Melvin Gordon not only overcomes challenges with ease, he seems to welcome them. He spurned the easy path from the very beginning, starting out his college career by turning down scholarship offers from Iowa, Louisville, and Michigan to play for his favorite team, the Wisconsin Badgers.
The story doesn’t end there. The Badgers are known for churning out great running backs, and had two future NFL players at the position on the depth chart ahead of him. When he joined the team, he wasn’t even guaranteed time on the field.
- That didn’t stop Gordon from impressing early and often, as he took massive chunks out of defenses on a regular basis. He holds the FBS record with an amazing 7.79 yards a carry average, which helped him become the the fastest player to 2000 yards on only 241 carries, and gave him 2,587 for the 2014 season, second all-time behind Barry Sanders. He also broke the FBS record for yards in a game against Oklahoma, with 408, while only playing for 3 quarters.
A lot of the credit for his success is given to the Badger’s Offensive Line, but many Running Backs have had similar lines, without tasting the same success. A major portion of his numbers came while sharing carries with two of the best Running Backs in the league.
- Gordon’s best attributes, are his vision, decisiveness and patience. He is able to take advantage of the blocking, then explode through the holes better than everyone else in the history. Barry Sanders made opponents miss by cutting on a dime, and running sideline to sideline. Gordon does it by dashing straight ahead, sometimes reaching full speed before he even has the ball, and is still able to hit the hole and blast through defenders with precision.
I have heard him compared to Jamaal Charles and Reggie Bush, but when I watch him run I see a combination of Adrian Peterson and Walter Payton. In Peterson’s first few years in the league, he ran with a straight up confidence, but appeared to be moving at a snails pace. Gordon runs with the same confidence, but explodes across the field, always setting himself up with the right angles to make the big play. Payton would burst through the middle, dragging defenders with him for extra yards. Gordon slices through them like a knife in hot butter on his way to the end zone.
The value of the Running Back has definitely gone down in the NFL over the last few years, as rules have been changed to help the passing game, and teams have gone to more of a specialist approach, with a committee of running backs. In an era of instant gratification, fans seem to prefer the home-run threat over the traditional ground and pound.
Gordon can be the one to bring glory back to the ground game. With his nearly 8 yards a carry, he maintains the efficiency of the running game, while adding the excitement of the big play. If you have ever watched a Badger game you know this guy can take his team from end zone to end zone faster than any cannon armed Quarterback, without the risk of a incompletion or interception.
In a very physical league, durability is a major concern for running backs. Gordon has proven that he can be a workhorse back, with 549 carries in the last to years, and 343 in 2014 alone, without missing a game.
If he falls in the draft, it will be because of the low value on his position, not his own talent, as he is arguably the most dominant college player to enter the NFL. However, dropping to a team that is already established could be the best thing that ever happened to him.
Gordon has proven that he is almost impossible to bring down after he has gotten through the first line of defense, and that would seemingly make him a perfect match for the Cowboys offense, who opened incredible holes for Demarco Murray on his way to 1845 yards and 13 TD’s last season. It would be scary to think of what a back with Gordon’s vision and speed could do in that same offense.
Even though the Badger’s have had a few decent Quarterbacks in his tenure, Gordon never had the luxury of a prolific passer who could take the eyes of the defense off of him. If he somehow landed on the Colts, he would be the secondary concern for opponents, and would bring an element of surprise as opponents focused on Andrew Luck. He would also almost certainly improve his receiving game which has been good but rare.
Obviously, a lot of his success depends on which team takes him, and how they decide to use him, but I believe Gordon will have an even better career in the NFL than he did in college. He has equivalent skills to Barry Sanders and Reggie Bush, but even more heart and determination, and since not much is expected from a Running Back anymore, he has far less pressure.
I believe he has the skills to impress at some point in his rookie year, if not immediately, and as soon as he is given the chance, will start to change the way defenses have to prepare for a team.
No matter what happens, you can bet that Melvin Gordon will be ready, determined, and prepared for whatever is put in his path, and no matter what team he is on, what situation he faces, or what obstacle is in his path; he will be up for the challenge.