Weight: 215 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.52 seconds
Vertical: 35 inches
Broad Jump: 126 inches
3-Cone Drill: 7.04 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.07 seconds
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A truly dynamic runner, the most impressive part of Gordon’s game is his burst at the line of scrimmage. No matter if he’s running a dive through the “A” gap or a stretch play to the perimeter, he blasts towards the line of scrimmage as quickly as any back in recent memory. With the ability to change directions on a dime along with incredible vision, he’s able to turn inside handoffs into a sprint down the sideline without changing speeds.
Equally as impressive in the open field, Gordon flashes an array of moves that can drop the jaws of onlookers. Regularly using head and shoulder fakes to dupe linebackers and safeties charging in to support the run, he’s able to shake defenders without losing speed. He also regularly showed a devastating spin move that would leave college defenders in his dust.
At the point of attack, Gordon is very effective. He isn’t a finesse back like many with his speed and open field moves. Instead, he often chooses to run over defenders and has the balance to stay on his feet after contact. With an effective jump cut that allows him to change running lanes and the power to break tackles at the line of scrimmage and always keep his legs moving to pick up extra yardage, he’s not just a home run hitter but can also be effective in short yardage and around the goal line.
If there’s a weakness in Gordon’s game, it’s that tries too much at times to make the big play. Instead of driving forward for a gain of a yard or two, he often tries to bounce a run outside and ends up losing yardage. Due to his incredible burst, he was able to outrun college defenders to the corner at times which made his gamble a worthwhile one but that won’t be the case on Sunday’s against superior athletes.
Many will also point out that Gordon struggles as a pass catcher but that’s hard to say considering the Badgers rarely asked him to be a receiver and he looked good in limited opportunities in that role during his final year on campus. Doubters also point to the lack of pro production from former Wisconsin tailbacks as a reason to shy away from Gordon but that’s hardly reasonable in my opinion.
All things told, Gordon nearly broke Barry Sanders’ single season rushing record all while defenses focused all of their efforts on stopping him. He regularly faced eight-man boxes and even saw nine in the box at times because defenses had no reason to fear Alex Erickson and Kenzel Doe at receiver or Joel Stave or Tanner McEvoy to get them the ball.
Check out the highlight film above. Without sounding like too much of a Gordon apologist, he dominated despite having a target on his back throughout his final season on campus so it’s difficult to blame him for some negative runs.
The Chargers’ offensive line struggled to open running lanes a year ago due to injuries and inconsistent play. In fact, they ranked 31st in the league in run blocking according to www.footballoutsiders.com. Those problems should be taken care of due to a few key signing during the offseason however.
The center position was a mess for the Chargers last year. Philip Rivers took snaps from five different centers a year ago but that shouldn’t be the case in 2015 as 2014 third round pick Chris Watt will take over after an ankle injury a year ago.
The Chargers also made a splash in free agency when they signed former Bronco Orlando Franklin to play offensive guard and former Ram Joseph Barksdale to play right tackle. San Diego also re-signed left tackle King Dunlap which was imperative for their offense as well backup center Trevor Robinson who got experience a year ago.
Overall, what was once a liability for the Chargers’ offense has now become a strength. With what should be a quality run blocking unit in front of him as well as a good cast of skill players including Rivers, Keenan Allen, Stevie Johnson and Antonio Gates, everything is in place for Gordon to thrive as a rookie.
If there’s another running back on the Chargers’ roster good enough to force Gordon off the field on first and second down, I don’t see him.
Branden Oliver is probably the most talented among them but that isn’t saying much. The unrestricted free agent rookie from a year ago showed that he could handle himself between the tackles at times but averaged just 3.6 yards per carry and logged just three runs of more than 20-yards. While he dealt with a below average offensive line throughout the year, he didn’t show the special qualities needed to take carries from a true number one tailback.
Other than Oliver, the only other running backs on the Chargers’ roster are Donald Brown and Jahwan Edwards. Brown has proven countless times to be a replacement level runner and Edwards is an undrafted free agent that ran a 4.80 40-yard dash at the combine and really only projects as a short yardage option.
Although Danny Woodhead projects as the Chargers’ primary third down back in passing downs, Gordon is still in line for a lead back’s workload. He should be on the field regularly on first and second down and there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t be on the field at the goal line.
Simply put, there isn’t a player in the league with a better opportunity to make a huge impact for his team as a rookie than Gordon. With little to no competition for first and second down snaps and an improved offensive line, he should be in line to touch the ball between 16 and 25 times per week.
While nobody should expect Gordon to average the mind blowing 7.79 yards per carry that he posted in college, it’s not unreasonable to expect him to average between 4.0 and 4.5 yards per tote. With that usage in a good offense, it’s reasonable to expect 1,200 plus rushing yards and 6-8 touchdowns. That translates to low-end RB1 numbers out Gordon as a rookie.
Long-term expectations with any running back are difficult to project. Injuries, the draft and free agency make the position more unpredictable than any other in professional sports. The only tailbacks that can be projected for the long term are the truly elite and even they fall off a sharp ledge at some point. While I can’t say Gordon fits into the “truly elite” tier with any certainty, I can say he has the skill to be.
Considering San Diego spent a top-15 draft pick on Gordon which is rare these days and traded up to select him nonetheless, it’s pretty clear that the Chargers’ front office and coaching staff see him as an elite talent and plan to make him a cornerstone of their offense for the foreseeable future.
There’s no reason dynasty owners shouldn’t make the same plans and pencil his name in as someone that can be trusted to put up RB1 numbers year-in and year-out going forward.
The popular comparison that everybody wants to make with Gordon is Jamaal Charles. While I agree that they have similarities, I’m going to go in a different direction.
I actually think Gordon is more similar to Reggie Bush.
Most dynasty owners see Bush – at least when he was in his prime – as an injury plagued runner with a nice burst through the hole as well as good hands and killer moves in the open field. Well, that also defines Gordon – just with a little more bulk to handle a full workload and without the injuries.
Bush spent much of his best years as a gadget tailback and third down pass catching option. That shouldn’t happen with Gordon. Instead of just coming on the field in passing situation early in his career, he’ll be relied upon to be the Chargers’ bell cow. And because of that he’ll have a much better chance than Bush to fulfill the enormous potential that both carried into the NFL.
Rookie Draft Advice
Although I love Todd Gurley and his upside as a potential RB1, I still have Gordon by a narrow margin as my top running back prospect available in rookie drafts and believe he fits in nicely behind Amari Cooper as the second overall pick.
Regardless of whether you agree with me or not on the order of the three, Cooper, Gordon and Gurley are all very worthy top picks and in my opinion, the elite tier of this year’s rookie crop. There have been a handful of drafts where Kevin White has leapfrogged into the top three picks which has forced Gordon down to the fourth spot or even farther. If you’re lucky enough to see his name slip beyond that point, you should consider it to be a gift.
- Final Dynasty Rookie Report Card: Wide Receivers, Part Two - March 22, 2023
- 2023 NFL Scouting Combine: Offensive Player Dynasty Review - March 10, 2023
- Final Dynasty Rookie Report Card: Wide Receivers, Part One - February 25, 2023
I have the first pick in my rookie draft and I’m taking Gordon over Gurley. Already made up my mind. Like his situation better.
I need a running back and am loaded at wr. Looking forward to him being a cornerstone of my team for many years.
I have 1.01 pick and will be taking Gurley. Bishop Sankey had the best situation last year and did nothing with it. Gordon’s situation looks similiar right now but long term Gurley should be the better player barring injury.
Take the best player regardless of position or situation. Its dynasty, situations change in a heartbeat. When im stacked at wr, I still take the rookie wr if he is the top player and trade my weakest wr for a rb or package up.
Draft for talent, trade for need.
Great point Neil, wondering how you would rank the top 4 based on talent?
I have picks one and two and have truly been on the fence on whether Gordon or Cooper should be the second pick behind Gurley. This article may have sealed it for Gordon. Plus the highlight video so amazing.