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How does Melvin Gordon fit as a Charger?

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Looking at more options at running back, this time featuring the NCAA's rushing leader

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Melvin Gordon put up some ridiculous numbers and because of that, most  will pencil him in as a the top running back at the position. I mean, how could you discount someone who rushed for 2,587 yards and did so by averaging 7.7 yards per carry to get there. Here's a smart quote by a smart person.

This perfectly describes all prospects, but specifically Gordon. Gordon does plenty of things well that translate to the next level. At the same time, there were runs where he wasn't even challenged until he was 20-25 yards downfield. On some levels, it made Gordon a difficult evaluation. But I've seen enough for Gordon to have a strong feel for him.

Games Watched

Gordon has 8 games available on Draft Breakdown(thanks as always). I watched LSU, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota, Ohio State and his bowl game against Auburn.

Pre Line of Scrimmage

I mentioned how there were runs where Gordon wasn't touched until he was 20 yards downfield. Part of this was scheme and part of this was because he ran behind the 13th best offensive line in the country. For as good as his line was, Gordon was inconsistent at certain traits that are needed. He's developed 3 bad tendencies:

  1. Stopping his feet behind the line of scrimmage
  2. Indecisiveness
  3. "Taking trips to the corner store"
Per the school's website, Gordon weighs about 213 pounds. When he wants to, he can generate a good amount of force that he can turn into surprisingly good power. The issue is, he stops his feet far too often as he's pressing the line of scrimmage, thus killing any momentum he's built up, making him very easy to tackle. I jotted down numerous times "stops feet in backfield", "stops feet on contact" and sometimes this was happening several carries in a row. The idea that someone left yards on the field when he had the production that he did probably sounds crazy, but that was the case with Gordon. It's a very bad habit that he'll have to fix at the next level if he wants to be an every down back. This mainly happened on runs between the tackles.

The issue when Gordon stopped his feet compounded to some indecisiveness behind the line of scrimmage. When it wasn't a hole where you and I could've gotten 10 yards, there was some second guessing going on. Occasionally Gordon would have his mind made up on where he was going, instead of reacting to the play.

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In this photo, Gordon made his mind up that we was cutting back to the right before he had it. He passes up a gaping hole. The result was no gain.

As you might have guessed, this is a snow ball effect. Indecisiveness led to bouncing runs and trying to rely on his speed when he should've just put his foot in the ground and gotten up field. I advise that if you haven't before, click on that "taking trips to the corner store" link. Here is an excerpt from Matt Waldman:



"Most of us have a favorite corner store in our neighborhood. We go there for gas, cigarettes, junk food, energy drinks, beer, lottery tickets, you name it. Nothing there is really good for us, but we can’t resist the temptation. In football I see the "corner store" as a running back’s decision to bounce a run outside.

Sometimes a trip to the corner store is necessary. Nothing else is open and you’re willing to pay a premium for the goods you usually don’t get there like aspirin, eggs, motor oil, or milk. The same applies to runners when there’s penetration into the backfield and the corner is the only logical choice. But more often than not, college runners take trips to the gridiron’s corner store out of sheer temptation for the big play."-Waldman


That's an incredible analogy that many college rushers can get away with because they're better than the competition. Too often Gordon was pictured with his shoulders parallel with the sidelines as he was trying to get to the outside. He's shown he can be patient, let the play develop, and take what's there, but these 3 issues are very real and something that must be fixed if he ever wants to be a feature back in the NFL.

Post Line of Scrimmage

Games Touches Yards Broken Tackles YCo
6 162 1207 42 392

In the games I watched, 32% of Gordon's yards came after contact and he broke a tackle every. I was very encouraged to see how often he ran through arm tackles and to see how he was able to maintain or regain his balance after initial contact. Making the 1st man miss is so important in the NFL. There's going to be a handful of times throughout the game where you're going to have to make someone miss in order just to salvage the play. Gordon showed he's very good at avoiding tacklers in the backfield, but also can avoid second level defenders while finishing forward.

Gordon can be an excellent finisher when he uses his momentum like this and gets extra yards at the end of runs. When he attacks defenders, that's when he's at his best. You just need him to constantly stay in attack mode.

This is a great move on the safety in the open field. There are occasions where Gordon will lose 1-on-1 because he's not the aggressor, but he's shown he has ability to be a factor in the open field.

Grade

Multiple Pro Bowl Player, Top 10 8.5 – 9.0
Highly Productive Starter, 1st Round 8.0 – 8.4
Very Good Starter, Early 2nd Round 7.8 – 7.9
Reliable Starter, 2nd Round 7.5 – 7.7
Potential Starter in Year 2, 3rd Round 7.0 – 7.4
Backup/Spot Starter, 4th Round 6.5 – 6.9
Productive Backup, 5th Round 6.0 – 6.4
Very Good Backup/STs, 6th Round 5.5 – 5.9
Quality Backup/Good STs, 7th Round 5.0 – 5.4
Backup/STs/Project Player, 7th Round 4.5 – 4.9
Priority Free Agent w/ Limitations 4.0 – 4.4
Non-Draftable 4.0
Trait Weight Grade
Pre-LOS 4 3.4
Post-LOS 4 3.7
Quickness/Burst 3 2.8
Speed 2 1.7
Power 2 1.8
Passing Game 2 1.3
Ball Security 2 1.4
Durability 2 1.7
CoD 2 1.6
Versatility 2 1.6

Gordon grades out to a 7.56 on my scale. Good enough to be a starter, but he has some issues that might be holding him back from being an every down back. Let's take for example his fumbling. He fumbled 7 times this year and lost 6 of them, or 1 every 51 carries. Compared to Duke Johnson who fumbles once every 94 touches. It also seems that the prevailing thought is Gordon is a burner, that is not the case and I will be surprised if he runs below a 4.5 40 yard dash. I'm expecting a mid 4.5. I saw him get caught behind quite a few times. This wasn't the case with Johnson. Make no mistake Gordon has traits and flashes of greatness. He broke tackles at a higher rate than Johnson and has better power than him as well. Gordon is probably best suited in a power man blocking scheme because a zone heavy based scheme would require him to make the proper read consistently behind the line of scrimmage, something I'm not comfortable saying he excels at at this point.

How He fits as a Charger

The Chargers do run a zone running scheme. I'd say it's about 70/30 in favor of zone runs. Last year the team slowly transitioned to more power type runs. With the addition of Orlando Franklin, they have the versatility to do both now. With Gordon's ability to make guys miss(especially in the backfield), and finish runs by gaining extra yards falling forward, he could help San Diego. I question his ability before the line of scrimmage, and he was rarely asked to be relied on as anything in the passing game. He is a willing pass blocker, but isn't a very crisp route runner out of the backfield. He drifts on his routes. He seems to have reliable hands but only had 19 catches on the year and most of those were screens/swing passes. Would I be upset if Gordon were a Charger? No. I just think there are better options available and there won't be a scenario where he is the best player available at 17.