Don't Dismiss Melvin Gordon in Fantasy Football in 2022

Jun 15, 2022
Don't Dismiss Melvin Gordon in Fantasy Football in 2022

You could probably hear, in unison, the collective groans of the fantasy football community when Melvin Gordon re-signed with the Denver Broncos in late April. Folks were ready to ride with Javonte Williams as the lead back and he was being selected as a late-first round to early second-round pick in Underdog best ball drafts. Gordon staying in the Mile High City threw a wrench in plans for a solo backfield, yet drafters are still writing off the eight-year veteran in 2022, as he’s leaving boards as RB35 in the early-10th round.

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Here’s a look at why Gordon is a guy to target in those middle rounds, despite the emergence of Williams and his old age, in football years, of course.

The RB Tandem in 2021

Last season these backs were extremely similar in output and usage across the board.

Melvin Gordon vs. Javonte Williams, 2021
Rushing Receiving Total Yards Half-PPR/Game Positional Rank Half-PPR/G Snaps Snap %
Melvin Gordon 203 Attempts 38 Targets 1,131 11.0 25th 514/1004 51%
918 Yards 28 Receptions
8 TD 213 Yards
4.5 YPC 7.6 YPR
4 Fum 2 TDs
Javonte Williams 203 Attempts 53 Targets 1,219 11.0 26th 551/1081 51%
903 Yards 43 Receptions
4 TD 316 Yards
4.4 YPC 7.3 YPR
1 Fum 3 TDs

Gordon’s volume trended downward from his first season with the Broncos to his second, which is understandable considering the presence of rookie Williams last year. However, the dip wasn’t too significant, as he still managed to crank out 1,131 total yards and 10 scores, going from 247 touches in 2020 (16.5 per game) to 231 (14.4), resulting in just a one-point difference per week in half-PPR scoring.

If we think his workload takes another hit with Gordon serving as the 1B to Williams’ 1A, Gordon is still in line to outproduce his current ADP. Last year both Denver RBs finished on the edge of fantasy RB2s with spots RB25 and RB26. Williams is leaving draft boards as the 14th back taken while Gordon’s positional ADP is a very affordable RB35.

Denver’s New-Look Offense

The addition of QB Russell Wilson should elevate Denver’s entire offense, including Gordon’s goal-line opportunities. Last season he had nine attempts inside the five-yard line, which was the eighth-most in the NFL. Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett came to the Broncos from Green Bay, and he could use his new RB duo in a similar fashion as Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon, where the latter and backup RB saw 10 carries inside the five to Jones’ six. In terms of fantasy finishes, Jones was the overall RB9, with Dillon checking in as the RB22 in total half-PPR points.

The Denver offense should operate more efficiently in 2021, besting their ranking of 18th in yards per offensive play, 23rd in total points scored, 21st in first downs, and 21st in red zone TD rate. With a better functioning offense, Gordon (and Williams) should see more high-value touches, making him possibly even more fantasy relevant in 2022.

The 29-year-old returned to Denver because there is a role for him. Consider him a standalone RB3 with top 15 upside if Williams were to be sidelined for any length of time.

We Can’t Forget Motivation

Gordon is coming into the 2022 season with a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder and spoke out to local Denver news about being ready to compete for the lead back role in the Bronco backfield. He cited media members wanting Williams to take the reigns as his fuel and expressed “The goal is to make them want to play me. I know we’re going to do our thing—me and ‘Vonte’ are going to do it. I don’t really know how we’re going to do the reps and things like that. The goal right now is to really master the playbook and let things play out. I’m definitely going to be ready to battle. That’s what it is. It’s going to make us better—it did last year. I’m going to continue to do that.”

If Gordon can hold off both sophomore Williams and Father Time for another season, he could surprise those drafters who are sending him off to pasture in 2022.

Bottom Line

  • Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams had nearly identical 2021 seasons with Denver in both usage and output.
  • While many are expecting Williams to assume lead-back duties this year, the new Denver coaching staff could deploy more of a 1A and 1B approach to the backfield similar to Green Bay.
  • Gordon’s Underdog ADP is currently in the early 10th round as RB35 which is a great price considering his potential in a more efficient Russell Wilson-led offense. Williams is a third-round pick as RB14.
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