Which RB best fits the Chargers -- Melvin Gordon or Todd Gurley?

SAN DIEGO --Scanning through the multitude of mock drafts, two names continue to pop up for the San Diego Chargers: running backs Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley.

Although Chargers general manager Tom Telesco and head coach Mike McCoy indicated they like the running back group currently on the roster, there’s little doubt San Diego needs a workhorse runner to replace Ryan Mathews.

So which one is the better fit -- Gordon or Gurley? We take a closer look here, evaluating them on five specific traits important to a productive running back in the NFL.


Gordon: He ran a 4.52-second, 40-yard time at the NFL scouting combine -- solid but not spectacular. However, his 4.07-second, 20-yard shuttle and 10-foot, 6-inch broad jump (among the leaders at his position) are better barometers of Gordon’s short-area quickness and burst. And that explosiveness is what allowed Gordon to repeatedly beat defenses to the edge at Wisconsin. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Gordon led all running backs in power conferences with 14 touchdowns and 23 rushes of 20 yard or more on runs outside of the tackles. That ability to get to the edge keeps defenses honest in the NFL, stretching the defense out and creating cutback lanes.

Gurley: The Georgia product did not run at the scouting combine because he’s still recovering from an ACL knee injury suffered last season. But at 6-foot-1 and 232 pounds, Gurley has impressive long speed with a personal-best 10.7-second time in the 100-meter run in high school. He repeatedly broke runs for long gains when reaching the second level of the defense at Georgia, and averaged 38.4 yards on kick returns for his career, including two returned for touchdowns.

Edge: I give Gordon a slight advantage here because of his ability to get up to top speed quickly, creating explosive plays on a more consistent basis. Although you have to take into account Gordon ran behind well-coached offensive lines at Wisconsin.


Gordon: Sometimes he bounces outside too much, but overall I like Gordon’s knack for finding creases in a defensive front, particularly his ability to make defenders miss in the hole. I also think Gordon has an advantage because Wisconsin’s run game is more similar to what San Diego likes to run, including inside zone, outside zone and the power game.

Gurley: A one-cut, downhill runner, Gurley does a nice job of reading the cutback lane, sticking his foot in the ground and accelerating past defenders at the second level. Gurley will sometimes get too impatient and get out in front of his blockers, but overall he does a nice job setting up his blocks and hitting the turbo button once he sees daylight.

Edge: Gordon has experience in zone and power schemes, playing in an offense at Wisconsin that is more similar to what the Chargers implement in their run game.


Gurley: He’s the most physical runner in this year’s draft class, and it’s not even close. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Gurley averaged 3.9 yards after contact per rush last season, the most by a running back from a power conference with at least 50 carries. Along with that physical running style, Gurley rarely puts the ball on the ground. In his 127 rushes and returns in 2014, Gurley never fumbled the ball according to ESPN Stats & Information. In fact, Gurley has only fumbled three times in his career.

Gordon: He will not remind you of Earl Campbell, but Gordon runs with good pad level and can shed tacklers. However, the Wisconsin product does put the ball on the ground. Gordon had 12 career fumbles at Wisconsin, including seven in 2014. Gordon’s 1.8 percent fumble percentage (fumbles/touches) last season ranked 18th among the top-25 running back prospects of 2015, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In comparison, Todd Gurley’s career fumble percentage is 0.5 percent.

Edge: Gurley is both physical and sure-handed, making him a good candidate to close out games in the NFL.


Gordon: He had just 22 career receptions at Wisconsin. However, Gordon caught the football fine at the scouting combine. I believe he can develop into a third-down back at the next level.

Gurley: With 65 receptions for 615 yards and six touchdowns at Georgia, Gurley certainly has more evidence of being effective in the passing game in the NFL. I particularly like his feel for finding open space in the screen game.

Edge: Both need work as pass protectors, but I like Gurley more here.


Gordon: He carried 631 times for 4,915 yards (7.79 yards per carry) and 45 touchdowns while at Wisconsin. Gordon did not miss a game in the last three seasons. Enough said.

Gurley: Gurley’s junior season ended early because of an ACL injury in Week 12 against Auburn. He also suffered an ankle injury during his sophomore year, causing him to miss three games. Running backs like Frank Gore and Willis McGahee have gone on to have successful NFL careers after experiencing major knee injuries in college. However, someone like Marcus Lattimore never returned to how they played in college.

Edge: Gordon has the advantage here because of his production and ability to stay healthy.


The Chargers really could not go wrong with either player. But I give the edge to Gordon. The Chargers had to deal Mathews’ injury issues, and could be heading down a similar path with Gurley. Gordon can step in and play right away, and will not be counted on to play on third down because of the presence of Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown. Gurley likely would take a year to fully recover from knee surgery, but could have more upside.