Melvin Gordon Could Be a Monster as a San Diego Charger
During his entire collegiate career with Wisconsin, Melvin Gordon always finished second.
His 2,587 yards in 2014 placed him second on the list of all-time single season rushers, behind only Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. His 408 yards amassed against powerhouse Nebraska (in just three quarters of play) was the second highest single-game rushing yard total in NCAA Division I FBS history, behind only Samaje Perine's 427 mark. In the Heisman Trophy voting, Gordon finished second behind Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota.
And even in this year's NFL draft, despite a torn ACL suffered by his biggest competition in Georgia running back Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon still found himself as the second tailback taken off the board.
But with the Chargers moving up to select their man in Melvin Gordon by swapping first round picks with San Francisco along with sending them a fourth-rounder this year and a fifth-rounder next season, the Wisconsin tail back is set to prove why all those second-place finishes from his college days adds up to him being the best running back prospect in the NFL.
The Protoypical NFL Running Back
Close your eyes and picture the perfect running back. Who do you see?
If you said Melvin Gordon, you're not alone.
When I profiled Gordon a few weeks ago, Melvin checked off as a superior talent in every category I measured him in.
In terms of build, his height and weight (6' 1", 215 pounds) compares favorably to other great workhorse backs such as Edgerrin James (6' 1", 216 pounds), and more recently Eagles back DeMarco Murray (6'1", 213 pounds). Not surprisingly then, when it comes to explosion and power, Gordon scores incredibly well. His 19 reps on the bench press, 35-inch vertical leap, and 126-inch broad jump at the Combine is nearly identical to the 20 reps, 35.5-inch vertical, and 125-inch broad jump that Marshawn Lynch recorded back in 2007.
But beyond all this, what's even more impressive is the fact that despite Gordon's larger build and superb power, his speed and agility profile actually compares more closely to that of the smaller, "shiftier" backs in the league such as Giovani Bernard and LaMichael James, rather than that of the bigger (and oftentimes less agile) backs of his same size and weight.
In short, when it comes to having what it takes to succeed in the NFL, Melvin Gordon has it all.
Gordon in San Diego
As I've written about extensively before, Mike McCoy's offense in San Diego is heavily dependent on the running back position. And this reliance on this position was made apparent after injuries to Ryan Mathews (now with Philadelphia) and Danny Woodhead derailed this offense and ultimately cost them a chance at a second-consecutive playoff berth under McCoy. According to our Net Expected Points metric (read more about Net Expected Points, or NEP, in our glossary), the Chargers finished 27th in the league in rushing when adjusted for strength of schedule.
Melvin Gordon's arrival in San Diego instantly solves the problems the Chargers have had at this position ever since LaDainian Tomlinson left for New York. An instant upgrade to undersized Branden Oliver and veteran Donald Brown, Gordon not only brings to San Diego a three-down back to anchor the offense to, he also provides a big play ability ability that this team has been sorely lacking as of late. And running behind three large bulldozers in Orlando Franklin, King Dunlap, and D.J. Fluker, Gordon will get more than his fair share of chances to show opposing linebackers and safeties what he's got under his sleeve.
When using our READ algorithm, which identifies a rookie's closest comparables based on their combine metrics and the team situation they were drafted into, we see that the outlook for Gordon is very promising.
Similar to my aforementioned profile of Gordon, we see that once again Gordon's skill set and situation compares favorably with some of the more prolific workhorses in the league including DeMarco Murray, Matt Forte, and Marshawn Lynch.
History often repeats itself. In 2010, the Chargers traded up in the draft to take Ryan Mathews 12th overall as the heir apparent to Tomlinson. But where 2010 felt like a reach, this pick feels like an absolute steal. If Gordon's college track record is any indication, fans in San Diego can expect to re-live the glory days of a dominant running game not seen since the man they called L.T. donned the blue and gold.