The last time the Chargers thought they had found their running back of the future, an unknown undrafted player out of Division II Western State came in and threw a wrench into their plans.
Earlier this offseason, the Chargers signed that same running to a four-year extension, tying him to the team for the foreseeable future. That other guy? He isn’t around anymore.
In this year’s draft, the Chargers grabbed another strong runner in the fourth round, whom they plan to pair with their main guy in hopes of bring a fresh and new skill set to the backfield.
Of course, I’m talking about Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley, the latter of whom was just predicted by Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski to be the Chargers’ biggest impact rookie out of their 2020 draft class.
“The Los Angeles Chargers replaced Melvin Gordon III with a fourth-round running back capable of pulling an Austin Ekeler,” Sobleski says. “Joshua Kelley is an outstanding back, though not highly regarded, who should start as a backup but ultimately take over as lead back.”
UCLA RB Joshua Kelley’s 2020 combine highlights (40-yard dash and field drills): pic.twitter.com/shFFX4Osla— Matt Joye (@mattjoye) February 29, 2020
Sobleski believes that Kelley may have what it takes to actually take over this backfield, even with the Ekeler still well in the fold. While I don’t think this is that realistic, I believe the closest scenario to that would be Kelley taking over the role that Melvin Gordon played most recently in 2019. He still handled double-digit carries on a weekly basis while Ekeler continued to be utilized in and out of the backfield as a runner and receiver.
It’s easy to see Kelley command goal line carries, especially with his size (215 pounds) and running style. Kelley does not like to avoid contact, whether or not that’s a good thing in the long run I don’t know, but he has the mindset to get it done even if it’s the harder, dirtier method that most would rather avoid. Even with that in mind, Kelley isn’t just looked at as a short-yardage back.
“The 212-pound back isn’t simply a short-yardage specialist. His 4.49-second 40-yard-dash speed also makes him a home-run threat.”
Joshua Kelley is such a goon pic.twitter.com/6gVcbjGZkC— Sad Reporter Liam (@Blutman27) November 17, 2018
Now, a 4.49 may not seem like true blazing speed, but it’s right there with Christian McCaffrey’s 4.48 and better than the 4.52 ran by Gordon and Justin Jackson.
According to ESPN’s fantasy football predictions, Kelley is expected to finish with 296 yards on 77 carries with two touchdowns. He’s also expected to add 11 catches for 88 receiving yards.