The Los Angeles Chargers surprised some with their fourth-round pick in the NFL 2020 Draft. The announcement that UCLA running back Joshua Kelley was added to the Chargers running back rotation was a surprise. But was it a needed one?
5’11”, 212 pounds, Hands 9 5/8″
ROUND 4, 112th Pick
- Transferred to UCLA after two seasons at UC-Davis
- Played two years at UCLA
- 24 touchdowns in two years at UCLA
- Fumbled only three times on 492 touches at UCLA
- 2019 season: 229 rushes, 1060 yards, 12 touchdowns, 11 receptions, 71 yards, one touchdown
- Played In Senior Bowl
- 15 rushes for 105 yards
According to NFL.com’s analysis:
The Good: Accelerates downhill and runs aggressively behind pads as TD-maker. Absorbs contact and falls forward to finish his runs. Runs with square pads which is combined with a strong lower body that helps brush off upper body tackles.
The Bad: Running style will eventually take a toll on his body. Slow to gather speed and cut downhill. Below average vision to re-route his run.
Los Angeles Chargers Backfield
The Chargers had two legitimate running backs in the backfield before the draft.
Melvin Gordon is gone. With him are his 2019 stats of 162 rushes, 612 yards, eight touchdowns, 3.8 yards per average; 55 targets, 42 receptions, 296 yards, one touchdown, 7.0 yards per reception.
Justin Jackson 2019 stats: 29 rushes, 200 yards, zero touchdowns, 6.9 yards per average; 11 targets, nine receptions, 22 yards, 2.4 yards per reception.
Austin Ekeler 2019 stats: 132 rushes, 557 yards, three touchdowns, 4.2 yards per average; 108 targets, 92 receptions, 993 yards eight touchdowns, 10. 8 yards per reception.
The Backfield Scheme
When the season starts, the Chargers will have a new full-time offensive coordinator, Shane Steichen. Last season he was promoted from quarterbacks coach to interim offensive coordinator, and now he has had a full offseason to implement his system.
Going from Ken Whisenhunt to Steichen, The Chargers had the fourth-largest improvement from the first half of the season to the second in rushing touchdowns. They also showed the fifth-best gain in rushing average and the ninth-highest increase in runs of 12-plus yards.
So What Does Joshua Kelley Bring To The Backfield?
Kelley is a bruising type runner who does not shy away from contact. Until now, Jackson was the man who was the punch to Ekeler’s finesse.
With Gordon gone, there are 13.5 average touches that have to be filled. Offensive Coordinator Steichen has stated that “All three are going to share the load.”
We know that head coach Anthony Lynn is enamored with Kelley’s running style. The pseudo-Gordon type of bruising runner.
Look for Kelley to be the third-down short-yardage man. His pass protection is flawed, so if he is in the game, anticipate run. Also, look for him to be the goal-line back.
Kelley is bringing that short-yardage gain to the Chargers.
He is also extremely smart, and his production increased throughout the season last year at UCLA, so expect the same to be the case with the Chargers. Working him into the offense slowly on short-yardage situations, and then getting him more involved down the stretch. The Chargers truly have a three-headed attack in the backfield.