The LA Chargers selected running back Joshua Kelley out of UCLA with their fourth-round pick. What grade does this pick deserve?
Before getting into the logic of this selection, let’s take a moment to talk about what Joshua Kelley can bring to the LA Chargers.
In this offseason, fans have debated whether or not the Los Angeles Chargers needed a bruising running back to go along with Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson. Based on this selection, the Chargers agree with those who wanted a bruising back.
Joshua Kelley is a bull on the football field who never goes down at first contact. He dares defenders to tackle him by lowering his shoulder and accelerating into contact.
While Kelley may project primarily as a goal-line back, he has shown flashes of having other major talents at UCLA. His 4.49 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine shows that he has the speed to run away from (or at least keep away from) NFL defenders.
He showcased this breakaway ability in his college career-defining game against the USC Trojans, where he led an otherwise putrid Bruins team to a win with 289 yards against their hometown rival.
Despite all of these talents, Kelley was probably better as a fifth-round or later guy.
Kelley prefers his bruising running style and often initiates contact when it is unnecessary to do so. He has a very poor ability to cut and evade defenders, which will be vital for him to become more than a highly situational back.
That type of specialty running back should not be selected until the sixth or seventh round.
However, the most significant problem with this pick has to do with who else was available and what else the Chargers needed.
After trading a third-round pick to move up fourteen picks to select Kenneth Murray, the Chargers needed to address their more critical positions of need including left tackle, wide receiver, and cornerback.
When the Chargers selected Kelley, there were excellent options available at all of these positions. Some other options that were available at this pick included:
- Tackles: Prince Tega Wanogho, Ben Bartch
- Wide receivers: Donovan Peoples-Jones, Isaiah Hodgins, K.J. Hill, Isaiah Coulter
- Cornerbacks: Bryce Hall, Troy Pride Jr.
The Chargers can probably wait another round or two to select a wide receiver in a deep class. However, that is absolutely not true of the tackle or corner positions that were vital needs after spending earlier picks.
Every one of the players listed above would have fit a more pressing need with the potential of becoming a starter in week one for the Chargers.
In the fourth round, Kelley is a slight reach but a good player. In the fourth round, selecting a running back when you have critical needs at other positions with superior talents available is insane.
I like Kelley and think he will contribute this year, but I hate selecting him in the fourth round when there were superior talents available at positions of need.
If some of the good players at positions of need fall, this grade could be upgraded. Perhaps the Chargers plan to run the ball all day next year, in which case this pick would make more sense.
But with larger needs and better values available, the selection of Kelley cannot receive a great grade.