It goes without saying, Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon showed vast improvement during his sophomore campaign in the NFL compared to the disappointment that was his rookie year.
The former Badger was unable to reach the endzone at all during his first season with the Bolts, but he made that seem like a figment of the fans’ imagination during Year 2 of his young career, finding the endzone 10 times in 2016.
Returning for another season to rejoin Gordon in the backfield is third-year ball carrier Branden Oliver.
Despite a switch from No. 43 to No. 32 — long-time number of former Chargers and current Baltimore Ravens free safety Eric Weddle — fans should expect more of the same from the former collegiate stud from Buffalo, who led the team in rushing in 2014.
A new addition to the running-back stable is former Oregon Ducks ball carrier Kenjon Barner. The 27-year-old entered the NFL with the Carolina Panthers before spending time with the Philadelphia Eagles. He was signed by the Bolts this offseason after the team lost Danny Woodhead to the aforementioned Ravens.
A speedster as both a running back and returner, Barner brings an added element to the position in the form of his versatility and possible game-breaking ability. Though he has never started a game since joining the league in 2013, the underused talent has played in 32 NFL games.
With Gordon, Oliver and Barner figuring to fill the top three spots on the ball-carrier depth chart, the team also has the following running backs fighting to prove that they belong on the squad: Kenneth Farrow, Andre Williams, Ronnie Hillman and Dexter McCluster.
Chargers general manager Tom Telesco has already been on record this offseason stating that he would like to add an X-factor similar to that of Kansas City’s dynamic Tyreek Hill. With speed to burn in bunches, Hill makes plays as a runner, receiver and a returner. He is a threat to score from anywhere on the field, every time he touches the ball
Do the Chargers and Telesco already have that answer on the roster? That X-factor that changes games in the blink of an eye?
I am not so sure that they do.
Though I believe the organization has more than enough options to fulfill their running-back needs for the 2017 campaign, I also wouldn’t be surprised if they took a look at the rising draft prospect out of Ohio State University, Curtis Samuel.
Samuel seems to provide the most comparable playmaking ability in this year’s draft class to what Hill does for the Chiefs, also seeing time at running back, wide receiver and as a return-threat.
Telesco and company may believe that drafting Samuel or a player of the similar ilk as of higher importance in comparison to other pressing needs on the roster that can or should be available in the draft. Or he may go ahead and ignore the position altogether due to enough capable bodies already being on the club.
The good news for fans?
You won’t have to wait much longer to find out, as the draft begins in 10 days on April 27 in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. And, per usual, the BoltBlitz.com staff will be represented by myself and Greg Williams at this year’s selection show at its new venue for ’17.
My take: I don’t necessarily see the need to add a back as the reason the team should or will. But if it comes around to any of their picks following the first round, and they have one rated as the best player available, then pull the trigger and go out and get said player — especially if that BPA is that fast guy from the Buckeye State.
Another name to keep an eye on is running back Joe Mixon of Oklahoma. Should he slip to Day 2 or Day 3 of the draft, that is a name you could see the team take a HUGE chance on by drafting. A player with off-the-field issues like Mixon may watch his draft position plummet, allowing teams in later rounds to snag the man who is possibly the best ball carrier available. Though that doesn’t sound like a Telesco-type selection, pressure is mounting on the entire organization now that there’s an exponentially more powerful microscope in their new home in Los Angeles, as opposed to their former laid-back confines of America’s finest city, San Diego.