Kiper tabs RB Melvin Gordon for Chargers

SAN DIEGO – In this ESPN Insider piece, draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. gives the San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon at No. 17 overall in his latest mock draft.

In in his first mock draft, Kiper had the Chargers selecting University of Oregon defensive lineman Arik Armstead.

Gordon makes sense for the Chargers for a couple of reasons. First, workhorse running back Ryan Mathews has struggled to stay healthy, and will become an unrestricted free agent in March. Without Mathews and third-down back Danny Woodhead available, the Chargers could not consistently run the football last season.

Having a healthy, every-down running back would take pressure off Philip Rivers, who suffered rib and back injuries while throwing the football 57 percent of the time in 2014. The Chargers need balance on offense, and adding a playmaker like Gordon to a group of running backs that include Woodhead, Branden Oliver and Donald Brown would give San Diego one of the better running back groups in the NFL.

As Kiper notes, there hasn’t been a running back taken in the first round since 2012. And the recent production of those running backs has not been great.

But this year’s running back class is considered the best group in years. And by taking a running back in the first round, the Chargers could essentially keep Gordon on the roster for five years, giving the team the opportunity to sign the University of Wisconsin product to a fifth-year option on his rookie deal.

Gordon proved durable during his college career and is a home-run threat who would add explosiveness to San Diego’s offense.