Please don’t sell Melvin Gordon. Please.
Despite being the NFL leader in total touchdowns with 10, the fantasy football guru echo chamber continue repeat the ‘sell-high on Melvin Gordon‘ mantra.
The fact that Melvin Gordon is a regression candidate is self-evident. Gordon’s TD regression began in week 8 as he rolled up 155 total yards against the Denver Broncos, the league’s most formidable all-around defense, without crossing the end zone plane. Melvin Gordon’s week 8 performance was the best of any running back who did not log a TD. Yet, his yards per carry remains parked below 4.0 and is red meat for fantasy analysts hungry for a running back to hate. Indeed, fantasy analysts often mischaracterize Gordon as an inefficient, touchdown-dependent compiler, and he appears on many fantasy football sell-high lists. Don’t do that. Don’t trade Melvin Gordon. There are plenty of reasons to hold on to Gordon, so let’s start at the beginning.
Melvin Gordon was a monster in college, posting a 47.1-percent (95th percentile) College Dominator Rating while averaging a ridiculous 7.5 yards per carry (96th-percentile) with an 8.7-percent (60th-percentile) college target share. Gordon also posted a 103.0 (69th percentile) Height-Adjusted Speed Score (HaSS), a 122.5 (68th-percentile) Burst Score , and a 11.11 (75th-percentile) Agility Score, while his SPARQ-x comes in at 121.0 (72nd-percentile). The second running back the Chargers have selected in the first round over the past 5 years, San Diego is clearly pining for the next LaDainian Tomlinson, and while Gordon is not LaDainian Tomlinson, he did post above-average metrics across the board, and combined with elite college production and guaranteed NFL opportunity. This is exactly what we look for when evaluating a running back’s fantasy potential.
In his rookie season, Melvin Gordon was a disappointment, posting a -24.1 (No. 72) Production Premium, while running behind a decimated offensive line, but there were still a few positives. For one, Gordon still received 37 targets in the passing game despite Danny Woodhead being healthy and on the roster. Gordon caught 33 of those targets for an 89-percent (No. 3) catch rate, demonstrating that his receiving skills had translated to the NFL. Also, despite his inefficiency, Gordon posted a 47.5-percent Opportunity Share last season. You can debate the importance of draft capital all you want, but in this case, the Chargers want their first-round pick from 2015 to be a star, and they continued to give him that opportunity last year despite his struggles.
This season, with the injury to Danny Woodhead, Melvin Gordon has played 66.7-percent percent of his team’s snaps while posting a 76-percent (No. 5) Opportunity Share and continues to display solid receiving skills, posting a 74.1-percent catch rate. While he has had some trouble finding consistent running room behind a Chargers offensive line ranking No. 20 in run blocking efficiency, Gordon has posted 5 runs of 15 yards or longer, and has received a whopping 33 red zone carries. To put that in perspective, C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker have combined for 30 red zone carries.
Although Gordon continues to struggle with efficiency between the 20’s, you have to remember who his quarterback is. Common sense suggests that the better quarterback you have, the better chance your team has of reaching the red zone. The fact that Philip Rivers is Melvin Gordon’s quarterback matters a lot. If you think that doesn’t matter, look at the season Lamar Miller is having with Brock Osweiler, or Todd Gurley with Case Keenum. In fact, the Houston Texas as a team are tied with Melvin Gordon in total offensive touchdowns.
Factor in Gordon’s quarterback, pass-catching skills, and an Opportunity Share that is not going to decrease any time soon, this is not a situation that you sell high on. And even if you do sell high, who are you replacing him with? Do you really have a better option? Everyone is so scared of the running back committee, so why are they scared of Melvin Gordon?