It has been an interesting NFL career for Melvin Gordon. After being drafted 15th overall in the 2015 draft there were high expectations for the running back. The Wisconsin product got off to a difficult start to his NFL career and was unable to run for more than four yards per carry in either of his first two seasons with the Chargers. Gordon was force-fed the ball as the franchise clearly believed in him and finally managed to find his stride.
In his third season in the NFL Melvin Gordon managed to secure a Pro Bowl invitation and eclipsed 1000 yards for the first and only time in his career. He spent five seasons with the Chargers organization before coming to the Denver Broncos. He has served primarily as the starting running back and has been fairly productive in the role. Gordon is a high volume usage back but has not produced at the level some have expected. The emergence of Javonte Williams has limited his outlook for next season. Despite Gordon remaining the lead back on paper, both guys received exactly 203 carries last season in which they put up nearly identical yardage. Melvin Gordon did take the red-zone carries and produced eight touchdowns versus Williams getting to the paydirt only four times on the ground.
Melvin Gordon’s Fantasy Football outlook for the 2022 NFL season
According to Fantasypros, Melvin Gordon is ranked as the 34th ranked running back heading into the season. In contrast, Javonte Williams is the 14th-ranked running back which is an indication of how the carries are expected to change this year. His average draft position is hovering in the late 90s with Fantasypros having him at the 97th pick. This would make Gordon a ninth-round pick in most drafts.
He may no longer have the appeal of an RB1 that he once did, but there still is value in drafting Melvin Gordon. He is considered to be on the downside of his career because of his age but is still 29 years old and proved to have gas left in the tank last year. While he rotated touches last season in the Broncos backfield, Gordon still managed to put up some solid numbers. He ranked eighth in both PFF rushing grade and forced missed tackles and ended up as the 18th best running back last season right behind Javonte Williams. It also is worth noting Williams played one more game than Gordon due to injury.
The Broncos offense is set to operate much more efficiently this season. The addition of Russell Wilson is set to add a new dynamic in a way that has been missing over the past few seasons. Hopefully, this will open up the running game for Gordon as well. Teams were not hesitant to stack the box when Drew Lock was under center which caused issues in the run game. Having Russell Willson under center has increased expectations across the board for the Broncos.
The most notable change in the partnership between Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams is that Gordon is no longer listed as the lead back on the depth chart. Williams appears set to receive lead touches with Gordon taking a backseat. However, Melvin Gordon should be considered much more valuable than a traditional handcuff as he is still sure to have a role. It also is worth noting that if Williams were to endure an injury, Melvin Gordon would almost certainly become the bell-cow running back. The former Chargers standout held down the goal-line duties last year and was effective in this role. If he maintains this job he will continue to carry fantasy value. Targeting him in the middle round and potentially using him in a flex role should also be on the table.
There is potential for the running back rotation to change considering the Broncos’ new coach this year. Denver elected to go in a new direction and fired Vic Fangio after three seasons with the team. Nathaniel Hackett will take control this season in his first NFL head coaching opportunity. If he has a different mindset with the running backs this could change things up.
Regardless, you could do far worse than walking away with Melvin Gordon in the middle rounds. His upside may not be as high as it has previously been, but expect him to maintain a role in the Broncos’ offense. The experience that Gordon has could prove to be important down the stretch. Melvin Gordon is not the fantasy RB1 he once was but still is not a guy you should hesitate to take in the right situation.