CFF Player Profile: Melvin Gordon, HB

Matt Claassen looks deeper into the game of one of college football's most productive backs, Melvin Gordon.

| 2 years ago

CFF Player Profile: Melvin Gordon, HB

The running back class of 2015 is being touted as one of the deepest in recent years, but today our CFF Player Profile is going to look at another potential first-round running back, Melvin Gordon. Wisconsin seems to churn out quality runners and Gordon is the latest highly-productive player set for the NFL. Does he fall into the same category as those who preceded him, or is he a better prospect?


Overview & Stats

Gordon was the focal point of Wisconsin’s offensive attack, gaining the second-most rushing yards in a single season in FBS history with 2,587 yards. Gordon also set the FBS single-game rushing record with 408 yards against Nebraska (although it lasted just a week before being broken again). He also led the nation in yards after contact with 1,229, and was only one of three to eclipse 1,000 yards. Gordon’s 74 missed tackles forced were 10 more than the next running back in the draft class.

While Gordon had eye-popping totals, his success went beyond being a product of his second-most 343 rush attempts. His 7.6 yards per rush attempt led the draft class, and his 3.6 yards after contact per rush ranked third. He showed a knack for making big plays with an FBS-best 40 runs of 15-plus yards while Duke Johnson (31) was the only other back to break 30.

gordon table

Gordon was not utilized as a receiver very often. He caught just 19 passes on 24 targets with two dropped passes, but was also able to find the end zone on three of the receptions. With 190 snaps in route, his 0.81 Yards Per Route Run ranked 28th out of 33 qualifying running backs in the draft class.

The Tape

One of the knocks on Gordon is that his success is largely due to Wisconsin’s offensive line. That is certainly a factor. There were times he had enormous holes to run through that he will rarely, if ever see at the next level. He ranked in the Top 10 in all of FBS with 4.0 yards gained before contact. That said, he still displays very good vision even when the point of attack isn’t quite as clear. He is aware of his surroundings and can get skinny through the hole when necessary.

CFF-profiles-inset-gordonOnce he finds a hole, he is decisive and immediately gets vertical. He is one of the quickest backs at and through the second level and this is where he truly excels. Gordon has excellent lateral agility and is able to fluidly change directions and does so without losing much speed. Getting yards during contact isn’t a big strength, but he is strong enough to be capable of breaking arm tackles and continue gaining yards when hit high. Although he is very quick, his top speed leaves a bit to be desired as he was caught from behind in the open field on a handful of occasions. The first play of the second half versus LSU is a good example of several of these qualities.

Gordon generally displays good patience, but there are times where he is quick to bounce runs, particularly on power scheme plays. Now, he is quick enough where many times he was able to get the edge and still turn it into a big gain, but that will work far less often against NFL teams. He can succeed running inside and works well with any blocking scheme, but I think a zone blocking scheme would best fit his strengths.

One concern about Gordon is his eight fumbles last season. It seems that most of his fumbles come when trying to finish off runs and that he is more lax in ball security the longer the run continues. He did touch the ball more than just about every other player, but ball security is still something he needs to shore up.

The other area that Gordon needs to improve is in pass protection and it doesn’t help that he wasn’t asked to pass block often. He stayed in to block on 27.5% of pass plays, the 12th-lowest rate among qualifying backs in this class. Gordon allowed one sack and five pressures for a Pass Blocking Efficiency of 93.4, tied for 41st out of 59 backs.

Gordon is supremely talented player who is easily one of the two top running backs in the draft class. While they are a bit different in their styles, I believe Gordon and Todd Gurley are a lot closer as prospects than most people. Gordon doesn’t come without his weaknesses, though. Like most rookie running backs, he will need to improve significantly in pass protection. Still, he is capable of carrying the load at a high level for a team right away as a rookie.


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| Analyst

Matt has been an analyst for PFF since 2013. He is also a contributor to 120 Sports and a former NCAA Division-III football player.

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