Greg Cosell was recently on the Fantasy Guru podcast. He and host John Hansen reviewed all 32 teams. When it came to the Chargers, they spent the entire segment on second-year running back Melvin Gordon.
Cosell was asked if the Chargers have upgraded the offensive line enough feel confident that Gordon can turn things around:
No. I’m not sure, I mean, look I think Fluker most people see as a guard, he’s in there now. I think with Fluker and Franklin they probably feel good at guard. Beyond that, I think you have some concerns.
Hansen, at least, mentioned Slauson in his question, but Cosell’s answer suggests that he’s not much more than an afterthought. Both D.J. Fluker and Orlando Franklin had inconsistent years last season with neither sustaining a high level of play for any extended period of time. Fluker, of course, was transitioning to a new position, and Franklin was transitioning to a new team, so there is certainly reason for optimism, but it’s curious to suggest that the Chargers “probably feel good at guard” after the 2015 season. Also, the idea that there are “some concerns” outside of those two spots should raise an eyebrow when right tackle Joe Barksdale was easily the best and most consistent performer on the line last year.
Cosell continued speaking about Gordon more specifically:
You know, Melvin Gordon, for you John I would think Melvin Gordon is a really tough projection because they traded up to get him in the first round. They want him to be their feature back, but he has to learn how to run in this league, and I don’t know how he’s improved in that area until I see him play this year. He’s not a guy based on what he did last year that can make an o-line better. Right now, he needs the o-line to make him better, and this to me is a classic wait-and-see. I don’t know what kind of projection you have for Melvin Gordon, but they traded up to get him. They do not want a running back by committee. They want Melvin Gordon to be their feature back.
It’s certainly fair to suggest that it’s difficult to project Gordon’s playing time given his struggles relative to the other runners in the backfield. You have to think that the front office is married to the idea of Gordon as the feature back, but nothing that has ever come out of Mike McCoy’s mouth would give that impression, nor would the way he deployed his running backs in 2015.
The specific critique of Gordon that he has not been a guy that elevates the play of his line and that rather the inverse (he needs them to prop him up) is true seems to match what I and many others have seen. But Cosell also mentions and is right in mentioning, that we cannot know until we see him play this year if he has learned to run at the NFL level. Hopefully, he will show signs of progress in training camp and the preseason. Until then, we will just have to wait.