Could Melvin Gordon Be The Next Trent Richardson?

Melvin Gordon was highly anticipated coming into the NFL. He is a record-setting college running back who runs a 4.52 40 yard dash and looks like this:

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If I were a defensive back, I know I would sure as hell be scared if I saw this freight train of a man running toward me at over 20 miles an hour. However, the same could be said and was said by former Steelers defensive back Ryan Clark about the currently jobless Trent Richardson. What's scary is that some of Clark's additional comments about Richardson evoke characteristics of Melvin Gordon, whose production this season has been mediocre at best.

Although calling either of these players the "worst running back of all time" is a bit extreme, saying neither has lived or will live up to the hype is not too far of a stretch. Like Richardson, Gordon played behind one of the top offensive lines in college football, essentially an "NFL offensive line" going up against college defensive lines. The wide open holes that Gordon's Wisconsin's offensive line created allowed him to be purely a one-cut runner. Unfortunately for Gordon, running the ball in the NFL takes a great deal more vision and patience than he has demonstrated in the past. Even in college, there were times Gordon missed an open gap.

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Here, he immediately sprints left despite the B-gap opening up. This lack of vision simply does not cut it in the NFL. Successful NFL running backs will hang in the backfield, set up blocks, and allow lanes to develop, as opposed to sprinting in a predetermined direction from the moment he is handed the ball. And, of course, a large man who has been picking up momentum over a distance of 10 yards will generate a large amount of force, a force that will blow straight through any defender. 

But in the NFL, runners will rarely see 10 yards of open field to accelerate, and instead will usually have about a yard to accelerate. The absence of the physicality that was expected of Gordon can be accredited to this reality of the NFL, where he is not able to accelerate over the large areas of open space he was accustomed to being given in college. And with that, I put to rest the ludicrous comparisons of Gordon's physicality to that of Marshawn Lynch. 

Coming into the draft, there was also a great deal of concern regarding Gordon's pass-catching ability, a skill Richardson lacked as well. Gordon quickly dismissed these concerns during his pro day where he showed his ability to catch the ball very well. Pass catching as well as pass blocking will be key for Gordon, considering his marginal abilities as a pure running back and his being on a pass-first Chargers offense. 

This potential versatility in other aspects of the game is what can separate him from Richardson. Considering his evident lack of productivity on the ground, it should be interesting to see if Gordon can improve on his measly 13 receptions so far this season to develop an added dimension to his game, which may be the difference maker in his effectiveness as an NFL player. 

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