Melvin Gordon didn’t have a great first season with the Denver Broncos (986 rushing yards, 158 receiving yards, 10 total touchdowns). But he did finish as RB13 in standard fantasy scoring last year, and RB14 in full PPR. From Week 11-17, admittedly when the schedule softened, Gordon was RB9 in both standard and full PPR.
With Phillip Lindsay’s departure in free agency, Gordon’s 2021 fantasy outlook was somewhat looking up. Then..
The Broncos not only drafted running back Javonte Williams in the second round, they traded up to do it. Some draft analysts, and some teams, had Williams as their No. 1 back in this year’s class. As a junior at North Carolina in 2020, Williams (5-foot-10, 212 pounds) had 1,140 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns while splitting work with fellow Tar Heel draftee Michael Carter. Carter took a lot of the passing game work, but Williams averaged 12.2 yards per catch himself last year.
By drafting Williams, the Broncos are planning for when Gordon is likely gone in 2022. But don’t look out that far. Williams is a legit threat to Gordon’s workload right away.
Where Gordon will surely retain a prominent role for the Broncos is around the goal line. He has rushed for at least eight touchdowns in five straight seasons, as the product of opportunity and good conversion rates going back to his time with the Chargers. In fantasy terms, a clear goal line back always has a hint of value.
Gordon is coming in as a fifth-round pick and RB25 in 12-team PPR mocks right now, via Fantasy Football Calculator (RB24-standard scoring). Just before the draft, Fantasy Pros had him ranked as RB22 in standard and full PPR. Now, he’s RB23 and RB25 respectively in that site’s rankings.
Though he’s been productive sharing time during his career, Gordon’s fantasy ceiling has never felt like it’s that high and he has needed touchdowns to get there. Losing overall carry volume to Williams will lower his floor now, with Mike Boone and Royce Freeman to siphon off a carry or two a game too.
Gordon will need 8-10 touchdowns to return peak value for his fantasy managers in 2021. But that peak is probably mid-RB2 range, not top 12-15 or even more optimistically top-10. As he starts to stretch toward RB3 ADP territory, that may make him a solid value in 12-team drafts with some lean toward best-ball appeal.
Gordon has been a “you know what you’ll get” fantasy running back for most of his career. That’s still pretty much the case this year, after an adjustment in expectations post-draft. The range of outcomes has widened on the low end for Gordon. So much so, he may wind up becoming a touchdown-or-bust flex option in 12-team leagues.