These two underrated rookie running backs were able to impress during the NFL Week 1 slate.
The NFL Week 1 slate featured a group of rookie running backs who were able to come in and make an immediate impact for their teams. It all started with Clyde Edwards-Helaire piling up 138 yards and a touchdown for the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night. Edwards-Helarie is the clear favorite to take home offensive rookie of the year this season.
However, it did not stop there. Zack Moss and D’Andre Swift scored touchdowns in their debuts, while Jonathan Taylor was an important part of the Indianapolis Colts’ passing attack. That being said, it was two lesser-known rookie backs who stood out to me on Sunday, as Joshua Kelley of the Los Angeles Chargers and James Robinson of the Jacksonville Jaguars were able to make an immediate impact for their teams.
Kelley was a fourth-round pick (112th overall) by the Chargers in the 2020 NFL Draft. He had a strong career at UCLA, showing an impressive combination of speed and power with the ball in his hands. The Chargers took Kelley to help replace Melvin Gordon this season and if his NFL Week 1 performance is any indication, he will be an important part of their offense going forward.
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Kelley rushed 12 times for 60 yards and a touchdown in the Chargers’ 16-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. He looked explosive and powerful as an inside runner and should be counted on as the complementary back to Austin Ekeler this season. The Chargers clearly want to run the ball this season, and Kelley and Ekeler complement each other well. Expect ample opportunity for the fourth-round rookie this season.
From undrafted to RB1
James Robinson was an undrafted free agent addition by the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason. He was a productive FCS back in college, but did not catch the attention of many teams through the draft process. That being said, the Jaguars are giving the rookie a shot to prove himself this season and he impressed during in his NFL Week 1 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts.
Robinson was named RB1 for Jacksonville after they released Leonard Fournette, Ryquell Armstead is out with COVID and Devine Ozigbo went out with a hamstring injury. His opportunity did not come easy, but Robinson is a talented back who shows an impressive combination of short-area quickness and power at the point of attack.
He was not dominant in his NFL debut on Sunday, but Robinson did carry the ball 16 times for 62 yards. He also hauled in a 28-yard reception from quarterback Gardner Minshew. Robinson is not the most explosive running back, but he is a solid and dependable ball carrier who will bring some stability to the Jags’ offensive attack. Keep an eye on him as a consistent contributor for this team in 2020.
When it comes down to it, neither Kelley nor Robinson was expected to make much of an impact this season. However, both players have found themselves in a good situation and are in a position to shine for their teams this year.