Over the offseason, the Denver Broncos signed Melvin Gordon to a two-year, $16 million contract. He joins a backfield that already boasts Pro Bowl running back Phillip Lindsay. While most assume Gordon will take over as the lead running back, I fully expect him and Lindsay to form a dynamic one-two punch this season. Gordon may have gotten paid like a top-five back this summer but Lindsay isn’t going anywhere.
Lindsay’s stats in his first two years in the NFL
- 2018: 192 carries for 1,037 yards and nine touchdowns
- 2019: 224 carries for 1,011 yards and seven touchdowns
Dominant performances. Lindsay averaged 5.4 and 4.5 yards per rush attempt in his first two years, respectively. Despite an awful offensive line, Lindsay has shown the innate ability to find the open holes and burst through them. Lindsay has all the talent and intangibles of an RB1, so the question is: Why would the Broncos break the bank to bring in a veteran running back? Two words: catching and blocking.
Gordon has proved over the first five years of his career that he can be an elite pass-catcher and pass-blocker on top of being a solid runner. Gordon has averaged 50 receptions on 68 targets over the past three seasons, which includes a 2017 season where he caught 58 passes on 83 targets. Lindsay has had some success in the passing game (averaging 35 receptions on 47.5 targets in his first two seasons), but Gordon is the more experienced pass-catching back.
Gordon has also proven to be a brilliant pass blocker. Lindsay has struggled with pass protection during his brief NFL career, so the Broncos hope that Gordon can help Lindsay develop that part of his game. Gordon’s pass-catching and pass-blocking will be vital to the Denver Broncos’ success this season. His versatility and experience will give Drew Lock and the rest of the offense the leadership they need in the red zone and towards the end of close games.
Contrary to popular belief, Gordon is not taking over as the workhorse No. 1 back in Denver. Gordon will be the 1A to Lindsay’s 1B. According to Pat Shurmur, Gordon and Lindsay will ‘have specific roles‘ for the upcoming season and he even envisions them being on the field at the same time periodically. I believe Lindsay and Gordon will split touches early in games. Lindsay will get the bulk of the carries while Gordon gets the work in the passing game and the red zone. If the Broncos want to keep both runnings backs healthy and energized all season, they will need to split the load between these two.
Both Gordon and Lindsay have distinct styles of running, which will help keep defenses on their toes. The Broncos can run the same play for both running backs and defenses will have to look at the play differently based on who’s in the game. Both backs give the Broncos another variable on offense, which makes them both valuable pieces to Shurmur’s offensive scheme. The Broncos offense will succeed if they use both players successfully.
The Broncos are paying Gordon like a superstar, but they brought him in for his elite pass-blocking ability. With a suspect offensive line, the Broncos desperately needed a running back to help block for Lock so he can get the ball into his playmaker’s hands. Gordon’s experience as a blocker, runner, and pass-catcher should help this young Broncos offense when the game is on the line. Lindsay should dominate touches to start each game, but Gordon will finish most games. I envision a 55/45 split in favor of Gordon.
Fantasy Football Implications
Gordon projects to be a solid RB2 heading into the 2020 season. The potential targets and red zone work give him a high-floor each week. Lindsay projects to be a bankable FLEX play in most games and a low-end RB2 versus inferior opponents. Lindsay should receive the bulk of carries at the beginning of each game and is always a threat to break a 20-plus yard run. If one of these running backs have to miss a game for any reason, the other automatically becomes an RB1. If you draft Gordon early in your upcoming fantasy drafts, cover your bases and take Lindsay as both a high-end handcuff and FLEX play.
Gordon’s 2020 Projections
215 carries for 899 yards and eight touchdowns. 48 receptions for 324 yards and one touchdown.
Lindsay’s 2020 Projections
180 carries for 795 yards and four touchdowns. 35 receptions for 265 yards and one touchdown.
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