Melvin Gordon has been dreaming so much about the NFL since he was a little kid that he admitted the thrill of hearing his name be called would outweigh the disappointment of not being a first-round selection.
The former Kenosha Bradford and University of Wisconsin star now gets the thrill of both, as the San Diego Chargers traded up to the 15th overall selection in the first round of Thursday’s NFL draft to take Gordon.
“You see guys like Walter Payton playing and you wonder how it would be if you were in their shoes,” said Gordon. “Now that I have the opportunity to do this in my own shoes, it’s a good feeling.”
The Chargers sent their 2015 first-round pick (No.17), their 2015 fourth-round pick and their 2016 fifth-round pick to nab UW’s unanimous All-American. The Chargers were desperate for a running back after they ranked 30th among 32 NFL teams last season in rushing yards (1,367) and yards per carry (3.4). No Charger s tailback had over 600 yards.
AnalysisHow much money did Melvin Gordon make for himself by coming back for his senior season? He finished with 2,587 yards (7.81 yards/carry), and 29 scores in 2014. Against Nebraska last fall he rushed for 408 yards! I certainly believe Gordon could very well be the first player taken at running back and in the first round. He possesses good size (6-1/215) and excellent balance and vision. Gordon has good speed and a terrific burst once a hole opens up. He has excellent short area quickness and agility and shows the uncanny ability to make defenders miss or plant and drive right by would be tacklers.
Dave-Te' Thomas Player Evaluation
Gordon is the 29th former UW player selected in the first round, dating back to 1937. It’s also the fourth straight year a UW running back has been taken in the NFL draft, and Gordon might be the best of the bunch.
Declaring for the draft after a junior season in which he won the Doak Walker Award, rushed for a Big Ten-record 2,587 yards (second most all time) and led the nation with a 184.8 rushing average, Gordon became only the third player in FBS history to rush for at least 2,000 yards and score 30 TDs in a season (Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders and UCF's Kevin Smith).
“As great of a player as Melvin is, he’s even a better person,” said Rob Havenstein, Gordon’s former right tackle. “He’s just an unbelievable player, an unbelievable person. Everything about him, to me, just screams have me on your team. Melvin is just that type of guy. The explosiveness, the knowledge, the athletics, everything you want in a football player Melvin has got.”
He also set the FBS record for career rushing average with 7.79 yards per carry, owns 22 career 100-yard games, including 19 of 140-plus yards and seven of 200-plus yards, and holds school rushing average records for a career (7.79 yards per carry), a season (7.81 ypc, 2013) and a game (19.5, vs. Bowling Green, 9/20/2014).
Gordon’s highlight performance came this past November when he rushed for 408 yards in three quarters against Nebraska, a FBS record that lasted all of one week.
“I want to prove to myself that I can play in this league,” said Gordon, who was the second tailback taken after Georgia’s Todd Gurley was selected 10th by the St. Louis Rams. “Obviously it’s a different league. Guys are bigger, faster, stronger, smarter, so I want to prove it to myself that I can make it. I don’t want to be a bust, a guy that’s just in and out. I want some longevity in this league. To stay you’ve got to work hard.”
At the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Gordon impressed scouts with a 4.52 40-yard dash, 2.66 20-yard dash, 19 bench reps at 225 pounds, 35 inch vertical jump, 10-6 broad jump and a time of 11.00 seconds in the 60-yard shuttle, the fastest in almost eight years.
“The whole purpose of the NFL combine, to me, is the interviews,” said Gordon. “I think that’s the biggest part, just letting teams know who you are as a person. That’s what I really wanted to get across. I knew I could do the on-the-field stuff. It speaks for itself. We were training months and months for that, so it was about having a team get to know who Melvin Gordon was. I think I left a good impression.”
After making a good impression, Gordon’s goal now is to change the perception of Wisconsin tailbacks having little success in the NFL. Players like John Clay, Ron Dayne, Anthony Davis and P.J. Hill enjoyed stellar careers in the Badgers’ backfield, only to hardly make a dent in the professional ranks. Since 1993, only Michael Bennett has rushed for 1,000 yards in an NFL season after rushing for 1,000 yards at Wisconsin.
“When we were in a group together, we said we have to step up and change that,” said Gordon. “We all have an opportunity to play in the NFL and we’re still young, all three of us, so we can change that perception that have about us. If we go out there and ball and do what we need to, they won’t be saying that, I promise you that.”