In what came as a surprise to many, Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler has requested permission to seek a trade following stalled contract negotiations. With the Chargers granting him permission to talk to other teams, the Bolts will now be looking to fill in the vacancy this offseason.
Arguably being one of the best receiving backs in the league, Ekeler was a staple of the Chargers offense and will not be easy to replace. The Chargers running back not only accounted for the most touchdowns on the Chargers over the last two seasons but in the entire NFL as well.
Although there are available running back targets in free agency, chances are if they want to find a long-term replacement it will need to be in the upcoming draft. With a deep running back class this year, there are many options for the Chargers over the first 3 rounds to pick from.
Chargers running back options through the first 3 rounds of the NFL Draft:
1. Bijan Robinson, Texas
The top running back in the 2023 class is not up for debate. Bijan Robinson is the front-runner by a long shot and has many teams excited. Last season we did not see a running back come out of the first round but this year the chance of Robinson dropping to the second round is slim at best.
Robinson pairs his solid build with above-average speed and receiving abilities to be the type of all-around running back that a team can build around. His 4.46 40 time is slightly faster than Ekeler's 4.48 he ran on his pro day coming into the league. Robinson has some of the best balance against contact ever seen out of a running back coming out of college, leading the country in broken and missed tackles this season with over 100 on the season.
What Robinson brings to the team is an inside run game that Ekeler has struggled with, in addition to a strong outside run game. His route running and receiving ability make him a perfect fit for the Charger's offense in replacing Ekeler, who is arguably one of the best-receiving backs in the league, and was a large part of the team's passing game.
As an all-around running back, Robinson is able to carry a heavy workload as a three-down back whose receiving ability will keep him on the field. Coming into the draft, Robinson hasn't shown many flaws to be concerned about. He will need to adjust to the speed at the professional level and work on his decisiveness in the run game as well as pass protection duties but he is equipped to start for a team on day 1 of the upcoming season.
With the hype around Robinson, it is likely he will be taken early and may not fall to the Chargers at pick 21, if he does though, the Chargers will very likely grab him there as the best running back, and overall player available at the pick. The Chargers can look also attempt to move up in the draft to take Robinson, but losing draft capital, even for a player like Robinson may not be the best move for the team as they have other needs in the draft.