Buzz. After a disastrous rookie season, a campaign in which the “prized” RB averaged 3.5 yards per carry and failed to score a single TD, Melvin Gordon, motivated to snap the Wisconsin RB curse, reportedly looked healthy and spry in San Diego’s recent mini-camp. Off a microfracture procedure on his left knee, he eased concern about his durability and displayed burst reminiscent of his college days. Despite his downsides, those close to the team believe he’s primed for a breakthrough.
Why ‘Flash’ is the most undervalued RB in early drafts?
Underlying data. From the curb, Gordon has the look of a money pit – broken windows, missing shingles, undesirable YPC, zero TDs. Invest in his services, critics contend, and not even the Property Brothers could rescue him from demolition.
His ‘bones,’ though, are good.
I’m not refuting last year’s superficial numbers aren’t worrisome. From that view, the British Pound possesses lower risk. But other metrics paint a very different picture. According to Pro Football Focus, his 0.18 tackles avoided per attempt ranked No. 8 at the position and his 2.2 yards after contact outpaced such ballyhooed names as LeSean McCoy, Devonta Freeman and DeMarco Murray. His 89.2 catch percentage (33 receptions on 37 targets) was also outstanding, slotting in at No. 3 among all RBs. As a result, his contributions in the pass game will only grow. Throw in 8.1 percent of his runs went for 10-yards or more, an appreciable number considering the circumstances, and he’s significantly more attractive than what the surface portrays.
Minimal competition. The Chargers doubled down on Gordon as their primary back this offseason. Instead of investing in an established veteran via free agency or adding another body through the NFL Draft, GM Tom Telesco gave his young rusher a vote of confidence by sticking to the status quo.
Yes, Danny Woodhead, who played on 57.6 percent of San Diego’s snaps a season ago, will continue to register some 7-10 touches per game. But he’s the only threat on roster and at 31-years-old, is nothing more than a Darren Sproles type. Woody will again be very active in the pass game, but it’s entirely likely he’ll surrender all early down and most goal-line work to the younger complement. Meanwhile, the only other RB with experience on roster, Branden Oliver, is nothing more than an insurance policy.
Essentially, a 16-18 touch per game workload is inevitable for Gordon. That projected volume is awfully attractive for a RB largely going outside the position’s top-24.
Rebuilt offensive line. Gordon isn’t without blame, but most of the finger pointing from 2015 should be directed at the big bellies. Constructed from cheesecloth, the highly permeable unit, badgered by injuries and ineptitude last fall, was nothing shy of pitiful. Holes were infrequent. And that’s a gross understatement. San Francisco was the only unit to rank lower in run blocking according to Football Outsiders.
To rectify the situation, Telesco and Co. addressed the shortcoming this offseason. In total, eight fresh linemen will wear a Bolt when training camp opens in late July. They also added a fullback, Gordon’s former badger teammate and J.J. Watt’s younger brother, Derek Watt, to assist in space creation. The newbies must mesh quickly, but even if San Diego reaches an average level, it will be light years ahead of where it was last season.
Passing game. Philip Rivers’ competency and an entire season with Keenan Allen, field-stretcher Travis Benjamin and steady rock Antonio Gates can only aid Gordon. Impenetrable fronts were a common occurrence last year. When awarded with softer nickel packages the back totaled 216 yards after contact, the 10th best mark among rushers.
The Chargers defense will need to keep games manageable, but Rivers and his stable of receivers own enough electricity to keep defenses honest.
Bottom Line. By nature, fantasy players desire instant gratification. Fall short the first time, shame on you. Fall short a second time; you’re dead to me.
For prior investors, wounds from knife-twists inflicted by Gordon won’t ever heal. That paired with concerns about his knee – he’s confident he’ll be full go at camp – previous Wisconsin RB failures and SD’s line/defensive question marks has his name scribbled on several ‘no draft’ lists, a ridiculous reaction considering his age, advancements over the season’s second half, improved situation and likely high volume.
Frugal shoppers, particularly ZeroRB supporters, shouldn’t turn a blind eye. If the stars align, Gordon could easily peak at some 1,400 combined yards with 7-9 TDs, the first of those scores coming Week 1 at Kansas City. The Chargers staff believes. San Diego OC Ken Whisenhunt recently exalted the rusher citing how impressed he was with his strength, explosiveness and improved cuts. The coach is reportedly ‘tinkering’ with schematics in order to maximize the run game’s production. He plans to employ a mixture of power and zone, the latter concept the RB thrived in while at Wisconsin.
Considering his RB3 price tag (84.2 ADP, RB32), cracking the RB top-20 may seem like an extraordinary possibility, but for the reasons listed above, that prediction isn’t a bunch of fluff. Without a doubt, Gordon will add sparkle to an otherwise tarnished reputation and finish ahead of pricier RBs Latavius Murray (50.6 ADP), Jeremy Langford (66.1) and Jonathan Stewart (71.6).