Getting Caught from Behind
Gordon is very athletic, but he isn’t elite in that category. He doesn’t have the top end speed of a Jamaal Charles, and while he is certainly capable of breaking long runs, he fails to gain separation from his pursuers. This can lead to him being caught from behind, as you can see above. While it’s not a dealbreaker becuase of the multitude of other skills Gordon possesses, it is something to note. He’s a dynamic, explosive athlete, but he’s not a track star.
Stuffed Up the Middle
Another thing I think might hold Gordon back a little is that he does much better on the outside than when he’s asked to run inside. There were a number of plays where Gordon was just stuffed up the middle. In facted, he was stuffed for no gain or worse on almost 20% of his plays, or one in every five carries. Now, part of that is due to some poor blocking by the interior offensive line (it’s particularly evident in the USF and Ohio State games) and it’s difficult to tell from the broadcast angle who is really at fault for most of them (I would really like to see the end zone angle that they have in NFL Game Rewind for Gordon) but Gordon has to bear some of the responsibility for these runs. He he can’t develop into a more effective runner in between the tackles in the NFL, he’s going to become just a rotational back. However, with his tenacity and athletic ability, I have confidence that he will develop into that guy.
Gordon fumbled only once in his college career before 2014, and didn’t lose a single one. However, in 2014 he fumbled 7 times and lost 6 of them. Ball security is massively important in the NFL as turnovers are devasting. Hopefully he can correct this issue. Gordon doesn’t carry the ball recklessly like Demarco Murray does, so I’m not quite sure what his issue was last season. Hopefully he’ll be able to correct it.
Overall, despite my criticisms, I think Gordon will do very well for whoever drafts him. Some scouts have talked about Gordon actually being a strong pass catcher, so while I didn’t see it I’m not extremely concerned with his ability to adjust. He also has a number of runs up the gut where he does quite well, so while he isn’t a power back by any means I think he’ll be good enough running between the tackles in the NFL.
Where I really think Gordon will excel is when he gets to take runs to the edge. He has a great ability to choose when to cut it upfield, and he just explodes upfield when he decides to turn the corner. I love how he seems to almost never take a full on hit, most of the time he adjusts to just take a glancing blow, which enables him to break tackles. He also carried the workload of a feature back, and didn’t appear to slow down. For a team that’s looking for a RB towards the end of the first, like potentially the Cowboys, I think he could be an excellent fit.
Pro Comparison and Draft Projection
Pro Comparison: I struggle to come up with a comparison for Gordon in the NFL. Many people have said Jamaal Charles, and I can see that, but it’s far from a perfect comparison. First of all, Charles’ straight line speed, which is really what sets him apart in the NFL, isn’t there in Gordon. Gordon is fast, but not close to Charles. I also think that Gordon is more powerful than Charles is, so it’s a tradeoff. Both players are excellent open field runners though, and they have similar form when running the ball, so the comparison has some validity.
Draft Projection: Late first/early second.