Projecting the 2024 Chargers running back depth chart

As the Chargers begin to pivot towards training camp, here's a look at how their potential running back depth chart could look after a dramatic overhaul.
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The LA Chargers' 2024 running back room underwent possibly the most dramatic stylistic change of the team's offseason. Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley no longer sit at the top of the depth chart.

Enter Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins, two hard-nosed runners intimately familiar with Greg Roman's scheme. GM Joe Hortiz also made his first running back draft selection of the new regime in Troy's Kimani Vidal.

Projecting the Chargers' running back depth chart:

RB1: Gus Edwards

There is already a debate amongst many in the fantasy football community about who the top running back in LA will end up being. For the time being, it's Gus Edwards. The Chargers signed Edwards on the first day of free agency as other running backs were in the midst of pursuing top dollar on the market.

The signing was a relatively obvious connection that made sense. As the Chargers knew they were losing Ekeler, they went for their new offensive coordinator's most trusted bellcow RB. Last season with Baltimore, Edwards rushed for career highs in both yards (810) and touchdowns (13). He also forced the most missed tackles of his career with 25.

As mentioned earlier, there might not be a bona fide RB1 in Los Angeles. Edwards has never truly been a high usage back in his career. But considering the nature of the Achilles tear that Dobbins is attempting to come back from in 2024, he likely will start the season as the top running back.

HC Jim Harbaugh did confirm that Edwards was dealing with an injury towards the end of Chargers' minicamp. While he didn't give specifics, Harbaugh said he would "likely" be ready to go by training camp. Chargers' beat reporters noticed that Edwards was mostly working off to the side during minicamp.

RB2: J.K. Dobbins

J.K. Dobbins represents probably the biggest Chargers' gamble on health this offseason. Once an electric presence of the Ravens' 2020 backfield, he's since struggled to stay on the field while battling injuries. A torn ACL in addition to other torn ligaments wiped out his 2021 season. He then missed six games stemming from another knee injury in 2022. Last season, a torn Achilles ended Dobbins' season in Week 1.

After all of the unfortunate injuries that have piled up on the former Ohio State star in recent years, he was left with a rather disappointing free-agent market. Like his former and current teammate Gus Edwards, he also chose to reunite with Roman in LA.

Dobbins' contract contains up to $1.6 million in salary on a one-year deal but yields just $50,000 in full guarantees. From a football standpoint, it's clear that Dobbins feels his best chance to prove himself on a one-year deal was with the Chargers' new leadership. LA meanwhile takes a low-risk flier on a running back who could return to form if healthy.

On the higher end of outcomes for Dobbins, he finds his way back to 2020 Roman production again. He did once have 805 yards and nine touchdowns on 134 carries back in the day. But both sides know that there's an inherent risk for a player who may be on his last chance in the league.

RB3: Isaiah Spiller

For now, Isaiah Spiller maintains the third spot on the depth chart. But that may not last long. Spiller is the previous regime's key holdover in the group. Jim Harbaugh and Joe Hortiz acquired three new running backs to add to the mix.

On the positive side for Spiller, he still is very young for a third-year player at just 22. He hasn't gotten the most attempts in the regular season to really gauge where he stands as a runner. There were flashes in the 2023 preseason.

However, the former Tom Telesco/Brandon Staley leadership had every reason to want Spiller to pan out. A fourth-round pick who was once a tough runner out of Texas A&M could've certainly helped the Chargers' backfield. But when he has gotten the chance to contribute in the regular season, Spiller trailed Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley (even in their relatively worst stretches) on per-touch metrics:

The other factor to evaluate with Spiller is special teams. Clearly, the Chargers see Edwards and Dobbins as their top two backs. It stands to reason that if you're not a top two back on the roster, you'll likely have to contribute in some capacity on special teams. Chargers' third-year special teams coordinator Ryan Ficken has elevated other running backs over Spiller on previous gamedays for this reason. In his first two NFL seasons, Spiller had 16 inactives despite largely being healthy.

Whether it's on special teams, as a runner, or both, Spiller has to find a way to contribute more in his third season to stay on the roster.

RB4: Kimani Vidal

A sixth-round rookie in most scenarios starts at the bottom of the depth chart, as with Kimani Vidal here. He'll have to earn his share of touches and responsibilities during training camp. But Hortiz has raved about Vidal as a physical presence who can "carry the rock" and pass protect.

In his final season at Troy, Vidal put up 1661 rushing yards on nearly 300 carries with 15 touchdowns. He was an insanely efficient runner despite his size limitations. Vidal forced 94 missed tackles and had one of the highest PFF elusiveness scores (118.9) of the draft class.

As mentioned earlier, Vidal will have to earn his keep in the running back room. But there's no reason that someone with his production can't move up higher in the pecking order, especially with lingering health and production questions about other RBs on the team.

Others: Elijah Dotson, Jaret Patterson

Elijah Dotson was active for four games in 2023 as a special teams contributor and depth piece. His productive preseason campaign ultimately earned him a spot on the opening 53-man roster last season. While probably not likely to make the roster, it's not out of the realm of possibility.

If he has another productive preseason or the top of LA's depth chart sustains some injuries, the Chargers might have tough decisions to make.

Former Commanders' running back Jaret Patterson spent most of last season on the practice squad with Los Angeles. He was signed to a futures deal at the conclusion of the 2023 regular season.