Scouting Report: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Forget what you know about Wisconsin backs
As I worked through all of Melvin Gordon’s game film, I went through a lot of the same things I went through when I watched Montee Ball two years ago. The first thing you need to process is how good Wisconsin’s run blocking is, and man, they are good. So good that you need to watch games multiple times to separate the back’s accomplishments from the line’s accomplishments. And, yes, I understand that they are working together. You often hear folks, when talking about backs, say something like, “he gets what’s blocked.” Well, if you get what’s blocked at Wisconsin, with nothing extra, you will be among the elite collegiate rushers, statistically speaking. Gordon was more than just elite. He paced the NCAA by more than 500 yards. Gordon got a lot more than simply what was blocked.
Gordon’s an NFL back. We agree with the pack on this one. Having said that, I can’t say that Rotobahn views Gordon as a lock first round pick. He’s borderline to us because he has a few areas of concern. He’s not as game-ready as some of the other backs in this year’s class.
Here’s Gordon, talking about his decision to return to Wisconsin for the 2014 season, which turned out to be a very good move.
“I wanted to be more of a complete running back. I wanted to be a better football player and I think I achieved that. I showed people that I don’t need James (White) or Montee (Ball) to go out there to pass-protect. I wasn’t perfect. Not everyone is. You make some mistakes, but they can count on me. That’s what I wanted to show in the passing game, the running game and pass protection.”
On being compared to Jamaal Charles.
“I watch a lot of running backs and I try to take different bits and pieces of their game and try to mix it with mine. Obviously you can’t be that back. Every running back is different. I’m not Jamaal Charles. Jamaal Charles is his own man. He’s a phenomenal player in the NFL. We are similar, but he’s got that little burst. I don’t think I have that. But I try to take different things from each and every player that’s in the league that’s successful and just try to mix in my own game.”
Good call, by Gordon here. I’m honestly not sure where this comparison comes from.
- Height - 6’1”
- Weight - 215
- Hand - 9 3/4
- Bench - 19
- 40 - 4.52
- Vertical Jump - 35”
- Broad Jump - 10’6”
- 3 Cone - 7.04
- 20 Yd Shuttle - 4.07
- 60 Yd Shuttle - 11.00
Gordon posted the best long shuttle time and was behind only Ameer Abdullah in the short shuttle. He was strong across the board with the exception of a mediocre three cone time.
- Size - Gordon’s got an NFL build at over 6 feet and 215 pounds.
- Speed - We’ve seen him run through enough defenses and get the corner enough times to buy into his combine time. In fact, as with much of this class, we think his speed was a bit undersold in Indianapolis.
- Balance - Gordon runs with a strong base. He has excellent balance and is hard to knock off his feet. He runs through arm tackles so often you might begin to take it for granted. This is a clear area of strength for Gordon.
- Power - His size combined with a very aggressive running style make him a powerful runner in most situations.
- Agility - Gordon showed this at the combine as I mentioned and you see it on film when he bounces outside effortlessly. He will press the hole and then bounce it outside, and it’s as smooth and easy as any back in this class or last year’s class for that matter. You’ll also see Gordon make the kind of tight interior cuts that NFL backs have to make to survive inside.
- Pad level - Gordon gets behind his pads in short yardage, goal line situations and on most interior runs. He can get low despite being a tall back.
- Vision - Gordon’s a little underrated in this area. Granted, finding the hole is pretty easy to do when you run for Wisconsin, but he finds daylight with regularity once he gets into the second level. Give him a bump for that.
- Ball security - This is a significant red flag. Gordon put the ball on the ground enough that NFL teams will absolutely be gunning for him early on, and the only way it stops is if Gordon improves significantly. He’s fumbled 11 times over the last two seasons and seven of those fumbles were recovered by the other team.
- Pass blocking - We give him a passable grade here, and we like his strength and athleticism as far as transitioning to the next level. That said, he's a bit of a work in progress.
- Receiving ability - Gordon has functional ability as a receiver. He’s in the Chris Johnson area, where he can make plays and catch some balls, but he’s not very instinctive and his hips are a little stiff.
- Production - Gordon’s numbers are so good you almost have to ignore them. Stats are always good and often great when you are talking about Wisconsin backs. Having said that, Gordon did take it to a new level.
Here’s a play that shows off Gordon’s explosiveness and agility. It’s also a good example of him being hard to tackle with just a hit.
Here’s another good example of Gordon running through solid contact to make the big play. Most backs get knocked out of bounds on this one.
You can get a great look at Gordon by following this link to DraftBreakdown, where you will find nine of Gordon’s games all cut up for you.
As I said earlier, Gordon is an NFL back because he’s got an abundance of talent and plenty of NFL traits. I know there are skeptics because of his Wisconsin lineage, but are we really going to downgrade this kid because of Ron Dayne? For what it’s worth, Dayne carried the ball 1220 times as a collegian—the most in NCAA history. With that kind of crazy workload, is there any way he’d be highly rated in this day and age? I say no way. Montee Ball is the better comparison, and Gordon’s film is superior to Ball’s in our view, and by a considerable margin.
So, in our estimation, you can forget about the Wisconsin curse or whatever you want to call it. Having said that, we’re not sold that Gordon is a lock to be a high-volume impact player right away. He’s functional as a pass protector, but most NFL rosters have a back on their roster who’s better. Meanwhile, Gordon’s ability as a receiver is not so outstanding, at this time, where teams will force him into the mix on third downs and passing situations. It will depend on the depth chart.
To put a finer point on this, Gordon mentions losing snaps in passing situations to Montee Ball, and granted, this was a few years back, but how did Ball fare in pass protection as a rookie? It’s something to consider.
The other issue is his penchant for putting the ball on the ground. While we expect Gordon to be given plenty of chances as a rookie, he still has to improve in this area, and failure to do so could cost him snaps and therefore touches thus reducing his fantasy ceiling. Again, you don’t need to look any further than Ball’s rookie season for an example of how this can happen. Will there be a Knowshon Moreno-type to vulture snaps from Gordon as a rookie? It’s something to monitor.
Like many backs, Gordon’s ball-carrying skills are ahead of the rest of his game. There’s a learning curve that he’ll need to work through in other areas.
I like to use the term “location back” a lot, and although his NFL team will give us a window into what his early career could look like, Gordon is not a location back because he’s likely going early on in the draft. The team that takes him will be making a commitment that will ensure Gordon a role. That is, unless Gordon slips in the draft, which seems unlikely at this point.
I’ll firm up his fantasy value for the near and long term after the draft in our post-draft rookie rankings. Regardless of where he goes, we envision a long successful NFL career for the latest star RB out of Wisconsin.
More 2015 Scouting Reports:
- Duke Johnson, RB, Miami
- Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina
- Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
- Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
- Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
- Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota
- Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
- Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami
- Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
- TJ Yeldon, RB, Alabama
- Tre McBride, WR, William & Mary
- Nelson Agholor, WR, USC
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