Fantasy Football: Melvin Gordon Was a Big Winner in the NFL Draft

By addressing the offensive line in the NFL draft, the Los Angeles Chargers have made life easy on Melvin Gordon. What does this do to his fantasy football stock?

The Melvin Gordon faithful were shaking in their breeches during the NFL draft. With Danny Woodhead out the door, it was entirely possible the team would take a pass-catching back early on, sapping fantasy football value away from the third-year rusher.

With dynamic threat Christian McCaffrey on the board in the first round, the team bolstered its pass-catching corps by taking wide receiver Mike Williams.

Both Dalvin Cook and Joe Mixon were available at the 38th overall pick, guys fully capable of snagging balls out of the backfield. Instead, the Los Angeles Chargers bolstered the unit paving the way for Gordon by selecting guard Forrest Lamp. Things were starting to look up.

As each pick went by, not only did the Chargers forgo an opportunity to find a replacement for Woodhead, but they further enhanced the offensive line by taking guard Dan Feeney 71st overall. The pants were fully off of the Gordon enthusiasts as they ran wind sprints around their lawns.

It should go without saying that the non-additions at running back are huge for Gordon if he wants to keep the pass-catching role he carved out last year after Woodhead's injury. But that's just half the tale. By going hard at the offensive line, the team may have addressed the main aspect holding Gordon back from being an elite fantasy option, and it's time for us to take notice heading into 2017. Let's take a look at what the Chargers added to their offense before breaking down what this means for Gordon going forward.

The Additions Up Front

The Chargers started chipping away at their holes up front earlier in the offseason by signing tackle Russell Okung, a big first step toward patching a unit that has been a weakness for a long time. Lamp and Feeney take things to a whole new level.

Even though Western Kentucky may not be the most high-profile NFL pipeline, Lamp doesn't come without his fair share of hype. He has drawn comparisons to Dallas Cowboys All-Pro guard Zack Martin, and it's easy to see why. Not only did Martin share Lamp's designation as a tackle in college who was likely to switch to guard in the pros, but their combine workout numbers aren't too far apart.

Measurable Martin in 2013 Lamp in 2017
Height 6'4" 6'4"
Weight 308 309
Arm Length 32 7/8" 32 1/4"
Bench Reps 29 34
Broad Jump 106" 111"
3-Cone Drill 7.65 7.55
20-Yard Shuttle 4.59 4.62

Across the board, these two dudes have a lot of similarities. That's not to say that Lamp will wind up as good as Martin -- that's a pretty lofty ask -- but this is a solid start.

Although Martin doesn't show up in Lamp's top workout comps among offensive linemen, there are some decent names on that list. Here are the most similar players in numberFire's combine database if we classify Lamp as a tackle.

Year Player Draft Pick Similarity Score
2008 Jeremy Zuttah Round 3, Pick 20 95.15%
2013 J.C. Tretter Round 4, Pick 25 92.89%
2009 Xavier Fulton Round 5, Pick 19 91.63%
2008 Duane Brown Round 1, Pick 26 90.27%
2004 Adrian Jones Round 4, Pick 36 90.26%
2009 Jamon Meredith Round 5, Pick 26 90.22%
2014 Wesley Johnson Round 6, Pick 13 89.77%
2006 Paul McQuistan Round 3, Pick 5 89.39%
2007 Corey Hilliard Round 6, Pick 35 89.33%
2005 Dan Connolly Undrafted 88.97%

And here's the list if we classify him as a guard.

Year Player Draft Pick Similarity Score
1999 Randy Thomas Round 2, Pick 26 93.65%
2008 Mike Gibson Round 6, Pick 18 93.65%
2002 Eric Heitmann Round 7, Pick 28 92.39%
2007 Andy Alleman Round 3, Pick 24 91.47%
2005 Dan Buenning Round 4, Pick 6 91.03%
1999 Brandon Bulsworth Undrafted 90.70%
2001 Rick DeMulling Round 7, Pick 20 90.53%
2013 Jonathan Cooper Round 1, Pick 7 90.49%
2004 Sean Locklear Round 3, Pick 21 89.47%
2011 Stephen Schilling Undrafted 89.34%

The most likely scenario seems to be that Lamp sticks as a guard with the Chargers. As such, let's zero in on that and add in his draft stock, limiting the selections to just those players who went within the first two rounds.

Year Player Draft Pick Similarity Score
1999 Randy Thomas Round 2, Pick 26 93.65%
2013 Jonathan Cooper Round 1, Pick 7 90.49%
2007 Ben Grubbs Round 1, Pick 29 88.42%
2014 Xavier Su'a-Filo Round 2, Pick 1 88.33%
2004 Chris Snee Round 2, Pick 2 88.31%
2005 David Baas Round 2, Pick 1 88.23%
2012 Kevin Zeitler Round 1, Pick 27 88.18%
2007 Justin Blalock Round 2, Pick 7 86.78%
2008 Branden Albert Round 1, Pick 15 86.55%
2001 Steve Hutchinson Round 1, Pick 17 86.02%

Some of those names -- specifically, Jonathan Cooper -- have failed to work in the NFL. But Chris Snee and Kevin Zeitler both have at least a second-team All-Pro honor to their name, and Steve Hutchinson was on the Pro Football Hall of Fame's all-decade team for the 2000s at guard. We're not trying to set the bar too high for the guy, but it's pretty easy to get excited about what Lamp has to offer.

Here's the same process with Feeney, except with a round limitation on the third instead of the second. You'll see plenty of similar names here simply because fewer guards go in the first three rounds than other positions, but things don't look shabby for Feeney, either.

Season Player Draft Pick Similarity Score
2004 Sean Locklear Round 3, Pick 21 96.19%
2006 Jason Spitz Round 3, Pick 11 94.18%
1999 Doug Brzezinski Round 3, Pick 3 94.05%
2007 Andy Alleman Round 3, Pick 24 93.61%
2002 Kendall Simmons Round 1, Pick 30 93.53%
2012 Kevin Zeitler Round 1, Pick 27 92.67%
2007 Ben Grubbs Round 1, Pick 29 92.64%
1999 Lennie Friedman Round 2, Pick 30 92.44%
2014 Xavier Su'a-Filo Round 2, Pick 1 91.52%
2009 Andy Levitre Round 2, Pick 19 91.26%

The Chargers added two separate players to their offensive line with respectable athleticism after making a splash in free agency with Okung. If we're putting value in a team's line strength when assessing them as fantasy assets -- and we absolutely should -- then Gordon's a clear offseason victor.

What It Means

Based on early average draft position data, you're not going to find anybody sleeping on Gordon. He's the 11th player off the board in 12-team PPR drafts, according to Fantasy Football Calculator, putting him in a running-back tier that contains LeSean McCoy, Devonta Freeman, and Jordan Howard. That's a fully justifiable landing spot for Gordon.

From Week 3 through Week 14 -- when Gordon was healthy and rid of Woodhead -- he handled nearly all of the carries while getting 13.74% of the targets in the passing game. Freeman figures to split at least part of his rushing workload with Tevin Coleman, and his receiving market share was 12.26% in 2016. McCoy's market share was 14.65% in his 14 healthy games, and Howard's was 9.75% after he gained his larger role in the offense. This means that in our relevant sample, only McCoy had a larger receiving market share than Gordon last year, and while the additions at wide receiver could cut into Gordon's role, he likely won't lose work to another running back.

Additionally, there are some discrepancies at quarterback in this group. While nobody's going to plop Philip Rivers ahead of Matt Ryan, would you do so with Mike Glennon? Where is Rivers in relation to Tyrod Taylor? Good quarterbacks generate touchdown drives, and that's something Rivers should be able to do with a beefed-up line, a healthy Keenan Allen, and the addition of Williams.

Because of Gordon's stranglehold on the top-back role in the Chargers' offense, he likely should have an edge over Freeman. The discrepancy in quarterback play and receiving load gives him a leg up on Howard. Then, it's a pretty even split between Gordon and McCoy, a gap that got even smaller with the Chargers' new toys up front. It's hard to say with conviction that Gordon shouldn't be the first or second running back taken within this tier at the end of the first.

It's not a negligible cost to take Gordon with your first selection. But what lingering reason do we have to avoid him there? He dodged any and all bullets in the draft, the Chargers' offensive line appears much better than it was his first two seasons, and Gordon has a supporting cast that should allow him to continue to live in the end zone. That's a situation that's simply too good to ignore, making Gordon a clear-cut winner from last week's draft.