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Is RB a Target for the Chargers in the 2023 Draft?

AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley

Welcome to Part 2 of our 2023 draft preview series, which will be a position-by-position look at key prospects and where the Chargers roster stands ahead of the NFL Draft. This series will include a look at which prospects could be options for the Chargers later this month.

We chatted with ESPN draft analyst Jordan Reid to break down the running backs in this draft class. Reid, a former QB and coach at North Carolina Central University, can be found on Twitter @Jordan_Reid for his analysis.

Chargers status at RB

The Chargers have a solid stable of backs, highlighted by a player who has scored 38 total touchdowns in the past two seasons.

But Austin Ekeler, who is entering the final season of his contract, is also looking for more long-term security and dollars. The Chargers granted Ekeler permission to seek a trade last month.

Speaking at the 2023 Annual League Meeting, Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco spoke about Ekeler's situation last week.

"No public levels of concern. When it comes to contract, those are private discussions, not public discussions," Telesco said. "But you guys have seen, he's a dynamic player, he's a dynamic personality. We're lucky to have him.

"These situations happen at different positions, different players in different points in their careers," Telesco added. "I know it's a business, you try and go by the golden rule like, 'I want to treat people they way I'd want to be treated.' So, in this situation felt like we'll go down this path, but kind of see where it goes."

The Bolts also have youngsters such as Joshua Kelley and Isaiah Spiller on the roster, but both players may be viewed as committee-type players..

Kelley earned the No. 2 role a year ago and played well while Spiller — a fourth-rounder in 2022 — could be in line for more work this season.

Is RB a position of need?

Reid said that while it remains to be seen what happened with Ekeler, the Chargers could be in position to take a dynamic, long-term option early on in the draft.

"I don't know what's going to happen with the Ekeler situation," Reid said. "But I still think they need a running back. They don't really have a dynamic guy. Spiller, you're hoping to get something out of him but I don't know how that's going to end up. Kelley, I just think he's a complimentary option."

Reid mocked Texas running back Bijan Robinson to the Bolts in a March mock draft.

"If they want to go for a homerun swing, that's why I put Bijan Robinson there," Reid said. "I think he instantly takes this offense to another level just because you're not only getting value with him as a running back, but he's going to change your passing game as well.

"I think Bijan Robinson can help them not only from a rushing perspective but also in the receiving aspect, too," Reid said.

If the Bolts don't go with a running back early, they could look to add one in the middle or later rounds, similar to what they have done in recent years.

Key draft questions

1. What makes Bijan Robinson the consensus No. 1 RB?

"He's a Top 5 player on my board but, you have to take positional value into the equation. We can go on and on until we're blue in the face as far as whether you should take a running back in the first round or not," Reod said. "We see guys go in the first round at the position almost every year, so it really just depends on the team and then where you're taking him. As far as him, he has the patience, he has the size and obviously he has the versatility, too.

"But, his ability to make guys miss and his contact balance … I think that's two things that really separate what you call the upper tier guys in this class, which are him and Jahmyr Gibbs," Reid added. "I think that's really your Tier 1 of this running back class because they can change games in an instant."

2. Is this considered a deep RB draft class?

"Yeah, I think so. There's not a lot at the top, I think Bijan and Gibbs are your two that can probably go inside of the Top 40. After that, there's a bunch of clusters of different types. You got Devon Achane, Texas A&M, the list goes on with these guys. Zach Charbonnet from UCLA, I can list 10 or 12 guys that could go somewhere in the Top 100. I think there's going to be a big run on running backs in the third or fourth round."

Expert rankings's Daniel Jeremiah currently has three running backs in his overall Top 50: 3. Bijan Robinson, 29. Jahmyr Gibbs and 50. Zach Charbonnet.

ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr., has one running back in his overall Top 25: 9. Robinson.

Rankings for running backs by Jeremiah, his NFL Media counterpart Bucky Brooks, Kiper, Pro Football Focus and The Athletic's Dane Brugler are listed below.

Potential Chargers options

Note: Heights and weights are from each player's profile on (linked for each player's name).


School: Texas | Year: Junior | Ht: 5-foot-11 | Wt: 215 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler

2022 stats: 12 games; 258 rushes for 1,580 yards (6.1 avg.) and 18 TDs; 19 receptions for 314 yards (16.5 avg.) and 2 TDs; 157.9 scrimmage yards per game

Quick fact: The winner of the 2022 Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back, Robinson ranks fourth all-time in Texas history with 3,410 rushing yards and 41 total touchdowns.

AP Photo/Butch Dill

School: Alabama | Year: Junior | Ht: 5-foot-9 | Wt: 199 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler

2022 stats: 9 games; 96 rushes for 632 yards (6.6 avg.) and 3 TDs; 32 receptions for 350 yards (10.9 avg.) and 3 TDs; 109.1 scrimmage yards per game

Quick fact: Gibbs played his final college season at Alabama after transferring from Georgia Tech. He finished second in Crimson Tide single-season history for receptions by a running back with 44.

Reid's Review: "Electric. That's the one word to describe Jahmyr Gibbs. He did it at Georgia Tech for two years and he came over to the SEC and he still was outrunning people at Alabama. Everybody uses Alvin Kamara and Dalvin Cook, I don't think he's as thick as those guys as far as dense and his body, he's much much smaller than those guys. He reminds me of Jamaal Charles when he was with the Kansas City Chiefs. We saw what he was able to do in his short stint with them. He can change games in an instant, he's a sudden change player, what I like to say and he can just bust the game wide open in one play."

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

School: UCLA | Year: Senior | Ht: 6-foot-0 | Wt: 214 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler

2022 stats: 10 games; 195 rushes for 1,359 yards (7.0 avg.) and 14 TDs; 37 receptions for 321 yards (8.7 avg.); 168 scrimmage yards per game

Quick fact: Charbonnet led the nation in all-purpose yards per game (168.0) and paced the Pac-12 in rushing yards per game (135.9).

Reid's Review: "He's a running back that's good at a lot of stuff, but he's not great at one thing. He has the contact balance, he has the size, but you wish he had another gear. That's the one thing that he's missing, he just doesn't have the homerun hitting speed. He'll give you an explosive 30, 40-yard plays but he's not going to have those 50, 60, 70-yard runs that end up in touchdowns."

AP Photo/Sam Craft

School: Texas A&M | Year: Junior | Ht: 5-foot-8 | Wt: 188 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
-- RB4 RB4 RB4 RB3

2022 stats: 10 games; 196 rushes for 1,102 yards (5.6 avg.) and 8 TDs; 36 receptions for 196 yards (5.4 avg.) and 3 TDs; 129.8 scrimmage yards per game

Quick fact: The All-SEC First-Team selection led the conference and ranked fourth nationally averaging 161.0 all-purpose yards per game.

AP Photo/Aaron Doster

School: Tulane | Year: Redshirt Junior | Ht: 5-foot-10 | Wt: 201 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
-- RB5 RB7 RB8 RB5

2022 stats: 13 games; 213 rushes for 1,528 yards (7.2 avg.) and 19 TDs; 20 receptions for 252 yards (12.6 avg.) and 2 TDs; 136.9 scrimmage yards per game

Quick fact: Spears is looking to become the first Tulane running back drafted since 2008 (Matt Forte).

AP Photo/Brandon Wade

School: TCU | Year: Junior | Ht: 5-foot-11 | Wt: 215 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
-- -- RB6 RB7 RB10

2022 stats: 14 games; 224 rushes for 1,399 yards (6.2 avg.) and 17 TDs; 16 receptions for 116 yards (7.3 avg.); 108.2 scrimmage yards per game

Quick fact: Miller's 1,399 yards were the most by a Horned Frog since LaDainian Tomlinson led the nation with 2,158 in 2000.

AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman

School: UAB | Year: Junior | Ht: 5-foot-10 | Wt: 209 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
-- -- RB3 RB5 RB11

2022 stats: 10 games; 221 rushes for 1,593 yards (7.2 avg.) and 16 TDs; 2 receptions for 10 yards (5.0 avg.); 160.3 scrimmage yards per game

Quick fact: The Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year, McBride was a consensus Second-Team All-American by numerous outlets.

AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

School: Mississippi | Year: Junior | Ht: 5-foot-11 | Wt: 202 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
-- -- RB9 RB12 RB8

2022 stats: 12 games; 144 rushes for 936 yards (6.5 avg.) and 9 TDs; 12 receptions for 119 yards (9.9 avg.) and 1 TD; 87.9 scrimmage yards per game

Quick fact: Evans led the SEC with 6.5 yards per carry after transferring from TCU.

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