Why Danny Woodhead Is a Trap Player and Melvin Gordon a Must Own

Earlier this summer Justin Winn provided an excellent breakdown of his Projection Machine outlook for the San Diego Chargers fantasy positions. Danny Woodhead is projected for 77 receptions compared to only 29 for Melvin Gordon. Those numbers feel right, but do they properly represent the range of outcomes?

Let’s use the RotoViz Screener to get a sense of what we can expect in terms of RB receptions based on previous receptions.

RB Rec N1 Rec


Theo Riddick201199248055.28
Devonta Freeman206103237352.33
Danny Woodhead200329308151.94
Duke Johnson20777226246.88
Shane Vereen20356265944.02
Darren Sproles185130325540.12
Giovani Bernard20237244939.7
Charles Sims21469255138.87
Mark Ingram21528265038.17
Lamar Miller21897244736.45
Bilal Powell204126274736.17
Javorius Allen221125244534.78
James White204130234034.08
DeMarco Murray21571274433.99
Matt Forte21844304432.61
Darren McFadden2104284032.48
Dion Lewis193149253631.86
Latavius Murray223181244131.83
Dexter McCluster17036273131.55
Chris Thompson192154253531.36
T.J. Yeldon22636223631.12
James Starks218193294331.04
Melvin Gordon21515223330.74
C.J. Spiller1969283430.49
David Johnson22486243629.92
DeAngelo Williams21727324029.76
Kyle Juszczyk248130244029.35
LeSean McCoy19853273229.21
Doug Martin22331263328
Ameer Abdullah20554222526.92
Frank Gore21765323426.08
Ronnie Hillman20067242425.83
Justin Forsett198233303125.53
Adrian Peterson2177303025.35
De'Anthony Thomas174124221724.84
Todd Gurley22210212123.95
Jeremy Langford208106242223.56
Le'Veon Bell23048232423.55
Jerick McKinnon20996232123.47
Jonathan Grimes201329262623.35
Denard Robinson199135252123.15
Chris Ivory222329273023.06
Benny Cunningham212329252622.73
Tre Mason20775221822.67
Lance Dunbar191329252122.02
Jamaal Charles19973292121.95
Fred Jackson215329343221.68
C.J. Anderson224329242521.47
Eddie Lacy23061242020.77
Matt Jones23195221920.69
Rashad Jennings235250302920.67
Shaun Draughn225329282720.66
Ryan Mathews21812282020.6
Charcandrick West205329242020.56
Bishop Sankey20954231420.02
Marcel Reece240329303019.95
Damien Williams222329232119.91
Antonio Andrews225329242119.17
Isaiah Crowell224329221919.07
Andre Ellington199187261518.88
Brandon Bolden215329251918.59
Jeremy Hill23355231518.23
Joique Bell220329292217.94
Arian Foster224329292217.56
Travaris Cadet210329261717.52
Alfred Blue223181241517.51
Mike Davis19712622717.08
Joseph Randle204151241016.9
Jonathan Stewart23513281616.74
Marshawn Lynch21512291316.59
Khiry Robinson220329261716.55
Branden Oliver208329241316.41
Kenjon Barner19618226915.92
Carlos Hyde23057241115.85
Chris Polk222329261615.8
Karlos Williams230155221115.79
Akeem Hunt18532922615.7
Fozzy Whittaker202329261215.54
Matt Asiata234329281915.38
Terron Ward20332923915.15
Taiwan Jones19412527715.12
Josh Robinson19920523615.11
Rex Burkhead214190251015.09
Zac Stacy21616024915.09
Donald Brown2102728814.63
Jay Ajayi22114922714.52
Chris Johnson1912430614.5
Roy Helu21910527913.99
Dan Herron21519126913.98
Tevin Coleman2067322213.97
Thomas Rawls22032922913.95
Alfred Morris219173271013.87
Mike Gillislee20816425613.73
Tim Hightower226149291213.62
Ka'Deem Carey20711723313.54
DuJuan Harris20332927913.34
Mike Tolbert243329301813.05
Robert Turbin22210626713.04
Ahmad Bradshaw214250291012.69
Cameron Artis-Payne21217425512.69
Kerwynn Williams19523024212.59
Reggie Bush203230412.44
Patrick DiMarco240329261312.4
Jacquizz Rodgers19614525112.33
Isaiah Pead1975026012.16
Terrance West2259424412.11
Spencer Ware22819424611.94
Christine Michael2206225311.91
Bernard Pierce2188425311.89
Lorenzo Taliaferro22913824511.84
Trey Williams19032923011.46
Stevan Ridley2257326411.42
Juwan Thompson22532923611.36
Mike Burton24216823611.29
Jordan Todman19818325011.21
Marcus Murphy19823024011.2
Orleans Darkwa21032923311.16
Stepfan Taylor21414024111.08
Corey Grant20132924211.04
Jonas Gray22532925711
Malcolm Johnson23119523410.99
Kendall Hunter19911527010.88
Knile Davis2279624210.8
David Cobb22913822110.54
Jamize Olawale23832926910.39
Pierre Thomas21532931910.37
Kendall Gaskins23832925810.29
Andre Williams23011323110.24
Bruce Miller248211281010.22
Terrence Magee21332922110.22
Anthony Dixon2331732869.85
Zach Line2323292569.77
Zurlon Tipton2233292659.65
Toby Gerhart231512839.59
Fitzgerald Toussaint2003292509.58
Tyler Varga2223292219.35
Cierre Wood2133292419.32
Jalston Fowler2541082559.25
Malcolm Brown2243292219.15
Zach Zenner2233292428.9
John Crockett2173292308.83
Bryce Brown2232292408.78
Bobby Rainey2123292838.71
Anthony Sherman2421362748.69
Aaron Ripkowski2382062318.55
Marcus Thigpen1933292908.45
Tommy Bohanon2462152548.43
Antone Smith1903293008.29
Rod Smith2313292318.02
George Winn2183292507.83
Alonzo Harris2323292307.37
Glenn Winston2203292607.18
Darrel Young2453292867.15
LeGarrette Blount2413292967.09
Derrick Coleman2333292516.92
Steven Jackson236243216.46
Joey Iosefa2472312406.42
Jay Prosch2542112306.39
Will Johnson2423292725.69
Jerome Felton2481462915.45
John Kuhn2503293364.4
Jorvorskie Lane2583292823.68
Tyler Clutts2603293111.58

Woodhead is projected for 52 receptions, Gordon for 31.

Based on the Chargers offense from the last several seasons, this leaves quite a few RB receptions up for grabs. If those receptions go to Woodhead as they did in 2013 and 2015, that would again make him an easy pick. Of course, even that assumption may be somewhat faulty. Brian Malone reports that the Chargers will likely be better and pursue a more run-heavy game plan. That’s bad news for Woodhead, who led NFL RBs with 34 receptions while his team was trailing in the second half.

Woodhead is 31 years old and just finished a season with a career-high 80 receptions. Seventy-seven receptions puts him at his realistic ceiling. If Gordon is injured, Woodhead is going to be hard-pressed to benefit as a receiver, and he has minimal rushing value.

On the other hand, if Woodhead is injured – as he was in 2014 – Gordon would likely see his receiving numbers spike.

Melvin Gordon Is a Three-Down Back

Gordon was awful as a rookie and is now returning from microfracture surgery. Fortunately for Gordon fans, this has created an incredible opportunity. Specifically as a receiver, we’re probably looking at this wrong. Gordon has plus agility for his size with an 11.11 Agility Score. He also ran an 11.0 in the 60-yard shuttle, the fastest time from the last decade. Many RBs skip the drill, but his time is better than noted agility stars like Chris Rainey, Roy Helu, and Ameer Abdullah. We’ve long talked about the connection between agility and receptions, and so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Gordon caught 30 passes as a rookie.

Gordon caught 30 passes as a rookie when his teammate caught 80.

As quoted in the San Diego Tribune, new OC Ken Whisenhunt was very impressed by his performance as a receiver:

I think one of the things that really impressed me the most, which you don’t really get a sense for of him playing college football, is how good of a receiver he is coming out of the backfield. He made some really good plays in that area. When you have a quarterback like Philip (Rivers) who is so good about at being able to get the ball to the running backs — we’ve all seen the production that Danny (Woodhead) has had over the years, and some of the other backs — you think if you can get him rolling in the run game, then some of the other elements that he can add will really be good for the offense. 

When you consider that Gordon could eat into Woodhead’s receptions, but Woodhead isn’t a threat to cut into Gordon’s rushing attempts, you start to see that the prices here are set up very favorably for Gordon.

The Microfracture

I recently asked RotoViz contributor and orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Budoff, about the microfracture procedure. He noted that there are two important questions whose answers are currently unknown to the public:

1) Was it in the weight-bearing area of the knee?  2) How big was the lesion?

Depending on the answers to these questions the microfracture surgery could mean he’ll never be able to handle a large number of reps again, plus his career longevity is now questionable. Or it could mean not very much. The fact that he’s participating in team drills means that he’s 1) weight bearing, 2) allowed to run, cut, jump and pivot on it; all of those activities can lead to shearing of cartilage surfaces. I couldn’t imagine that his surgeon would allow this if the microfracture area was large and/or in a critical weight-bearing area. So I think that probably means it’s not a huge deal for him. Especially because San Diego didn’t draft any more RBs ‘just in case’. Assuming they knew about it, which I would assume they did.

This is how Chargers GM Tom Telesco described it to ESPN.

“Every knee injury is unique to the player. But I think with microfracture surgery there are two key elements to it — the size of the treatment area and the location of it — and both with Melvin were favorable.”

Any time a player has an off-season injury, you should factor that into your thinking, but we’ve easily reached the point where Gordon’s situation is asymmetrical in our favor. Based on Dr. Budoff’s explanation and how it fits with Telesco’s description, there’s a good chance the “microfracture” label is creating a unique buying opportunity.

Gordon’s ADP has gone from appetizing to mouthwatering to funnel cake a la mode

Gordon ADP


Currently ahead of Gordon:

RB is a position heavily predicated upon athleticism and opportunity, but it’s unlikely that skill plays no role. Gordon entered the NFL as one of the most productive college RBs ever. Do you know how many RBs in the last 15 years managed a college season within even 500 rushing yards and 10 TDs of Gordon’s 2014? Kevin Smith, Derrick Henry, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Matt Forte. That’s it. That’s the whole list. Change that to yards from scrimmage, and you can add Ajayi.

Right now you’re being provided one of the biggest discounts you’ll ever see on any player. Is it a guarantee that Gordon will help you win your league in 2016? Of course not. There are no guarantees, especially at the RB position. But you should always buy RBs when they’re down, especially a superstar talent who just proved his biggest pre-draft liability2 is probably a strength.

  1. but probably won’t  (back)
  2. For Gordon that would be receiving ability.  (back)

Shawn Siegele

Author of the original Zero RB article and 2013 NFFC Primetime Grand Champion. 11-time main event league winner. 2015, 2017, 2018 titles in MFL10 of Death.
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