Fantasy Football Implications: Potential Melvin Gordon Trade
According to the one and only Adam Schefter from ESPN, the Los Angeles Chargers’ Melvin Gordon has asked for a new contract or to be traded before the start of the season. Similar to Le’Veon Bell, his holdout would not really impact the teams’ wins or losses. It appears that a Melvin Gordon trade is actually possible with a few teams that think they need a new running back. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the first team whose name would jump off a list of NFL teams to trade for a running back. No doubt, a Melvin Gordon trade to Tampa Bay would make them a more interesting fantasy team but I am more interested in what would happen in fantasy football to the Los Angeles Chargers if Gordon were to leave.
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In games that Melvin Gordon has not played, Austin Ekeler has excelled in the Chargers backfield. While the sample isn’t tremendous, we can safely assume that if Gordon were to leave town, Ekeler would have one of the largest receiving backfield shares of any player in the NFL.
None of this is brain surgery but it is helpful to see just how much more work Ekeler gets when Melvin Gordon doesn’t play. More Targets, more carries, more touchdown opportunities. However, what we saw in 2018 with Melvin Gordon injured was the emergence of Northwestern’s very own Justin Jackson. In the event of a Melvin Gordon trade, we would expect Justin Jackson to likely receive more total touches than Ekeler. Ekeler had neck, groin and concussion injuries last season and he is sort of a smaller, satellite style running back. Ekeler is a clear winner and will likely be a top 30 fantasy running back, Justin Jackson has similar ranges of outcomes to Melvin Gordon himself.
As you can see, Justin Jackson is workhorse. With a Melvin Gordon trade, the team already has his successor on the roster. Austin Ekeler won’t have to switch roles at all (handling probably 35% of the total backfield work instead of 25%) and Jackson can take over as the lead back. Jackson had 1,000+ yards rushing every year at Northwestern, 20+ receptions every year, 122 total receptions and 42 touchdowns for a team that was straight up not good. He isn’t the best athlete that the league has ever seen but he is right around league average or better where it matters. The following image from PlayerProfiler sums up how well-rounded of a prospect Jackson is.
Effectively, the Los Angeles Chargers should probably want to trade Melvin Gordon. They have a receiving back in Austin Ekeler who has averaged 5.3 yards per carry over two NFL seasons while handling 6.8 yards per touch overall. They also have Justin Jackson who filled in both the lead back role (with Melvin Gordon and Ekeler out) and the pass-catching role (week 15 against Baltimore when just Ekeler was out) in 2018 and did fine with those touches.
Fantasy Football Implications Of A Melvin Gordon Trade
The implications of this trade are likely going to be fairly simple, pending where Gordon gets traded too.
-If Melvin Gordon is traded to Tampa Bay, he can loosely be penciled into the same sort of workload that he has received throughout his career in Los Angeles. Around 65% of the total backfield work and heavy usage at the goal line.
-Justin Jackson is going to become one of the hottest commodities in both seasonal and dynasty fantasy football. He has a workhorse-back profile, played well in 2018 and is more suited to handling 15+ touches per game than Austin Ekeler. Our projection for Jackson would like be around 45% of the Chargers’ carries, 12% of the teams’ targets and he would rank well amongst the RB2 candidates. My conservative projection would have him similar to a player like Marlon Mack in fantasy points.
-Austin Ekeler goes from being an elite handcuff/satellite back draft pick to a player who can project on a weekly basis for 6+ targets and 7+ carries per game. We can also rationally assume that he will have a role at the goal line as well since 10 of Melvin Gordon’s 36 touchdowns came via the air. Instead of being picked after the top 100 fantasy players, Ekeler would fall into the round 6-9 range where Tarik Cohen, Royce Freeman, and Ronald Jones find themselves being selected and he would be an optimal choice there.