LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Chargers' backfield underwent significant changes this offseason. That makeover continued Saturday as the team drafted UCLA running back Joshua Kelley with their fourth-round pick, No. 112th overall.
Kelley, an Inglewood native who attended Eastside High School in nearby Lancaster, stays in Los Angeles to start his NFL career. He spent the past three years at UCLA, racking up 2,303 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground with another 492 yards and a score coming as a receiver. He has the size (5-foot-11, 212 pounds) and movement skills (4.49 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 6.95 seconds in the 3-cone drill) to find a role at the next level.
The selection of Kelley perhaps signals where the Chargers hope to take their ground attack in 2020. After five seasons with Melvin Gordon serving as the primary back, the team looks ready to shift gears to a more varied approach. Austin Ekeler, whom the team awarded a four-year, $24.5 million contract earlier this year, will continue to see significant touches. But Justin Jackson should also expect an uptick in usage with the opportunity for a third back to carve out a niche in the offense.
That shift might also include more of the wide-zone runs that have skyrocketed in popularity and use in recent years. UCLA featured Kelley heavily on those types of play calls over the last two seasons, and his ability to locate openings and burst through played no small part in his success. While Kelley will have to battle for playing time early on, his fit with the Chargers offense could accelerate his development.
Barring a trade, the Chargers will not pick again until the fifth round. They have three selections remaining in the draft.
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH