Rookie RB the Chargers could have drafted over Isaiah Spiller is thriving

Minnesota Vikings v Denver Broncos
Minnesota Vikings v Denver Broncos / Dustin Bradford/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Chargers boast one of the NFL's most versatile running backs in Austin Ekeler, who finished first at the position in receiving yards, second in catches, sixth in rushing yards and third in rushing touchdowns last season.

While Ekeler has established himself as one of the league's premier backs, there are legitimate question marks about who his backup will be this year.

The battle seems to be between bruiser Joshua Kelley, who's approaching his third season, and rookie fourth-rounder Isaiah Spiller.

The hope is Spiller will supplant Kelly for the RB2 job and the Texas A&M product was as advertised during camp. Preseason, however, has been a different story, as Spiller logged two carries with the first-team offense and he's now dealing with an ankle injury that could cost him the season-opener against the Raiders.

While all hope isn't lost with Spiller, it doesn't look great for the Chargers front office that Vikings fifth-round rookie Ty Chandler already looks like starting material.

Vikings RB Ty Chandler's early success brings the Chargers' selection of Isaiah Spiller into question.

Nobody's writing off Spiller, but it's a poor optic for the Chargers that Chandler, taken 46 picks after Spiller in this year's draft, is already thriving as a pro.

In three preseason games, Chandler led the Vikings with 113 rushing yards on a whopping 7.5 yards per attempt. Amid Chandler's early success, rumors are swirling that Minnesota is listening to trade offers for Dalvin Cook's incumbent backup Alexander Mattison.

Drafted in the third round of the 2019 draft, Mattison's logged 330 carries for 1,387 yards over three seasons. The fact the Vikings are seemingly willing to cut him loose is a testament to their conviction in Chandler. In five years, Cook has yet to play a full season (he missed four games in 2021), so Mattison's been a key player for them.

The Chargers offense was nothing to write home about in their preseason finale, but Kelley turned in his finest performance to date, rushing six times for 40 yards. With Spiller still shelved with his ankle injury, the former Aggie has likely lost the chance to open the season as Ekeler's primary backup.

Kelly and Larry Rountree have been anything but consistent for LA, so Spiller could still carve out a role for himself as a rookie. As of this writing, though, it seems like the Chargers are once again going to give Ekeler an overbearing workload.

Had the Chargers drafted Chandler, that probably wouldn't be the case.

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