How Worried Are We About Melvin Gordon’s Knee?

Source: Melvin Gordon recovers from microfracture surgery | SanDiegoUnionTribune.com

The Chargers running back participated in on-field drills Monday. Afterward, he acknowledged he is not yet 100 percent, still working back from a January knee procedure. Sources said that Gordon underwent microfracture surgery and was given a recovery timetable of four to six months.That phrase, microfracture surgery, carries an ominous connotation.While some past cases warrant the association, a high concern level about Gordon’s short- and long-term recovery is not sensed here. He expects to practice without limitation well before the start of training camp in late July.

Even after I’d heard the news on Gordon’s surgery I still somehow pulled the trigger on a dynasty trade to get the second year running back. That’s not to say that I’m not worried, or that you shouldn’t be worried. I’m just offering a caveat so that you know that what follows is coming from someone who might be biased.

The biggest thing that made me pull the trigger on the trade1 is that Gordon is already running. If the news being reported sounded like “Gordon is hoping to get back” or “Gordon knows he can’t rush it” then I would probably be a lot more worried. I don’t know if that’s an accurate assessment of risk, but that was my assessment of the risk. I think there are a few reasons to be optimistic about Gordon.

First, Gordon is a former 15th overall pick so I don’t think the Chargers are going to just crumple him up and throw him in the trash. It’s worth noting that none of the other San Diego running backs were better running the ball last year, and the team didn’t draft a running back either. So Gordon probably doesn’t need to worry that some lower depth chart player is actually more efficient.

Second, while Gordon does give up passing game work to Danny Woodhead, Gordon himself got more passing game work last year than I would have expected. The rookie running back had 33 catches on 37 targets. He needs to eat into Woodhead’s passing game work to be a RB1 in fantasy, but Woodhead is going to be 31 this year. Woodhead’s yards/carry number also seems to be moving in the wrong direction. download (37)

It’s possible that Woodhead can continue to be such a great pass catcher that the Chargers have to have him on the field. But it’s also possible that he becomes such a liability running the ball that he negates any advantage he provides in the passing game.

Lastly, while this point did not factor into my thinking on the trade I made, it is worth noting that Ken Whisenhunt has returned as offensive coordinator of the Chargers. The last time he was their coordinator it revived the career of Ryan Matthews,2 who saw 285 carries to go along with 22 receptions. Danny Woodhead saw 88 targets that season, so the offense had room for both players.

Mostly my trade for Gordon was done with the idea that RB careers are seldom linear and the best time to buy RBs is when they’ve recently done poorly, while the best time to sell them is when they’ve recently done well. Another idea behind it is that draft position remains a significant variable when regressing year N+1 fantasy points for rookie running backs, so just buying under-performing first round picks can be a logical strategy. However, I should also note that the Sim Scores are not optimistic about Gordon’s 2016, so caution is warranted.

For further reading on Danny Woodhead see Ben Gretch’s piece here. Also, Charles Kleinheksel covered Gordon here.

  1. I gave up Matt Jones and the 41st overall pick in this year’s rookie draft  (back)
  2. he finished as RB17 that year in PPR leagues  (back)