1 V 1 RB Edition: Todd Gurley Vs Melvin Gordon
In this series I'm going to compare two similarly ranked and drafted running backs putting them up against each other, comparing them in a variety of categories such as 2016 stats, quality of offensive line, draft pedigree, age, combine results, measurables, teams time of possession, percentage of rushing attempts, snaps played, PFF grades, and depth chart competition. In an attempt to determine which of the two players will be the superior dynasty asset. In this edition I'm going to compare two very talented running backs drafted in the top 15 of the 2015 NFL draft, Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon. These two running backs had very similar starts to their careers, Gurley had an incredible rookie season after returning from a college ACL injury, then fell off significantly in his sophomore season for various reasons. Inversely Gordon had a disappointing rookie season, followed up by a much improved second year that had him on track to eclipse 1000 yards if not for a late season injury.
Neither of their 2016 stat lines jump off the page, but considering the offensive lines these two running backs had to endure it is a miracle they put up the stats they did. Gordon put up 997 yards on 278 carries for a 3.9 yards per carry average as well as 10 rushing touchdowns. Due to Danny Woodhead going down early in the season Gordon was used more in the passing game, where he looked very comfortable hauling in 41 passes for 419 yards and 2 touchdowns averaging 10.2 yards per reception. According to PFF Gordon's impressive sophomore season landed him 9th overall among running backs with an 83.1 grade. Gurley's grade was downright terrible at 50.7 which was 53rd among running backs. Gurley rushed for 885 yards on 278 carries for a 3.2 yard per carry average, adding 6 touchdowns. Thankfully for Gurley owners he was utilized in the passing game catching 43 passes for 327 yards for a 7.6 yards per reception average, unfortunately he didn't have any receiving touchdowns. I have them ranked very closely with Gordon as my 4th ranked running back and Gurley as my 5th. Advantage Gordon
A big part of running back success is tied to the quality of a teams offensive line, as we have seen time and time again a mid level running back with a top tier offensive line can have comparable stats with a much better running back with a questionable offensive line. Something these guys have both had to contend with their entire career is a below average offensive line and constantly being contacted in the backfield. Gurley had the slight edge in offensive line in 2016 ranking 27th overall compared to the Chargers at 31st. Both teams offensive lines are projected to be better in 2017, with the Rams projecting to have the 18th best offensive line and the Chargers the 21st. Unfortunately the Chargers second round pick Guard Forrest Lamp tore his ACL in training camp, so perhaps temper expectations when it comes to the Chargers O-line improving by leaps and bounds this season. Both teams ran the ball last season a similar amount with the Chargers running on 39.3% of plays averaging 30:21 time of possession. The Rams rushed on 39.1% of their offensive plays, possessing the ball for an average of 29:20 per game. Both teams should be improved from last year, resulting in more positive game scripts, allowing more rushing attempts for both players. Advantage Gurley
When it comes to age, measurables, combine results, and draft pedigree, it appears these two have a lot in common. Both running backs are just coming into the prime of their careers, at age 23 and 24, Gurley being the younger of the two by just over a year. Measurables for these running backs are quite similar as they are both listed at 6'1, with Gurley being about ten pounds heavier than Gordon at 225 lbs. Combine results can't be compared due to the fact Gurley was rehabbing his torn ACL at the time of the combine, that being said Gordon had himself an impressive combine. He ran a 4.52 40, put up a 126” broad jump, and an impressive 35'' vertical, which certainly helped his draft stock. In the 2015 NFL draft they were the first two running backs off the board with Gurley going 10th overall, and Gordon being selected just five picks later at 15th overall. They were the only running backs selected in the first round with the next running back not being selected until 36th overall when Jacksonville took TJ Yeldon. On a side note David Johnson wasn't taken until the 3rd round with the 86th overall pick, shame on you NFL scouting departments. Advantage: Gurley
Both players would have ended up with similar snaps played if not for Gordon's season ending injury in week 14, he finished the season with 658 snaps 60 of which were in pass protection. Gordon's PFF pass protection grade was excellent as he finished the season with a 75.7 grade. Gurley played a total of 748 snaps with 69 of them being pass protection, his pass protection grade was significantly lower than Gordon's at 60.1. As far as depth charts go both guys are the unquestioned workhorse backs for their teams. I was somewhat concerned that Gurley would lose some 3rd down work and targets when Lance Dunbar was brought in, but he is out indefinitely and similarly to Gordon's depth chart, there currently isn't another proven NFL running back on the roster to compete for carries or targets. Gurley only has Malcolm Brown, and Justin Davis to contend with for touches, with Gordon only having Branden Oliver, Kenneth Farrow, and Austin Ekeler as runningback competition. Advantage: Gordon
Due to the fact these two runningbacks were both selected in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft only five picks apart, they will forever be compared to one an other, until the conclusion of their careers. It is worth noting that last off season Gordon had the dreaded micro fracture surgery to repair his injured knee, he bounced back nicely from that but it's potentially a long term concern. Gurley as I mentioned earlier has also had previous knee issues tearing his ACL in his final season at Georgia. This one is really close for me, I adamantly disagree with anyone who thinks Gurley is the next Trent Richardson, I'm just not buying that crap, Gurley and Richardson are completely different players, and play the position drastically different. But with that being said I'm giving the slight edge in this comparison to Melvin Gordon. Winner: Melvin Gordon