Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon?
That seems to be the question that it comes down to when rumors swirl about teams looking to draft a running back in the first round of the NFL Draft. So, for example, if the Cowboys were to have both of these players fall to them at No. 27 (which is very unlikely), which of the two should the team draft? Could the Cowboys consider simply passing on both and looking at another running back in the second or third round?
All of this is obviously based around the assumption that DeMarco Murray is no longer in Dallas, because if Murray re-signed, there would be no reason to select a running back early. That's still completely up in the air at this point, so we'll play the assumption game here, and give an argument for all three of the situations.
Reasons For And Against Drafting Gordon
For Drafting Him
Gordon is by far the best pure runner in the 2015 NFL Draft. I don't believe there's much of an argument about that. Interestingly, Bucky Brooks of NFL.com has Gordon as the second best back in the class. As Brooks points out, "Gordon is not only a home-run hitter with outstanding speed and quickness, but he is a dependable workhorse capable of shouldering a heavy workload as a feature back."
The argument for Gordon
Brooks hit the nail on the head with Gordon. He is an absolutely stellar runner, has speed, can shoulder the load and can be that feature back the Cowboys need. Gordon rushed for 1,609 yards with 12 touchdowns as a junior, but was beyond incredible in 2014, rushing for 2,587 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Gordon has carried the ball a combined 549 times over the last two seasons, with 343 of those rushes coming in 2014. He also averaged 7.8 and 7.5 yards per carry through his junior and senior seasons. The fact that the former Badger was able to keep up that type of YPC with that sort of workload is simply mind-blowing.
Against Drafting Him
Now, something that's commonly pointed out about Gordon is the fact that he didn't catch many passes in college. Actually, heading into his senior season he had caught a total of three passes. In 2014 those numbers improved as he caught 19 balls for 153 yards and three touchdowns. I actually believe his ability as a pass-catcher may be underrated, as he was asked to run the ball so many times last season that his role in the passing game wasn't a big one.
Gordon has the ability to catch passes, but not like other backs in this draft, including Gurley. With that said, will his 22 receptions in a total of 45 collegiate games hurt him when draft time rolls around? Some of the best running backs in the NFL are guys who can catch passes out of the backfield. Consider the following players and stats from 2014:
- Matt Forte- 102 receptions
Le'VeonBell- 83 receptions
- Andre Ellington- 46 receptions
- Justin Forsett- 44 receptions
- Eddie Lacy- 42 receptions
- Jamaal Charles- 40 receptions
- Arian Foster- 38 receptions
- Ahmad Bradshaw- 38 receptions
- Lamar Miller- 38 receptions
- Marshawn Lynch- 37 receptions
- C.J. Anderson- 34 receptions
- Rashad Jennings- 30 receptions
Reasons For And Against Drafting Gurley
For Drafting Him
Many believe that if Gurley had been able to stay healthy in 2014 that he would have been the top running back off the board, without much argument. I'm not 100% sold on that, but Gurley's numbers are impressive. He averaged 7.4 YPC in 2014, but only rushed 123 times for 911 yards and nine touchdowns. His best season was actually his freshman year, as he rushed for 1,385 yards with 17 touchdowns.
Gurley has shown the ability to not only take over a game on the ground, but also that he can produce in the passing game. He's caught 65 passes through three seasons at Georgia, with his best season coming in 2013 when he caught 37 balls for 441 yards and six touchdowns. Gurley's upside is simply scary.
While injuries have hurt Gurley, he also didn't deal with a workload anywhere near what Gordon did, which may at least come into consideration with scouts. Gurley has the every-down back potential, but he needs to remain healthy.
Consider this, Gurley rushed for 911 yards in 2014, and did it in just six games. He failed to top 131 yards just one single time in 2014, and he's likely the most dangerous running back in the draft.
Against Drafting Him
Those injuries are a key factor. In all honesty, that's really the main reason many would avoid Gurley. He's shown he can catch passes, can handle 20+ rushes per game and that he can simply dominate defenses. His on-field numbers are obviously going to make the argument for him, but let's also not forget that he may not be a full-go at the start of the 2015 season.
If Gurley struggles through the
Aside from the injuries, there aren't many things that point away from Gurley, and he makes a strong argument for the top running back in the draft. The question is, would it make more sense for Dallas to just hold off until the second or third round?
Reasons For Passing On Both, Drafting a RB Later
Take things names into consideration, Tevin Coleman, Duke Johnson, Jay Ajayi, Ameer Abdullah, T.J.
That is a whole lot of running back talent that the Cowboys could look at in the second or third rounds, and possibly even later in some situations. Now, if the Cowboys need a workhorse back due to Murray leaving town, then they'll need to address it earlier than later. Could one of those players above potentially be an instant-impact option for the Cowboys in the run game?
Consensus: Wait and target either Coleman, Johnson, Ajayi or Abdullah
It's going to be a tough call to pass on either Gordon or Gurley, assuming that both were available. Fortunately, that's very unlikely. The good news is that the Cowboys will have options in the second or third round. They may need to make a move in the second in order to land Coleman, but hopes should be that one of those names above remains available when the Cowboys draft.
The Cowboys have the best offensive line in the draft, but I believe it makes more sense to target some defensive help, specifically a pass rusher in round one. After that? Feel free to jump on the running back train and see if the team can find the future of the position.
The following are arguments for the Cowboys to consider each of those four names above:
Coleman: While the Hoosiers aren't considered a "football school" by a long shot, Coleman averaged over 7.3 YPC in both of his last two seasons. In 2014 he rushed for 2,036 yards with 15 touchdowns. Tack on the fact that he has 54 receptions through three years, and we see that he's capable of doing a bit of everything.
Johnson: In the same NFL.com article above by Bucky Brooks, he compares Johnson to LeSean McCoy. Those are some big words, but he has that potential. Johnson rushed 242 times in 2014, while catching 38 balls as well. In total, he had 2,073 all-purpose yards with 13 touchdowns. He's also rushed for at least 6.3 YPC in all three seasons with the Hurricanes.
Ajayi: Simply put, Ajayi was the man in 2014. He rushed 347 times and caught 50 passes, while posting 2,358 all-purpose yards. Ajayi also scored 32 total touchdowns last season, while scoring 19 the season before. I love his ability to do everything, but he truly was asked to handle the workload for Boise State, and he averaged just 5.3 YPC in 2014. Should we be concerned about that? I'm not.
Abdullah: I may have a slight man-crush on Abdullah, largely due to the fact that he's just incredibly consistent. He topped 1,100 yards in three straight seasons, and rushed 226 times or more in all three years. He improved in the touchdown category each season, and ended up with 36 total scores over his final three years with Nebraska. Lastly, Abdullah caught 72 passes over that same span and scored seven receiving touchdowns. Consistency is key, and this guy's got it.
My choice? After choosing to wait, I'd do everything in my power to land Coleman. If I can't get Coleman then the Cowboys should lean towards Ajayi or Abdullah, as both players have proven they can consistently handle a large workload and produce at a high level.
What's your thought on the potential draft dilemma the Cowboys may run into at running back?