Melvin Gordon And The Mishandling of Wisconsin Running Backs In The NFL


As many of you know, and even for those who do not, I live in Michigan. It is home of the Detroit Lions and now a possible new home of Melvin Gordon.

Under no circumstances should the second part of the previous sentence ever be allowed to happen. Melvin Gordon


must not be drafted by the Lions this upcoming 2015 NFL Draft.

Joique Bell is already in Detroit. Isn’t that enough already Lions fans? Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

As a person who has resided in Michigan for more years than I would have liked, the news out here claims the Lions, who have pick No. 23, are a better destination for Gordon over teams with more urgent needs at running back.

Most outlets have the Lions choice down to two possible draftees, Gordon or Georgia’s Todd Gurley. While some have left the door more open to the whole array of backs that could be taken in the later rounds like the Cornhusker Ameer Abdullah. Also, a new mock draft has the Lions taking Gurley in the first round, which pleases me, but still has Gordon going to the Colts, sigh.

My main issue with Melvin Gordon to the Detroit Lions is the committee that already exists in Detroit of Joique Bell, Theo Riddick and George Winn, and that’s if Reggie Bush is on his way out the door.

So let’s assume Bush is gone. That leaves Bell and Riddick to be No. 1 and No. 2 with Winn likely inactive for many games or on the practice squad. Melvin Gordon in the mix would push Riddick back a spot, but all three will still get reps, just not feature reps — reps accustomed and ingrained into the muscle memory of every Wisconsin Badgers RB since 1993.

Why does this continue to happen? Why do most NFL teams still believe that drafting a key Wisconsin back and changing him is the best fit for the back and for the team? Montee Ball was a second round pick by the Broncos. The NCAA’s career touchdown leader (plus a season-high tie with Barry Sanders) was immediately put behind  Knowshon Moreno and had to fight for time with Ronnie Hillman and later C.J. Anderson.

James White, drafted by the New England Patriots last season, has a Super Bowl ring (yay) but ran for 38 yards in a sea of 5-6 different backs throughout the season.

Brian Calhoun, savior of Badgers bowl history until this past year and current track coach at Brookfield Central, was selected in 2006 … by the Detroit Lions. He had good moments, but with most Lions teams it didn’t end well. Jon Kitna was at the helm of a team with too many Williamses and the running game just wasn’t really needed past the first quarter.

Anthony Davis ran for over 4,600 yards as a Badger and was a seventh rounder for the Colts in 2005, who already had Edgerrin James and Dominic Rhodes (who should have been Super Bowl XLI MVP).

Michael Bennett was the last Badgers RB taken in the first round (2001, No. 27). He truly filled a need at the position after the departure of Robert Smith and led the Vikings in 2001 with 682 rushing yards. Bennett made the Pro Bowl in 2002 after 1,647 all-purpose yards and is probably the fastest athlete to ever don pads from Madison. He had a 10-year career in the NFL, more than most RBs will ever get.

Melvin Gordon lines up near the goal line against Nebraska where he ran for history. Will he run into history in 2015? Jim Oxley photo

Ron Dayne. Well, we could do a whole series on the pro life of Dayne, but let’s just admit that nobody ever wants to be in a thunder and lightning situation. Thunder got 770 yards but lightning always takes precedence (Barber had almost 2,500 all-purpose yards that year, however there were no storms in the Super Bowl).

Dayne was taken No. 11 overall to a team that already had a feature back. Somehow the Giants thought the NCAA D1 All-Time Leading rusher (still) would be a better spell back than the main dude.

Year in and year out I just don’t get how teams pass over running backs with great pedigrees from time at Wisconsin. P.J. Hill, with 3,942 yards and 42 TDs at UW, was an undrafted free agent. John Clay, a Doak Walker award finalist who scored on his very first touch in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was undrafted after 3,413 yards and 41 TDs in practically the same seasons as Hill,

This brings us back around to Melvin Gordon and the future of the Wisconsin feature back. For all our sake he must not be drafted by Detroit. We don’t know how good he’ll be when he’s not the main guy. We just haven’t seen it work the way we all thought it should work. We get glimpses like Bennett’s first two years or when Dayne went to Houston for an injured Ahman Green.

The last great main guy was Alan Ameche. Heisman winner and third overall pick in 1955 by the Baltimore Colts. Maybe that’s how high up Gordon needs to be picked to get some traction in the NFL.

Melvin Gordon stiff arms a Maryland defender. Jim Oxley photograph has Gordon fitting well with the Vikings, Chargers, Cardinals, Ravens and Cowboys.

Otherwise known as picks 11, 17, 24, 26 and 27.

Otherwise known as homes of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon, Ryan Mathews and Branden Oliver and Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown, Cardinals literally have 7 RBs on the roster, Justin Forsett and Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Lamas Taliaferro, oh and the reigning AP Offensive Player of the Year DeMarco Murray, who “cannot be replaced.”

The Los Angeles Oakland Raiders pick fourth overall. Time to cast off Darren McFadden and the aging Maurice Jones-Drew and have Melvin Gordon plant a big Wisconsin “W” on the jumbotron, something the Raider Nation hasn’t seen in a while.

Next: Jim Oxley's Gordon Mock Draft Roundup