Running back Melvin Gordon left the Chargers this offseason in free agency for the AFC West-rival Denver Broncos. Gordon has just a single 1,000-yard season in his career. Here are Gordon’s odds at Mybookie to lead the NFL in rushing yards in the 2020 regular season as well as his odds to win Offensive Player of the Year.
Gordon was a fabulous running back at Wisconsin and in November 2014 rushed for a Division I record 408 yards against Nebraska in just three quarters! However, that record was broken the next week by Samaje Perine of Oklahoma with his 427 yards. Gordon rushed for 2,587 yards that season, second-best in NCAA history behind Barry Sanders’ record of 2,628 yards set in 1988. While Sanders won the Heisman that year, Gordon finished second in 2014 to Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Gordon was the No. 15 overall pick in the 2015 draft by the Chargers. In 2016, Gordon earned his first Pro Bowl selection as he rushed for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns and caught 41 passes for 419 yards and two touchdowns. He had trouble staying healthy there, playing all 16 games just once, in 2017. That would be his best season rushing wise with 1,105 yards as well as eight TDs to go with 58 catches for 476 yards and four scores.
Last July, Gordon told the Chargers that if he did not receive a new contract, he would demand to be traded and skip training camp. Gordon continued his hold out into the regular season after the Chargers did not trade him and Ezekiel Elliott was made the NFL’s highest-paid running back. Gordon would thus be limited to 12 games and wasn’t quite the same. He finished with 612 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns to go along with 42 receptions for 296 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown.
The free-agent market wasn’t overly robust for Gordon, who got a two-year, $16 million contract to sign with Denver. Interesting that the Broncos signed him considering they have two pretty good young backs in Phillip Lindsay, a former Pro Bowler, and Royce Freeman.
“Obviously we had two good backs in Royce Freeman and [Phillip] Lindsay,” President of Football Operations/GM John Elway said of adding Gordon. “We know that [Lindsay] is a guy that’s had a great year for us. I know there’s people going, ‘Why do you need another horse?’ Well, when you have an opportunity for Melvin Gordon to come in here, we felt like it was an addition to the team. He’s a guy that obviously has had a lot of success in this league. He’s scored a lot of touchdowns and has caught the football a ton. So we feel like with him — with Melvin, as well as Phillip — that we’ve got a great one-two punch, and we’ll only get better in the backfield.”
MGIII is certainly the better passing-down running back from the group, although Lindsay (4.9 YPC) and Freeman (3.9) have had similar-to-better success over their careers on a per-rush basis compared to Gordon (4.0). The belief, though, is that Gordon will be the primary guy. Gordon said Denver “runs my style of football.”
“I think it’s a great system for backs to really be the guy and go out there,” Gordon said. “They run a lot of inside zone and that’s what I did a lot at Wisconsin. … It’s just going to really help me get back [to] what I do best. I’m an inside zone runner. When I came to the Chargers, I did a lot of stuff out of the gun. I struggled with it.”
Gordon said he hopes to make for an “electric” partnership with Lindsay and thinks they can make a strong 1-2 punch for Denver, but knows that only one of them can be the lead in that combination. In each of his first four seasons, Gordon led the Chargers in touches — usually by a large margin.
“There can only be, there’s a No. 1 guy and a No. 2 guy — it is what it is. I’m gonna go work and get mine,” Gordon said of Lindsay.
Denver is a 2-point home favorite for Week 1 on Monday night vs. Tennessee.