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Melvin Gordon's and Trent Richardson's Rookie Years: Who Wore It Better?

Melvin Gordon (2015) and Trent Richardson (2012) both had underwhelming rookie seasons. Let's take a look at who wore their rookie year better.

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

DISCLAIMER: I DO believe that Gordon is a talented back, and he did all he could with a crap O-line. 32nd in Run Blocking, 31st in Pass Blocking, etc. He ranked well in forced miss tackles, broken tackles, average yards after each hit. He did not perform well behind our O-line based on the basic statistics, but when you delve in deeper, you can see he was not the full problem. Yes, he made rookie mistakes, but I do not believe he's a bust. When Philip Rivers said Gordon reminded him of a bigger Jamaal Charles (a bit slower), I believed him. I do believe that MG will turn it around, I just hope TT can keep improving our O-line. Getting a legitimate center was a good first step.

Another good point... 11 rushing attempts near the goal line... (within the 20... Danny Woodhead had 19) He was the biggest back on our roster, and received ONE carry within the 5. Woodhead had 5 times that amount. It is unfair to cite his lack of TD's when he had barely any attempts near the Goal line. It also doesn't help that our offense couldn't get us.

Recently, the NFL has devalued running backs to the point that since 2012 (when Trent Richardson was drafted), there have only been three backs drafted in the first round: Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, and Zeke Elliot. This can probably be partially blamed on Trent Richardson's underwhelming rookie year after the Browns traded their 4th overall pick, the 139th overall pick in the 5th round, and the 211th overall pick in the 7th round, just to trade up one spot to draft  Richardson. The most recent back to be a disappointment in his rookie year is our very own Melvin Gordon.

Trent Richardson was the consensus best Halfback in the 2012 draft, after racking up 3,860 yards from scrimmage, and a total of 42 TD's in just three years. His Junior year, he rushed for a total of 1679 yards, which was 6th in the nation, and led the SEC in Rushing Touchdowns with 21 with another 3 in the passing game. Richardson's NFL draft profile said  this:

Richardson is a talented back who should garner a top-five pick in this year's draft, regardless of the idea that the shelf life of running backs doesn't warrant the risk of a top pick. Richardson is durable enough to handle a season full of carries, and with the new CBA rules putting a ceiling on rookie salaries, it will be tough for teams to pass on such a talented, polished back.


Trent Richardson, Browns also listed his strengths as "[most] compact and coiled athlete since Adrian Peterson," "explosive, powerful and balanced... instinctual and patient enough and quick enough." "Richardson has a strong core... get's physical leverage... true three-down back."

His weaknesses? That he ran behind an experienced line at Alabama and he'd have to prove he wasn't the product of the great line. Also, he'd have trouble getting to the perimeter in the NFL.

Once drafted 3rd overall, Trent rushed for 950 yards on 267 carries, for 11 Touchdowns. He added 367 receiving yards on 51 receptions, and added another TD there as well. He fumbled 3 times. These numbers look good, but his 3.6ypc does not. In fact, he has the second lowest YPC at 3.33 over his career since the NFL AFL merger, only "bested" by Michael Haddix' measly 3.0 ypc.

What can this be blamed on? Sure the Browns aren't a very good team, but he looked like a game breaker in college. It might have something to do with his two knee surgeries following the BCS National Championship game, after which he never regained true form. His weight ballooned out of control, and his balky knee slowed him down. He jumped around the league for a while, being traded to the Colts 2 weeks into his second season for a first round pick, where he put up 458 yards on 157 carries for a horrific 2.9 average ypc. He was demoted in favor of "Damnit Donald!" He was then released, and signed a two year contract with the Raiders, being cut 5 months later after playing no football, and most recently signed with the Ravens but was once again cut on August 2nd. It seems he will never return to the NFL.

Melvin Gordon, Chargers

Melvin Gordon, the guy who broke LaDainian Tomlinson's college single game rushing record with 408 yards, in only 3 quarters of action. Melvin Gordon, the guy who put up the 2nd most yards ever in a single season, behind only Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. With such prestigious company, there was no way he wouldn't pan out... right?

Don't get me wrong, I really like the guy. He seems like he really cares and has a crazy good work ethic, most recently being seen training with future HOF'er Adrian Peterson over the offseason. But when it comes down to gameday and I'm pulling my hair out screaming at the TV because he'll hesitate before hitting a hole, it makes it really hard to support him in Chargers colors.

Coming into the draft, Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley were tabbed as the two running backs finally worthy of a first round pick since 2012. Melvin Gordon was described as a "Tall, leggy running back with shredded physique," he had great transitions from inside to outside, "impressive 20 yard burst, 7.6 ypc over his last two seasons at Wisconsin, Shifty in open field without having to hesitate[?]" His weaknesses were listed as him wanting to bounce outside too much, was stuffed on almost 20% of his carries, shows indecisiveness, play strength was average despite big frame, fumbled six times in his last 5 games, and there were doubts about his pass catching and protecting.

In one of the biggest head scratching moves I've seen since TT took over, TT traded up two spots to 15, giving up the 17th overall pick, their fourth rounder, and this year's 5th rounder. How can you justify trading 3 picks to move up 2 spots for a running back in what was considered one of the deepest drafts in recent memory?

M.G. Introduction UT - San Diego

In the preseason, Melvin did not look good. He looked indecisive, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt because they say you need to feed backs carries before they get comfortable. That carried over to the regular season, and problems with his decisiveness, and in my opinion, his vision as a running back, really came to light. He tries to bounce runs outside too often, he misses wide open holes because he'd rather bounce outside, etc. Yes, our O-line was atrocious last year, and when we had a "fullback," he probably just got in the way more than helped pave a way for Gordon. Also, running Phil in the shotgun on the vast majority of snaps and having Gordon try to run either draws or other plays out of the shotgun, instead of having the Chargers in an I formation, didn't give Gordon the best chance to build up speed before hitting the line.

Melvin Gordon ended up rushing for 641 yards on 184 carries for 3.5ypc, just under what Richardson rushed. He scored zero touchdowns, and his 217 touches without a touchdown rank the most since 2005. Not exactly awe-inspiring. To top it all off, he ended the season on IR for a knee injury, which was operated on this offseason. Sound like Trent Richardson? One note of positivity was that he broke the 9th most tackles in the league with 34, so maybe with a decent line, he can be an average running back. Another is how he did in the passing game. He caught 33/37 targets, for 192 yards, and a long of 18. I hope he continues to improve here. His college tape should have showed an INC in that category, instead of pundits saying he's not an able receiver. His offseason work looked promising, but his footwork still doesn't look great. In just about a week and a half, we will see if he's made the necessary improvements to warrant his first round pick. If anyone deserves it, he does. He has worked hard and seems like a kid with his head on straight, just struggling to achieve decent results while everyone expects him to be the next LT.

In my opinion, Trent Richardson was better. He scored more touchdowns, fumbled less than Gordon's 6 times, and was better as a receiver. I really want to believe in Gordon, I really do. I want him to shake off all the rust and lead the league in rushing this year. Heck, I just want him to hit 1000 yards, and give us at least 5 TDs. I want this kid to succeed. All that being said I believe Melvin Gordon has a higher potential than Trent Richardson does/did, but he might struggle to reach it. If he does, B.O. will be waiting to overtake him on the depth chart this year.