Now that the football season is officially over, it’s always fun to look ahead to next season and talk about all the fantasy headlines. Or talk about anything that gets the image of Peyton Manning pseudo-hugging and kissing Papa John out of my head. In this article, I’m hoping to do both but before I do, really Peyton? Anyway, I want to focus on one aspect of fantasy football – the comeback player of the year discussion. A guy who had a poor season for whatever reason and came back to kill it the following year, usually someone who you can steal in the mid-late rounds. Players can have poor seasons for a multitude of reasons – injury, coaching changes, becoming Eddie Lacy and eating another human or just not living up to expectations. My comeback player in 2016 falls into that last bucket and that’s Melvin Gordon. Yes, the same Melvin Gordon who couldn’t score a rushing touchdown from the one yard line if his life depended on it. Sure, there are better candidates like the aforementioned Eddie Lacy or Arian Foster but I’m going out on a limb and putting my faith in Gordon. Here’s why:
College Career and Health
There’s no science or numbers behind this. I just simply refuse to believe that a guy who rushed for over 4,000 yards during this last two years in college is going to roll over and die after his first year in the league. A part of why his rookie year never materialized may come down to health. It’s been reported that Gordon was hurt going into the preseason, which led to analysts and writers labeling him a “bust” after the Chargers traded him to draft him. After the Chargers were eliminated from playoff contention, they decided to shut down Gordon after 14 games and preserve him for the future.
Becoming a Pass Catcher
That’s right, Melvin Gordon the pass catcher. In his rookie year, he caught 33 balls in 14 games, which is 10 more than he caught during his ENTIRE college career. Mike McCoy and the Chargers love to throw the ball to their backs; look at Danny Woodhead this past year. He led all running backs with 81 receptions while only playing 51% of offensive snaps, according to sportingcharts.com. Woodhead isn’t going anywhere but there’s no reason to believe that if Gordon is healthy and more familiar with the playbook, he can’t catch 50-60 balls over the course of the year. The Chargers will focus on calling plays to get Gordon the ball in the open field.
Now there were few bright spots in Gordon’s rookie campaign but the silver lining is that he showed flashes of what he did in college and he’s the type of back who gets stronger as the game goes on. In fact, his best performances this year were against Denver, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Minnesota all of which ranked inside the top 15 rushing defenses at the time. It’s not much to hang your hat but that’s the beauty of predicting how the season will play out for a particular player. Draft Gordon in the middle rounds and enjoy the ride.
Prediction: 870 rushing yards, 53 receptions, 381 receiving yards, 6 TDs