clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

UPDATE: Melvin Gordon still stinks

New, comments

Just because San Diego Chargers RB Melvin Gordon isn’t as terrible this season as he was last year does not mean he’s anything more than a “bust” and a major mistake made by the team’s front office.

NFL: Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

About a year and a half ago, the San Diego Chargers used a 1st Round Pick (#17), 4th Round Pick (#117), and 5th Round pick (#142) to draft Running Back Melvin Gordon from Wisconsin, a college football program well-known for turning out disappointing Running Backs.

Since then, Gordon has given the team and fans plenty of reasons to think that he was not worth the investment....

Rookie vs. Sophomore

Let’s do a quick statistical comparison of the 14 games Gordon played in last season against the 6 he has played in this season.

2015 2016
Rush Yds Per Attempt 3.5 3.4
Rush Yds Per Game 45.8 65.5
Rush TDs Per Game 0 1
Rec Yds Per Game 13.7 20.3
Rec TDs Per Game 0 0.16
Fumbles Per Game 0.42 0.33

Here are the things to take away from this statistical comparison:

  • Melvin Gordon is being used much more this season than he was last season, the result of season-ending injuries for Branden Oliver and Danny Woodhead.
  • Melvin Gordon has figured out how to get into the end zone.

Don’t Blame the Offensive Line

When I mention on Twitter that Melvin Gordon still appears to be an average-at-best Running Back, and not worth the team’s investment in him, I usually get at least a handful of responses from people blaming the Offensive Line in front of him.

For instance, I compared Gordon to Ezekiel Elliott and was promptly told that it was an unfair comparison because of the difference in talent along the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line to that along the Chargers’ offensive line.

If the offensive line is so important that a comparison between Running Backs simply can not occur without factoring in the offensive line, I have two questions:

  1. How could you ever evaluate a Running Back properly? And, for that matter, how could you ever evaluate an offensive line’s ability to run-block properly?
  2. If the Running Back’s performance is heavily influenced by the offensive line, doesn’t that make the argument that a strong running game doesn’t require a team investing largely into the Running Back position?

Basically, if you’re telling me to blame the offensive line and not Melvin Gordon, I am agreeing with you and saying that is exactly why you don’t use a 1st Round Pick on a Running Back unless you are certain that he will be so special that he will be relatively unaffected by the offensive line in front of him.

Where Gordon Stacks Up

By most every statistic, Melvin Gordon is nowhere near being a top 10 running back this season.

Among the 20 most used Running Backs in the league this season...

  • Gordon ranks 5th in carries per game and carries overall.
  • Only Todd Gurley has a lower yards-per-attempt.
  • Only Todd Gurley, Jeremy Hill and DeAngelo Williams average less yards-per-game.
  • Nobody has more touchdowns than Melvin Gordon.
  • Only Spencer Ware, who has lost his job to Jamaal Charles, has more fumbles than Gordon.

Football Outsiders, who tries to take things like offensive line play and play-calling out of the equation, has Gordon ranked 28th out of 31 starting Running Backs, once again ahead of Todd Gurley...

In theory, Todd Gurley is an excellent comparison. He and Gordon were the only Running Backs drafted in the 1st Round of the 2015 NFL Draft, they both play in Southern California, they have both had knee injuries, and they both play behind offensive lines.

So, should the same things I’m saying about Gordon be said for Gurley? I’m on the fence.

You see, Melvin Gordon should have plenty of room to run as the change-of-pace back for one of the best passing offenses in the league. Philip Rivers ranks 3rd in QBR this season, so defenses need to account for his arm on every play. Case Keenum, who ranks 30th in QBR this season, likely isn’t going to have success....even if opposing defenses load up the box to slow down Gurley. In my mind, the situations are different.

Summary

I’m getting tired of beating this dead horse, but I’m also getting tired of people not getting the point:

You can’t blame the offensive line for Melvin Gordon’s failures without admitting that the team would’ve been better off using at least one of those three draft picks on offensive linemen instead of a Running Back.

I have nothing against Melvin Gordon, but I have major issues with how the Chargers’ front office seems to be 20 years behind the rest of the league in figuring out the value of Running Backs (and Inside Linebackers) on draft day. Melvin Gordon (and Manti Te’o) are weekly testaments to that.

Solutions?

Don’t be silly, there are no solutions here!

The San Diego Chargers drafted a guy that, at best, will be an average Running Back with fumbling issues and a lingering knee issue (or so his offseason microfracture surgery would lead us to believe). It is what it is. Just like we all eventually did with Ryan Mathews, it is time for us to lower our expectations and move along. Just like it’s time for the San Diego Chargers to figure out how to win with an average-at-best running game going forward.