Is One Good Year Enough to Trust Melvin Gordon as a Fantasy Stud?
New Chargers new head coach Anthony Lynn thinks Melvin Gordon can get to the "next level," and has installed a new run-blocking scheme to help. Combine that with a newly retooled offensive line featuring free-agent acquisition Russell Okung and draft picks Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney, and Gordon has room for improvement in the cards in terms of his efficiency.
The Chargers will look a bit different on offense this year. They will be getting back Keenan Allen, and first-round wide receiver Mike Williams may even be on the field at some point after an injury scare. The new-look offense could cut into Gordon's targets, and maybe even into his opportunities in scoring position (Gordon saw the fourth-most red zone carries in the NFL last season, with over half of them occurring inside the 10-yard line). If Gordon receives less targets and/or experiences negative touchdown regression, he may need a jump in efficiency more than you would think.
Gordon’s 2015 rookie season is that it was a complete disaster—he was inefficient on per-touch basis and scored zero touchdowns. But Gordon made serious strides in Year 2, racking up 1,400 yards from scrimmage and 12 total touchdowns, despite missing the final three games of the season with a PCL injury. (That injury seems behind him at this point, as he was a full participant in camp.)
Will Gordon carry the touchdown upside he had in 2016 over to 2017? Can volume alone make Gordon a difference maker at his current ADP? Or is it more likely that Gordon reverts back to the level of ineffectiveness he displayed in 2015?
Gordon's Rushing Expectation charting, which balances metrics with film evaluation—one of the toughest things to do in fantasy football)—will provide some clues as to how to attack the Chargers backfield in 2017 fantasy drafts.
Rushing Expectation: Melvin Gordon
Gordon has rare agility and explosiveness, and he pairs those traits with very good burst and near-elite acceleration. Both his hip flexibility and pad level are very good as well, and because he pairs those skills with rare burst, it makes him a viable breakaway threat from anywhere on the field.
Gordon's rebound season in 2016 could have been due to his increased comfort level running behind a fullback more often; San Diego's acquisition of Derek Watt, Gordon's lead blocker in college, paid huge dividends. The Chargers had an overall Expected Success Rate on rushing attempts of 42.2 percent—well below the NFL average of 46.3 percent.
The Chargers were much better at blocking for running backs in the passing game, however. They posted an Expected Success Rate of 47.1 percent on running back receptions, which was the league's fifth-highest mark.
So how did Gordon do relative to San Diego's blocking in each facet?
Expected Success Rate is the signature metric of Rushing Expectation, serving as a way to distinguish between the individual Success Rates of running backs depending on the quality of blocking they receive. Once the Chargers' poor run blocking is taken into account, Gordon performed very close to expectation.
While Gordon's volume will be secure, in fantasy I'd prefer a running back like Jay Ajayi to Gordon, since Ajayi tends to perform above expectation, i.e., he can create more given poor blocking and greater exceed expectation given good blocking. Gordon finished with just a 22nd percentile Expectation Score on the ground.
However, due to the aforementioned advantageous conditions in terms of San Diego's blocking for running backs in the passing game, Gordon's good pass-catching ability led him to a 70th percentile receiving Expectation Score—unsurprising since Gordon had a 75th-percentile agility score coming into the league, and agility score has a strong positive correlation to receptions. Gordon consistently shows the ability to catch passes with his hands instead of his body—at times even with his back to Philip Rivers, who, by the way, is very good at getting the ball to his running backs in the intermediate passing game.
Continue reading for Melvin Gordon's overall analysis and his 2017 fantasy outlook...
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