Preseason Takeaway: Melvin Gordon leads running backs making noise

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Judging an NFL player from four touches gained over five snaps (including one play called back by a penalty) is the exact equivalent to literally judging a book by its cover. But man, the cover on the Melvin Gordon book went from ragged and ugly to eye-catching and shiny.

Gordon stunk last year. His offensive line stunk, he ran with little confidence or juice and eventually ended his season with an injury and no touchdowns. Then he underwent microfracture surgery on his knee in the offseason, which is always tricky. But in this sliver of action, Gordon flashed.

He ran more aggressively and was helped by a (finally) healthy offensive line. The aggression meshed with speed on his touchdown grab when he was left wide open by Titans linebacker Avery Williamson in the right flat and cruised toward pay dirt, trucking a Titans defender into the end zone as he scored. His night ended after that.

Melvin Gordon RB / San Diego Chargers (Preseason Week 1)
ATT: 3 YDS: 12 TD: 0 REC: 1 REC YDS: 44 REC TD: 1

Questions about how the Chargers would use Gordon may have been put to bed as well -- he started and handled every non-obvious passing down (Danny Woodhead took those). If we keep seeing that in the preseason then it should be assumed it'll continue into the regular season when the Chargers play at the Chiefs.

He looked good and he played in a role that could net him 15 touches per week. This is about as good a start you could hope for.

If you're the optimistic type, you could use some foresight to see Gordon as a potential 225-carry/250-touch back this season. There's still concern for injury, and there's no doubt the Chargers will throw plenty this season (costing Gordon some carries), but Gordon is someone Fantasy owners should start feeling better about drafting. If you're drafting soon, give him a look in Round 5.

If you're not the optimistic type then just keep an eye on Gordon over the next two weeks. If he continues to look like the guy we thought he was coming out of Wisconsin, then move him up in your own rankings accordingly.

Christine Michael RB / Seattle Seahawks (Preseason Week 1)
ATT: 7 YDS: 44 TD: 0
Michael looked solid as the lead running back for the Seahawks against the Chiefs. Over seven carries he flashed speed and power while averaging 6.3 yards per run. It might just be Michael cementing himself as the primary backup to Thomas Rawls, or it might be the start of Michael moving in on Rawls' workload. What if Rawls isn't quite at 100 percent for Week 1 and he ends up splitting time with Michael? The longer Rawls takes to round into shape, the more opportunity Michael will have. At this point, Michael is a must-draft with a late-round pick, especially if Rawls is on your roster.
Devonta Freeman RB / Atlanta Falcons (Preseason Week 1)
ATT: 5 YDS: 9 TD: 0
Matt Jones RB / Washington Redskins (Preseason Week 1)
ATT: 2 YDS: 1 TD: 0
Freeman and Jones combined for 10 rushing yards on seven carries in the Redskins-Falcons game. Both were hampered by disappointing play by their offensive lines. Jones' best run, a 12-yard burst off right tackle, was called back because the right tackle held a Falcons defender. Freeman had runs of 3, 5, 8, -3 and -4 yards before his night was over. He also had a 5-yard catch. Hopefully both of them see improved play from the hog mollies in front of them.
Jerick McKinnon RB / Minnesota Vikings (Preseason Week 1)
ATT: 5 YDS: 14 TD: 0 REC: 2 REC YDS: 10 REC TD: 0
With the Vikings keeping Adrian Peterson fresh for the season, McKinnon got the start at Cincinnati. His first carry, from the Vikings own two-yard line, went backwards. But on his second run McKinnon went left, got caught up behind one of his linemen in the end zone and simply went to his right and turned on his jets to gain 10 yards. Every other run he had was for 3 yards or less in large part because his line was dominated by Cincinnati's defense. Two takeaways: McKinnon's smarts and speed to get out of the end zone should be a reminder of what his potential is if/when he eventually becomes the lead back in Minnesota, and the Vikings have to improve their offensive line play if Peterson (or McKinnon) are going to cruise to big seasons.
DeAndre Washington RB / Oakland Raiders (Preseason Week 1)
ATT: 8 YDS: 43 TD: 0 REC: 1 REC YDS: 32 REC TD: 0
Washington had two big plays for 25-plus yards among his nine touches. He also worked kick and punt returns for the Raiders. He looks the part of a potential passing downs back for Oakland behind Latavius Murray.
Devontae Booker RB / Denver Broncos (Preseason Week 1)
ATT: 4 YDS: 11 TD: 0 REC: 1 REC YDS: 8 REC TD: 0
Booker was on the field for the Broncos before Ronnie Hillman, a sign he's got a leg up on the backup job behind C.J. Anderson, which is a pretty meaningful job knowing Anderson's nagging injury history and Gary Kubiak's penchant for changing his mind on who rushes for his teams.
Spencer Ware RB / Kansas City Chiefs (Preseason Week 1)
ATT: 5 YDS: 24 TD: 1
With a start, a good rushing average and a short-yardage touchdown against the Seahawks, there's no doubt Ware is the handcuff to Jamaal Charles.
Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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