Projecting the Chargers’ running back depth chart in 2021

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Over the next couple of weeks, I will be breaking down the depth chart at each position for the Chargers.

Quarterback

Next up, I project what the running backs room will look like heading into the 2021 season.

RB1: Austin Ekeler

From undrafted free agent to one of the league’s most dynamic weapons. With his multi-dimensional skillset, Ekeler has totaled 1,901 yards on the ground and 2,079 receiving yards as well as 25 touchdowns in four seasons. Ekeler will get a decent amount of carries, but the coaching staff will still want to use his pass-catching abilities, which will see him line up in the slot aside from just the backfield. Under offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, Ekeler should receive a great amount of reps since he’s historically gotten his running backs involved more than almost any other team.

RB2: Justin Jackson

The second running back spot is where it becomes interesting. This will be a competition between Jackson, Joshua Kelley and sixth-round pick Larry Rountree III. The former Northwestern product gets the nod heading into the season, given his experience and production, when he is on the field, as he’s only played in 29 out of 48 regular season games. Jackson brings great vision and elusiveness coupled with pass-catching skills, and he’s averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Ultimately, the coaching staff will be holding hope that he can stay healthy. If so, he’s an ideal compliment to Ekeler who can impact the game in both facets.

RB3: Larry Rountree III

Assuming that the team rolls with three running backs into the regular season, Rountree wins the job over Kelley. Rountree joins L.A. after being one of the most productive backs in the SEC the past three seasons at Missouri, having posted 3,720 yards and 40 touchdowns. Rountree is an explosive runner who has good feet, contact balance, second-level vision and ball protection awareness, as well as passing game impact, projecting as a short-yardage and goal-line specialist. Another thing that gives Rountree the edge over Kelley is that he is one of the new coaching staff’s players. That’s an important factor with the roster-evaluation process.

What happens with Kelley?

The Chargers could send Kelley to the practice squad since he could still develop into a decent player after struggling with fumbles and confidence issues last season. Even if the team does ultimately roll with four running backs, I still believe Rountree has the advantage over Kelley.