Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon is betting on himself again, and this time he’s hoping it turns out better than it did when he was the lead back for the Los Angeles Chargers.
The eight-year veteran famously held out the first four games of the 2019 season with the Chargers, demanding a contract extension. Instead, Austin Ekeler emerged as a legitimate rushing threat and Gordon ended up coming back humbled that his demands weren’t even considered. He left the Chargers at the end of the season to join division-rival Denver in 2020.
In his two seasons with the Broncos, Gordon rushed for 1,904 yards, caught 60 passes and scored 20 touchdowns – solid numbers for a player who has been in a timeshare – first with Phillip Lindsay and last year with rookie Javonte Williams. In 2021, both Gordon and Williams had 203 carries in the split backfield, but Gordon ran for 15 more yards (918) and scored three more touchdowns (10).
He was set to hit free agency in the offseason but agreed to an incentive-laden, one-year deal to return to an offense that is expected to be much more potent with new quarterback Russell Wilson coming to the team after two seasons with Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater at the helm of Denver’s offense.
While Wilson will add a winning pedigree missing in Denver’s pass game since Peyton Manning retired, the running game will still be a key to the Broncos offense. Even though the team is satisfied with the job Gordon has done, all signs point to Williams being the primary back in the offense and Gordon expected to take on a lesser role than the even split the two players had last season.
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Gordon has proved to be a solid player, but has never broken through to become an elite running back. Despite coming close several times, he has rushed for 1,000 yards only once in his career. However, he has averaged 4.6 yards a carry in two seasons with the Broncos and hasn’t shown signs of slowing down.
If both are healthy, Williams and Gordon will likely share the workload with the hot hand getting more playing time. Seeing as the Broncos are more invested in Williams for the future, Gordon may need Williams to be sidelined to be viewed as an every-week fantasy play.
Fantasy football outlook
Despite Gordon’s inability to reach the level of elite backs, you have to hand it to him for his ability to score touchdowns in close. In his last six seasons, he has tallied 67 touchdowns with season totals of 12-12-14-9-10-10, respectively. Even with his timeshare last season, he scored 10 touchdowns on just 231 touches.
Many will view him as a handcuff for Williams, who is sound RB2. The even timeshare should change somewhat this year but likely not enough to drop Gordon below an RB3 ranking. One can’t deny his ability to score touchdowns, and if he comes close to 10 TDs again, Gordon will have more value than just about anybody in the RB3 category.