Today’s question: What type of impact will rookie running back Melvin Gordon have in his rookie season, and how the rest of the AFC West teams defend him?
Jeff Legwold, Denver Broncos: Gordon is certainly in a plug-and-play position when it comes to rookies. He also has a quality combination of big-play potential coupled with good vision in tight spaces. That projects to early production. Gordon is also a closer, or has been in college. He had 40 runs of at least 15 yards this past season and over the past two seasons combined, he averaged 7.6 yards per carry. In 2013, he was the only player in FBS with three runs of at least 70 yards. He’ll find less room to work in the NFL and if he’s too quick to bounce runs wide -- as he was at times at Wisconsin -- he will find even with his 4.54 speed, people will run him down before he gets his shoulders squared to cut up field. He’ll force more eight-man fronts against the Chargers and that should only help Philip Rivers get the ball down the field.
Adam Teicher, Kansas City Chiefs: The Chargers need a reliable running game to help quarterback Philip Rivers and they weren’t going to get one without drafting Gordon, so you have to like their effort in that regard. San Diego’s featured back in the two games against the Chiefs last season was Branden Oliver. He wound up presenting the Chiefs some problems, but they weren’t nearly as concerned about eliminating Oliver as they will have to be with Gordon. They certainly weren’t as concerned with Oliver as they were with Rivers. Not coincidentally, the Chiefs had two solid games in defending Rivers last year and beat the Chargers twice. It will be interesting to see how the Chiefs choose to defend the Chargers with Gordon in their backfield.
Bill Williamson, Oakland Raiders: I think Gordon will be a fine player. I’m not sure if he is going to be a top rookie, but he will give the Chargers a bigger spark in their running game. Their leading rusher was undrafted free agent Brandon Oliver. He had just 582 yards rushing. San Diego will get more than that from Gordon in 2015. He was a workhorse at Wisconsin and his game appears to adjust well to the NFL. As far as stopping him, Oakland may be in position to do it. The Raiders concentrated on getting better against the run in 2015. Oakland finished last season ranked 22nd against the run in the NFL. It allowed 119.4 yards rushing per game. The Raiders concentrated on the middle of the defense in free agency. They added defensive tackle Dan Williams, middle linebacker Curtis Lofton and safety Nate Allen in free agency in an attempt to get more stout against the run. So, the Chargers-Raiders matchups could be interesting.