With the 198th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Chargers selected Larry Rountree III, running back from Missouri. A four-year player for the Tigers, Rountree split carries through his entire college career. Even so, he managed to put up respectable stats, rushing for 3,720 yards on 746 carries (5.0 yards per carry). Those are impressive stats, considering he played in the defensively-stacked SEC. Whether he can translate that experience to playing in the NFL is unclear, but it is certainly welcome experience.
The Chargers, at the moment, are a very pass-heavy team. However, their star quarterback Justin Herbert is going into his second year. The team may be worried that he experiences the infamous “sophomore slump”. Current starter Austin Ekeler is by no means a bad running back, but his expertise is in the passing game. The team may be looking for a reliable running mate for him, one that is primarily a force on the ground. Backup running back Justin Jackson went on the COVID-19 reserve list and has missed extended time due to inkuries. With that said, Jackson’s spot is realistically up for grabs now. Can Rountree earn that spot over Kelley? What are his strengths and weaknesses? This is the Larry Rountree rookie profile.
- Passionate and competitive runner. Rountree runs the ball with vicious intent. When the football goes into his hands, defenders must be willing to do whatever it takes to bring him down. This type of attitude is essential for a true running back to succeed at the professional level. Also, that type of attitude could translate well to the locker room. While there is little doubt that the Chargers locker room is lacking in passion, having a running back that is willing to give his all on the field on every down is a welcome addition.
- Solid burst speed. Being aggressive means little without the athleticism to back it up. Long gone are the days of punching the ball up the middle, where strength is everything. Running backs in the modern game need to be agile as well. Rountree certainly possesses that athleticism. His lightness on his feet is eye-catching. Combined with his aggressive playstyle, Rountree certainly is shaping up to be a viable candidate for the backup job.
- Very willing pass blocker. There are two parts to being a running back. Sure, running the ball is naturally the main job, the one that fans primarily pay attention to. However, oft-overlooked is a running back’s blocking ability on pass plays. Since the Chargers are a pass-heavy team, this aspect becomes all the more important. Rountree has shown that he is not one to back down from incoming pass rushers. He’ll do whatever he can to slow or stop the rushers and buy time for his quarterback. This aspect of his game, particularly for the Chargers, can be heavily utilized.
- Impatient in letting blocks develop. This is a negative side to his passionate playstyle mentioned before. While it is normally a good thing to be aggressive in such a vicious sport as football, that aggressiveness can also lead to impatience. It’s a sort of double-edged sword. Rountree gets impatient and antsy when attempting to run the ball, which can cause him to try to force plays to happen. This can lead to him running into defenders before the hole can be opened through blocking. And since the Chargers don’t have a particularly strong offensive line, especially in the run game, that can potentially be exacerbated.
- Plays at one speed. Rountree is the type to play all-out, but that hurts his ability to stop and go. This could cause issues with the pacing of plays, as mentioned previously. Whether he can learn to pace himself is yet to be seen. However, if he does, he will be a major asset for the Chargers.
- High workload in college. While it certainly is a good thing to have extensive tape for scouts to watch, it can also mean that he’s already dealt with wear and tear. That wear and tear, though not much of a problem so early in his career, could negatively impact his longevity. However, he never dealt with any significant injury in college, so hopefully that is just needless worry.
Larry Rountree III is an interesting prospect. His tape is certainly impressive, and he can bring a lot to his locker room. So why was he picked so late in the draft? It could be due to a lack of exposure, as Missouri is not much of a powerhouse team. It could be that scouts felt he may not be able to translate his skills to the professional level. Whatever it is, Rountree has the potential to be an absolute steal for the Chargers. With Justin Jackson possibly having lost his backup spot due to constant injuries, Rountree is in a perfect situation to earn a backup spot right off the bat. Whether he ends up earning that spot or not, this pick was certainly a solid pick for general manager Tom Telesco. This was the Larry Rountree rookie profile.