I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.
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Melvin Gordon, RB , Wisconsin - 6'1, 215 - R.S. Junior
If you are the type of person to follow me on twitter - @sportssturm - then, you know that I have already said plenty about Melvin Gordon last fall. In fact, there were several times this year that I have tweeted something like this:
So, in the interest of full disclosure, I did enter this study having already watched him play pretty much every snap of 2014 and already being sold on the idea that he is the perfect system fit for the Dallas Cowboys at approximately the #27 pick in the 1st round. He played in an offense that wanted to run the ball first and foremost (like Dallas), employed a ton of zone blocking (like Dallas), ran so much 12 personnel (like Dallas), and needed a runner who understood what Bill Callahan teaches about planting that foot and being decisive and hitting the hole without hesitation. Honestly, the ties between the Wisconsin running game and what the Cowboys have evolved into recently are uncanny, and Callahan is the tie that binds them. The difference is that Wisconsin had horrendous QB play during his time in Madison and therefore he never was able to run against a light box or demonstrate his skills in pass protection or catching passes. And that is what he is going to have to answer for this spring in the run-up to the draft. For his study, I reviewed his games against LSU, Nebraska, Ohio State, and Auburn.
What I liked: The video I posted above is to show his greatest trait. On this play against LSU Gordon shows the turbo boost that is not human. He does this routinely and it is that home run ability where he can simply out-run your defenders that makes him a 1st round talent. He is not simply an outside runner, but with that threat, it stretches a defense to over-commit to those angles, which, of course, allow for wider lanes inside. He is a workhorse, but never loses his explosiveness and decisiveness. He finishes his runs with great conviction. He runs low and is able to take on players at his size and always get forward. He had 631 college carries with an absurd 7.8 yards per attempt which is the best combination of workload and production that we have seen in the college game in the last 20 years. To be able to accomplish that without the aid of a respectable passing game over his 3 years at Wisconsin should only add to his ledger.
What I did not like: The questions about Gordon are many due to his unique college career. First, he is smaller than Gurley, and therefore not as appealing - yet his dimensions are really similar to DeMarco Murray. Second, also like Murray, he fumbled in 2014 at a disconcerting rate. It wasn't a promise that it will always be an issue, but with the gigantic workload, one must ask if his ball security drops. Third, he has 22 receptions in college and that is a major issue at the NFL level. I think it is mitigated because he operated in an offense where that was not ever an option they explored, but it at least has to be asked if he can adapt. And Fourth, also because of his style of offense, is he able to pick up the blitz? In the games I studied, he was willing, but that may never be his specialty.
Summary: The question that everyone wants to know is whether he rates higher or lower than Todd Gurley. I would argue that due to the uncommon size and speed combo of Gurley, I would lean in that direction if all things were equal. But an ACL injury to Gurley is nothing to ignore, and that might push some teams to Gordon. I think that for a team like the Cowboys he fits like a hand in a glove because he is ready to plug and play and also has been running these plays for years. He is a home-run hitter who may not have all of the boxes checked on the checklist, but he is absolutely a top RB quality about him. There is no question that people are leery of Wisconsin running backs, but this guy should not be compared to Ron Dayne or Montee Ball. He is a legitimate stud and a clear 1st round talent.