Chargers should pick up RB Melvin Gordon’s fifth-year option

CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 31: Melvin Gordon
CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 31: Melvin Gordon /

Will the Chargers pick up Melvin Gordon’s fifth-year option?

Chargers running back Melvin Gordon is in the final year of his rookie deal. That is, of course, if the Chargers don’t pick up Gordon’s fifth-year option.

Will they? I believe they should.

The Chargers traded up two spots to take Gordon at No. 15 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. After a poor rookie year that was plagued by injuries, fumbling issues and zero touchdowns (yes, zero), Gordon has been one of the Chargers’ top offensive playmakers over the past two seasons. He’s rushed for 2,102 yards, including recording his first 1,000-yard rushing season in 2017. He’s been a threat in both the running game and passing game, totaling 24 touchdowns during that two-year span and finishing in the top 10 in yards from scrimmage both seasons. He’s only fumbled a total of three times, too.

Last year, he played a full, 16-game season for the first time in his career. He finished with the seventh-most rushing yards (1,105) and tied for the sixth-most rushing touchdowns (eight). He was effective in setting up the pass, rushing for 537 yards on first-and-10, the 12th-best number among running backs. He also accounted for 58 first downs, second-most on the team behind wide receiver Keenan Allen (excludes Philip Rivers). Another stat? Only Chiefs’ Kareem Hunt forced more missed tackles than Gordon, as noted by Pro Football Focus.

Gordon isn’t perfect. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry in both 2016 and 2017. His vision needs improving, he continues to hesitate on runs and he struggles to win those one-on-one matchups every now and then. He has the balance, power and speed you want in a running back, which allows him to pick up those tough yards, but he needs to work on the former three things if he wants to create longer runs. He was in the middle of the pack when it came to rushes of 20-plus yards (five) and only had one rush of 40-plus yards this past season.

However, he put up solid numbers behind an offensive line that can’t run block. That in itself makes him very valuable. The offensive line is getting better, but if general manager Tom Telesco makes a few more upgrades in the offseason and Gordon continues to play like he did at the end of the season, he could be in for a monster year in 2018.

Speaking of fifth-year options, the Chargers have exercised the fifth-year option on every first-round pick–CB Jason Verrett, OL D.J. Fluker, DE/LB Melvin Ingram and DL Corey Liuget–since the option came into play in 2014. Verrett will likely remain with the Chargers for at least one more year, Fluker was released just before his guaranteed one-year deal kicked in, Ingram played out his one-year option before getting tagged and signing a four-year, $64 million deal and Liuget was given a five-year, $51.25 million contract extension in June 2015 after he was initially set to play on the one-year option.

The deadline to exercise the fifth-year option on 2015 first-round picks is May 3.