A mid-20th century philosopher and poet, Michael Philip Jagger once said, “you can’t always get what you want.” He then went on to opine that sometimes you get what you need. Unfortunately for Melvin Gordon, his 2019 hold out didn’t get him what he wanted (a big contract), nor did it get him what he needed (a destination where he could thrive). Melvin Gordon signed with the Denver Broncos on Friday, after playing out his 2019 season after his holdout failed to produce a fat offer. What does this mean for the Los Angeles Chargers, the Denver Broncos, and fantasy football in 2020?
Melvin Gordon’s Contract
According to early reports, Melvin Gordon signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Denver Broncos. He will get $13.5 million guaranteed.
Melvin Gordon on the Denver Broncos
I can’t quite make heads-or-tails of this move, especially given the players already on the roster. Phillip Lindsay is a good player, and this absolutely kneecaps his value. Royce Freeman will likely be seeking employment with another franchise when all is said and done. I don’t understand why the Broncos would do this from a value perspective unless Phillip Lindsay’s contract demands are exorbitant and Gordon’s are reasonable. Lindsay’s 2,485 total yards ranks third among 2018 running back class, behind only Saquon Barkley and Nick Chubb. Linsday was undrafted, and is a restricted free agent next year, meaning the Broncos could match any deal he got. This was really… unnecessary, and baffling. That’s putting it kindly. He now sits in the short-end of the platoon and will probably not-get-injured his way into ending around RB27 when all is said and done. He’s worth rostering, but I don’t like this.
There’s a give-and-take with trying to prognosticate Melvin Gordon in Denver. One, the offense is likely to take a step forward with Noah Fant and Courtland Sutton getting more experience under their belts. Drew Lock is the unknown in that equation, as he flashed competence but mostly inexperience as he started towards the end of the 2019 season. Two, he’s leaving a system he knows and understands, with teammates he trusts. He’ll leave the comfort of Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, and the like. The running back usage patterns are different in Denver, as well.
We’ve already seen Gordon operate with another running back over his stint with the Chargers, so we don’t really have to worry too much about Phillip Linsday. I’m more interested in sorting out his touches. The Broncos ran the ball 409 times last year, to the Chargers’ 366. If you give Lindsay 60% of those rush attempts, a starter’s load, that comes out to 15.33 carries per game with the Broncos. That’s very good, and a number that Gordon hasn’t reached in each of the last two seasons with the Chargers. The Broncos also don’t target running backs nearly as much as L.A. does, with 9.7 targets per game going to RBs in L.A. over the last two seasons, and 7.1 targets per game headed towards running backs in Denver.
All in all, I think Melvin Gordon ends up retaining a lot of his 2020 fantasy football value. He slots in towards the backend of the RB1 group, with a chance to jump up. A lot of that ranking bakes in uncertainty surrounding the potential downside of the Denver offense falling apart (which I don’t see happening).
The Los Angeles Chargers Without Melvin Gordon
I am not going to repeat all the same points I already made in my Austin Ekeler Fantasy Football Fallout piece. I never thought Melvin Gordon would be back with the Chargers at any point.
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(Header Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melvin_Gordon#/media/File:Melvin_Gordon.JPG, cropped under CC BY-SA 4.0)