Melvin Gordon just turned 27 years old and was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He was a 2-sport star, playing both football and running track. He had an impressive senior season in high school where he rushed for 2,009 yards and 38 touchdowns, winning Wisconsin’s Gatorade Player of the Year. Considered a four-star recruit, Gordon chose to stay in state and went to the University of Wisconsin after decommitting from the University of Iowa.
Gordon played all four years at Wisconsin, but didn’t do much as a freshman after suffering a groin injury, leading him to redshirt that year. Then in his sophomore year he was the third string running back behind Montee Ball and James White. He rushed for 62 times for 621 yards and 3 touchdowns that season. As a junior he started to breakout, rushing for 1,609 yards and 12 touchdowns. In his senior season he was considered as a Heisman Trophy contender and was on several preseason award watch lists. This was the first season he was the lead running back. He rushed 343 times for 2,587 yards and an impressive 7.5 yards per carry, 29 touchdowns also chipping in 19 receptions for 153 yards and 3 more touchdowns.
At the NFL combine he measured 6’?” and weighed 215 pounds running a 4.52 40 yard dash, and posted an elite 60 yard shuttle-time of 11 seconds. He was selected by the San Diego Chargers in the first round with the 15th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Gordon played 14 games in his rookie season, rushing 182 times for 641 yards, no touchdowns and averaging a subpar 3.5 yards per carry. He did manage to catch 33 passes for 190 yards. He was placed on season-ending injury reserve after sustaining a knee injury. He also struggled with six fumbles that year.
Heading into his second NFL season, 2016, it was revealed that Gordon had actually underwent microfracture surgery on his knee in January. This is a very significant surgery and will be discussed in the next section. Gordon played in 13 games this season rushing 254 times for 997 yards, 3.9 yards per carry and 10 touchdowns. He also caught 41 passes for 419 yards and 2 more touchdowns. He missed the final three games of the season after suffering hip and knee injuries.
Gordon played in all 16 games in the 2017 season, the only time he has done so. He rushed 284 times for 1,105 yards, 3.9 yards per carry, and 8 touchdowns. He also caught 58 passes for 476 yards and 4 more touchdowns. The following season, Gordon rushed 175 times for 885 yards and 10 touchdowns, and an impressive 5.1 yards per carry. He also caught 50 passes for 490 yards and four more touchdowns only playing in 12 games. He suffered a couple injuries the season including a hamstring and knee injury.
Melvin Gordon decided to hold-out for the first four-games, but was productive when he returned. Gordon found the end zone a total of nine times. He would also add 612 yards and 42 receptions even though he split-time with Austin Ekeler. Gordon played in 55% of the snaps, but remained a top-12 player.
Let’s review some of Gordon’s injuries. It is unclear the exact severity of the groin injury that caused Gordon to medically redshirt his freshman season at Wisconsin and whether or not surgery was involved.. As a rookie Gordon suffered a foot sprain in the preseason, and then tore some cartilage in his knee in week 15 ending his season early. He underwent microfracture surgery one month later. This is a very important and complicated surgery that does not always yield the best results. Cartilage is vital to the knee and can be found in two locations. Surrounding the bone as a protective layer we have articular cartilage. Then there’s also thick cartilage that is found in between the bones of the knee called the meniscus, which is much more commonly known of the two.
When a person injures the articular cartilage, creating a large defect in the cartilage, this can create significant issues. The best way to describe this is thinking of a large pothole in the road and think of the road as the cartilage of our knee. Unfortunately the cartilage does not naturally grow back, so once the hole is there it will not fix itself. There are only a couple ways to potentially create/grow new cartilage, one of the most common ways is called a microfracture procedure. This is where a surgeon goes in and drills holes into and around the area of the defect, to help stimulate local cells to hopefully create new cartilage. Sometimes there is also a graft of cartilage/cells that is transferred to this large area of defect, depending on how large it is. Unfortunately the success rate for the surgery is not very high. The good news is that Gordon has had several successful seasons without struggling with knee injuries so it appears that the surgery was successful.
The following season, 2016, Gordon suffered another knee injury, this time to the PCL. The PCL is a very thick ligament that crisscrosses with the ACL, and is a very important ligament for stability. The good news is that these do not traditionally require surgery, just a lot of rehabilitation/therapy. Gordon was healthy throughout the 2017 season, and as a result played 16 games for the only time in his career.
In 2018 Gordon struggled with a hamstring strain and missed one game, but suffered a right knee MCL sprain. This caused him to miss three games. The MCL is the ligament that runs north-south on the inside of our knee and is a very important ligament for running and cutting, along with the ACL. This ligament notoriously weakens and gets injured when a player gets tackled or hit on the outside of his knee causing the inside of the knee to buckle.
If this ligament is not properly addressed then he will likely continue to struggle with similar meet injuries in the future. MCL injuries are very common especially in NFL running back’s due to their volume, and how opposing players have a tendency to tackle them. The good news is that players can get different types of regenerative medicine injections in and around the ligament to help strengthen it, when combined with physical therapy this is a very strong approach.
It was surprising that Broncos went after Gordon, afterall, Royce Freeman and Philip Lindsay have been serviceable. Now, either Freeman or Lindsay will be regulated, more than likely that will be Freeman.
In the off-season he signed a two-year deal with the Denver Broncos. Gordon will be the leader of the backfield and he should get at least 60% of carries and 50% of the targets. Neither Freeman nor Lindsay excel at catching the ball. Adding those totals, and Gordon should get somewhere between 250-300 touches, depending on the success of the offense.
Gordon’s injury history is extensive, but he has played in 67 of 76 (88%) of possible games, and new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur concentrates on workhorse backs, which neither Lindsay and Freeman are. With that said, Shurmur never had a plethora of talented backs as he does now in Denver.
When it comes to goal line situations, Shurmur will feed Gordon as many options as he will need to get the ball over the goal line. With his body size and physical running style, coupled by his three-down ability it will be tempting to ignore Lindsay and Freeman all together.
The ceiling for Gordon is dependent on two things. First, is his capability to stay healthy. The second, is the usage. Shurmur can easily put aside the Lindsay and Freeman duo and focus completely on Gordon.
On the other hand, keeping Gordon fresh when you have the players to do that is hard to ignore, however, there isn't any denying that 300+ touches, 1,000+ yards, and scoring 10-12 touchdowns isn’t far off.
The rushing game for Denver was mediocre in 2019. They finished 17th in rushing yards, and they will continue to focus on this portion of the offense. Kill defenses with time-killing, pain-staking drives operate on a heavy running offensive scheme.
The type of offense Vic Fangio will run also helps ease the pressure off of Drew Lock who is a relatively unknown commodity (five starts). Also, including a defense that was strong before injuries and additions of A.J. Bouye and Jurrell Casey. Including Graham Glasgow and rookie, fourth round selection Lloyd Cushenberry to the offensive line spotlights a large volume of running.
The offensive line is still poor or average at best even with the addition of Glasgow. The unit will use an outside zone and a bounce-back season from right tackle JaWuan James is essential. James was only healthy for three contests.
The offensive talent around Gordon is young, but talented.
Courtland Sutton has great talent but has been hampered by bad quarterback play and poor talent around him to not support his capabilities. Denver decided to change that by drafting Jerry Jeudy with their 15th pick in the first round. Then KJ Hamler in the second round with the 20th pick.
They will join DaeSean Hamilton who has been disappointing since being selected in the fourth round in 2018. Noah Fant will continue to develop in his second season as a starting tight end.
Sports Injury Predictor calculates that Gordon has a 55.4% chance of injury in 2020, projecting him to miss approximately 1.3 games. My score for him is a 7 out of 10, on the higher side due to his multiple injuries including several to the knee. History of microfracture surgery, a PCL and MCL sprain are concerning.
Gordon should slide into the starting running back role for the Denver Broncos and serve as their bellcow. He has three-down ability and should be utilized on at least 60 to 70% of their snaps. He reportedly led the NFL in broken tackles from 2016 to 2018, per PFF.
Gordon is more talented and has a better pedigree than both Philip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, who will serve as his back ups. Gordon joins an underrated and potentially sneaky Broncos offense in 2020.
At this point Melvin Gordon has an ADP of RB17 and much of that has to do with unknowns. His volume, health, offensive line, and the youth of offense. Shopping him around RB 15-16 isn't a bad idea due to his large ceiling, however, the bottom could fall out and Gordon could finish as an RB3.
Injury Risk: High, 7/10.
|Projected Missed||Probability of injury per game ?||Probablity of injury in the season ?|
|Nov 25, 2018||Knee MCL Sprain Grade 2||Gordon sprained his right MCL in Week 12 and missed the following 3 games.|
|Oct 14, 2018||Thigh Hamstring Sprain/Pull Unspecified Grade 1||Gordon missed Week 7 with an unspecified hamstring injury. He returned after the Week 8 bye.|
|Dec 11, 2016||Inguinal Hip Sprain||Gordon went down early in Week 14 and missed the final 3 games.|
|Dec 11, 2016||Knee PCL Sprain Grade 2||Gordon went down early in Week 14 and missed the final 3 games.|
|Dec 20, 2015||Knee Tear||Gordon tore cartilage in his knee in Week 15 and was placed on IR.|
|Aug 13, 2015||Pedal Ankle Sprain/Pull Unspecified Grade 1||Gordon sat out Week 2 of the preseason but was fine to handle 17 touches in his regular season debut.|