1. Melvin Gordon, Running Back
Yes, the former University of Wisconsin tailback is not Rivers’ principal pass-catching option. However, the presence of one of the NFL’s top-10 running backs is just as valuable, if not more, for a 36-year old quarterback. Gordon’s abilities as both an above-average runner and consistent receiver cement him as the top offensive playmaker at Rivers’ disposal.
Gordon’s progression from borderline bust as a rookie to a lock for 1,500 total yards annually is admirable. The idea of him emerging as a top-flight NFL running back over the next year or two is not delusional, but rather a sensible possibility. After recording just 641 rushing yards and zero touchdowns as a rookie, the six-foot-one runner has been a shining star in the Chargers offense over the last two seasons.
The 2017 campaign was a breakout season of sorts for Gordon, as the Kenosha, WI. native racked up 1,105 rushing yards and eight touchdowns last year. But his receiving production was equally beneficial. Gordon hauled in 58 catches for 476 yards and four scores off 83 targets. Both his receptions and targets totals were second on the Chargers. The former Wisconsin Badger finished seventh in the league in rushing yards, while his 12 total touchdowns were tied for fourth in the NFL.
If he remained healthy for the entirety of 2016, then last year would have been his second straight 1,000-yard rushing season. Gordon’ sophomore campaign saw him notch 997 rushing yards in 13 games, while also snagging 41 catches for 419 receiving yards. A late season injury forced him to miss the year’s final three games, preventing him from breaking the 1,500 total yardage barrier.
Although his yardage totals are excellent, Gordon’s knack for crossing the goal line is where he sets himself apart as the Bolts’ premier playmaker. Last season was not his lone double-digit touchdown output, as he notched 10 rushing scores and a pair of receiving touchdowns in 2016. Gordon’s ground and total touchdowns were seventh in the NFL that season.
Not since LaDainian Tomlinson have the Chargers possessed a running back of Gordon’s versatility and scoring production. Not only is he a stout rusher, but the fourth-year veteran has materialized into a stable receiving option for Rivers. The six-foot-five quarterback performs best when he has a viable pass-catcher in the backfield, as it provides Rivers with a complimentary weapon for his exceptional short- and intermediate-range passing.
But the next playmaker in this assessment succeeds on all three levels of the gridiron.