Melvin Gordon Set for Shurmur's Workhorse Role with Broncos - Roto Street Journal
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Melvin Gordon Set for Shurmur’s Workhorse Role with Broncos

Of all the possible landing spots for Melvin Gordon, the Broncos were among the least attractive, especially for fantasy football.

Denver ranked 28th in scoring last season (17.6 points per game), the line is middle-of-the-pack, and they already have a Pro Bowl, back-to-back 1,000 yard rusher in Phillip Lindsay. 

At first glance, the immediate reaction is… ew.

But look a littler longer, and the Gordon-to-Broncos deal isn’t completely hopeless. In fact, there’s some sneaky, sexy upside here.

For one, new Broncos OC Pat Shurmur is the consummate “bellcow breeder.”

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In 11 years as HC or OC, Shurmur has at least attempted to ride singular workhorse in eight seasons. One of the misses saw Adrian Peterson suspended without a backup plan, another was largely Chip Kelly‘s play-calling, and the last was on a Browns team spearheaded by (lol) Peyton Hillis. 

In fact, entering the Giants role, Shurmur ranked second among active play callers in creating “weighted opportunity” for RBs, via PFF. Before riding Saquon Barkley for 352 touches, Shurmur’s lead-RBs averaged 308.7 carries per season (83.9% of team’s share)and 61.3 targets. Those lofty numbers only improved after his work with Barkley.

Consequently, Shurmur has coached seven RBs with 50+ catches, the majority of who also saw 300+ carries. He openly admits his preference for a do-it-all back:

 “I think it’s important for a runner to be able to catch. There are three elements to playing running back. Number one, when you hand it to them, they have to have good vision, balance, body control, collision balance and they have to be able to run with the ball and score. You certainly need to be able to pass protect to protect the quarterback. If you can’t catch the ball out of the backfield or you can’t have an impact in some way … then it’s hard to be a full runner.”

Based on Gordon’s loaded contract, with an APY of $8 million (6th most in the NFL among RBs), the Broncos are clearly envisioning this type of load for their new. stallion. It’s easily the most money GM John Elway has ever paid to a running back and speaks volumes on his opinion of Gordon, who he’s faced off with plenty as former divisional rivals. Beat Mike Klis, essentially Elway’s mouthpiece, already said as much:

Although we love Lindsay, Gordon is still far more equipped for an every-down role.

He is a slippery, tackle-breaking beast even in congested situations; he earned PFF’s only 80+ grade when rushing against 8+ men in the box with a 23.4% missed tackle rate. Plus, he’s a monster at the stripe and an excellent pass-catcher and protector, racking up 12+ TDs and 400+ receiving yards in three straight seasons prior to his holdout 2019.

Even in a blemished and shortened 2019, Gordon still hauled in 41 receptions and scored 9 total TDs. Contrastingly, Lindsay has just 35 catches in back-to-back years.

Overall, Gordon has 47 touchdowns (36 rushing, 11 receiving) since 2014, and is among just four players with 4,000 rushing yards and 200 receptions in that span (Gordon, Mark Ingram, Todd Gurley and LeSean McCoy.) Before last year, Gordon had finished as the RB7, RB5, and RB8 in fantasy, while ranking second in touches and third in YFS and TDs.

Gordon should slide in admirably to Shurmur’s “bell cow” role. Lindsay won’t just disappear — he may even be better as a pure runner. Still, he falls to a change-of-pace role at best.

As mentioned, the line isn’t anything special. Still, they ranked No.12 in PFF rankings, benefitting greatly from Mike Munchak’s coaching. This was with 2018 Free Agent prize RT Ja’Wuan Jame sitting out all but three games. Since then, they also added 2019’s top available Free Agent interior lineman in Graham Glasgow to a monster $44 million deal. At minimum, this should be a stark upgrade over the Chargers linemen, who have routinely ranked in the bottom 25 for all of Gordon’s seasons in Los Angeles.

Ideally, Drew Lock is the real deal at QB and can spark this offense. He went 4-1 as a starter, and lead the Broncos offense to their two highest-scoring weeks of the season. Still, after being held under 16 points on nine different occasions, we’d love to see some aerial weaponry join burgeoning stud WR Courtland Sutton and potential stud TE Noah Fant.

Still, if Lock is as real as he looks… if the line’s two highest-paid players perform to their salary… if Gordon continues Shurmur’s workhorse trend… we’re going to be looking at a Top-7 RB. That’s a lot of ifs to be answered, and Gordon ranks among my “Upside RB2s” at RB18 as a result. He also has a deep injury history, with only one fully healthy season on his five-year resume.

Still, while not as ideal of a new home as, say, the Bucs or Chiefs, Denver isn’t quite as atrocious as your gut reaction may suggest.

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  • Founder of Roto Street Journal. Lover of workhorse backs, target hog wideouts, and Game of Thrones. Aspiring to be the "Brady" and "Leo" of the fantasy universe.

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