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Isaiah Spiller tabbed as the Chargers’ rookie who could surprise in 2022

Would it truly be a surprise for Spiller to find success as a rookie?

NFL Combine Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Chargers likely surprised many a fan when they used this year’s fourth-round pick on former Texas A&M running back Isaiah Spiller. The team is only two years removed from using a fourth-rounder on Joshua Kelley and had just used a sixth-rounder on Larry Rountree in 2021. Taking what seemed like a shot at a RB2 in three consecutive drafts just doesn’t seem like the most ideal thing to do for a team with blatant needs elsewhere.

However, I’d be remiss to truly equate the selection of Spiller to those of Kelley and Rountree. Despite all three having been multi-year starters for Power 5 schools, the former is obviously in a tier above the latter. Neither Kelley nor Rountree are as well-rounded as Spiller while neither were heralded all that much in their respective draft classes. Kelley and Rountree were expected to be there on day three while Spiller was a top-three back in the class by a number of draft scouts and analysts.

This was all a long-winded way of saying that expectations this year for Spiller are rather high compared those from Kelley and Rountree’s rookie seasons. If Kelley or Rountree were quick to become contributors, it would have been a pleasant surprise. But for Spiller, anything close to a performance comparative to the others would be a massive letdown.

In a a new piece over at Bleacher Report by Ian Wharton, the NFL analyst picked one rookie from each of the 32 teams that he believes could surprise in 2022. For the Chargers, Spiller was that player. Now as I stated above, a positive season from Spiller actually wouldn’t be a surprise for me based on current expectations. However, after seeing how the RB2 position has fared over the past few seasons, I understand why some would think otherwise.

“After the Los Angeles Chargers added defensive stars Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson, the team continued to bolster its depth throughout free agency and the draft,” said Wharton. “One of those players was fourth-rounder Isaiah Spiller. The impressive Texas A&M running back should immediately challenge for snaps behind Austin Ekeler.

Adding depth behind Ekeler was crucial. Not only has the 27-year-old never started for a full season, but the backup tandem of Joshua Kelley and Larry Rountree III failed to produce at an efficient level last year. Kelley averaged just 3.1 yards per carry on 33 touches, and Rountree was worse with 2.4 yards on 36 carries.

It’s hard not to cringe at the sight of those averages, which is why I wasn’t all the displeased in the moment when Spiller was selected. The Chargers needed someone to play second fiddle in the worst way in order to give Ekeler the rest he needed while also providing their own impact with the offense. He showed he could do it for a good team in the SEC and that’s about the closest thing that college football has to the NFL. As it stands, I’m all in on Spiller and I believe you should be, as well.