why he was overlooked in the draft, and he should be a suitable backup for years to come.

The only other back on the roster for next season is Melvin Gordon’s college teammate, FB Derek Watt. Coming into the league, there were high expectations for this smallish FB, especially in the passing game. He had 6 touches for 87 yards and was largely ignored towards the end of the year, with Melvin Gordon finding his own rhythm. He’ll be back next season, but don’t expect to see him on the field a bunch. The FB position is a dying breed in the NFL, and Derek Watt is not even a full back.

Danny Woodhead, Dexter McCluster, Branden Oliver, Ronnie Hillman and Andre Williams are all free agents this offseason, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Branden Oliver and Ronnie Hillman both sign relatively cheap contracts to be retained through the 2017 season. Branden Oliver is a pint-sized bowling ball who has accumulated 1592 all-purpose yards in just about a season and a half. He’s had bad injury luck as of recent history, but he’s still young, so I see the Chargers re-signing him cheap. Ronnie Hillman is still young and has been relatively successful over his career. I wanted the Chargers to draft him in 2012, and I hope they retain him now. I’m under the impression that while Danny Woodhead is really good, he’s coming off of 2 season-ending injuries in the last 3 seasons. Dexter McCluster is 28 and won’t be a priority for the Chargers. Andre Williams had the highest YPC on the Chargers and won’t be expensive, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him return either.

As far as the free agent market goes for running backs, the expected backs to hit the market will be headlined by an injury-prone starter for the Patriots, LeGarrette Blount, followed by another injury prone back in Eddie Lacy. Outside of that, I don’t expect the free agency market to have much, and both of these guys will be asking for too much money, and not enough reliability for the Chargers to bite.

The draft could be an option for the Chargers, but I don’t expect them to pick anyone up because of all the other holes that need to be filled. If they pick someone up, look for someone in the late rounds, but it’s doubtful, especially if the Chargers re-sign one or two of their own free agents.