Who Should Start As The Chargers Running Back If Austin Ekeler Is Traded?

Austin Ekeler, the Chargers running back for the last five seasons, wants out of LA. How will they replace him this offseason?

The Los Angeles Chargers are primed to have one of the best offenses in the NFL this upcoming season. Justin Herbert is a top 5 quarterback in the NFL, and Chargers wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are dynamic pass-catchers when healthy. The addition of offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is a much-needed one for this offense.

The Chargers running back, Austin Ekeler, is one of the most explosive backs in the NFL. However, Ekeler has recently requested a trade and could potentially leave Los Angeles.

The relationship between both sides is apparently great, but Ekeler wants to be paid much more than his current contract. So if Ekeler leaves, who would fill in his role?

Let’s look at a few options the Chargers can go with at running back.

The Next Chargers Running Back: How to Replace Ekeler?

Current Players on the Roster

Besides Ekeler, there are three other running backs on the Chargers depth chart: Joshua Kelley, Larry Rountree III, and Isaiah Spiller. All three backs were chosen in consecutive years for the Chargers and are under 26 years old.

Kelley’s usage has changed since his rookie season, from having 111 carries and 23 catches in 14 games during the 2020 season to having 102 carries and 19 catches in 23 games over the last two seasons.

However, Kelley is the most experienced running back outside Ekeler, having been on the roster for the past three seasons. Also, Rountree and Spiller have less than 200 career rushing yards between the two.

It’s not an ideal situation, but the Chargers could turn to running back by committee and utilize all three of them. The committee approach has worked for multiple teams, such as the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. The offense can ride the hot hand, depending on the game and the defense they are up against.

Free Agency

If the Chargers don’t like any players currently on the roster, they can look outside the organization for some free agents. Plenty of running backs are available on the open market, such as Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette, and Kareem Hunt.

Those three running backs are under 30 years old, have plenty of football left to play, and have the experience of being a feature back for a team. In addition, they’re all versatile out of the backfield, having the ability to carry the ball 20 times in a game or make a significant impact in the passing game.

With Ekeler being the star of the offense for the past couple of years and his bread and butter being able to catch out of the backfield, the Chargers should target someone who could play a similar style.

Charger Running Back
Aaron E. Martinez / USA TODAY NETWORK

NFL Draft

This is a long shot, but the Chargers could spend their No. 21 pick (or trade up) on a running back. The player to target would be Bijan Robinson, the No. 1 running back in this draft class.

Robinson had a dominant season in his final year at Texas. The junior rushed for 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns on 258 carries (averaging 6.1 yards per rush). He also had 19 catches for 314 yards and two touchdowns.

At 6 foot and 220 pounds, Robinson is the type of player that will make an immediate impact as soon as he steps on an NFL field, similar to what Breece Hall was doing with the New York Jets before his injury.

Los Angeles might need to trade up for Robinson, but if he falls to their pick and Ekeler is no longer with the team or seems like he’s on his way out, the Chargers need to take Robinson.

Who Will The Chargers Running Back Be?