Stock Down: Justin Jackson, running back
The way Los Angeles Chargers fans talk about Justin Jackson you would think he’d be way more productive than he actually is. There’s an interesting sense of loyalty to him for a guy who has 400 career rushing yards.
I believe in his talent as a runner, but he has yet to show the ability to consistently stay healthy. I will say that I thought he did play very well when spelling Austin Ekeler during Melvin Gordon‘s holdout.
That being said, most NFL teams carry at least three running backs on their roster who they view as capable runners of the football so it made a lot of sense for the Chargers to draft a running back this year.
I thought they would have elected to wait until the later rounds to draft a bigger body to add to the rotation, especially after trading their third-round pick to get Kenneth Murray, but they decided to draft Joshua Kelley in the fourth round.
I really liked Kelley as a prospect and had him ranked inside my top 15 at the position heading into the draft, but I would have liked to see them wait to take a running back until later on. That being said, I am excited about adding one of the more productive college running backs in the country over the last two years into this running back stable.
If you really sit down and watch film from this UCLA football team the last two years, you’ll see rather quickly how remarkable it was that Kelley was able to produce at such a high level in such a poor situation.
Generally speaking, a mixture of poor coaching, bad quarterback play and a terrible offensive line is not conducive to high amounts of rushing production. But Kelley was able to overcome all of that to the tune of over 2,300 yards and 24 touchdowns rushing. It wasn’t shown often at UCLA but when he went down to the senior bowl he proved that he can be a good weapon catching the ball as well.
Drafting Kelley that early means they have a role in mind for him. The Chargers needed someone to come in add some toughness to the room and that is Kelley. I fully expect him to be the main complement to Ekeler by mid-season. He is exactly the type of runner that Anthony Lynn wants alongside Ekeler. That means Jackson is the odd man out.
Obviously any kind of injury changes Jackson’s outlook. He’s still an explosive runner who can break off a home run at any point. In the three games he played without Melvin Gordon last year he averaged 6 carries at just over 7 yards per carry.
If he’s able to play the majority of the season and be close to that kind of efficiency, it could be reasonable to expect a season of around 80 carries and 600 yards rushing out of Jackson this year. Anything close to that would be a very successful season for the Chargers third running back.