Melvin Gordon rushed for 1,609 yards and led the nation with 7.8 yards per carry as a redshirt sophomore. The NFL Draft Advisory Board gave him a second-round grade.
So he returned to Wisconsin for a chance to go in the first round in 2015.
Now, after two years without one, the NFL Draft will feature not one but at least two running backs in the first round. Three running backs were selected in the first round in 2012 — Trent Richardson at No. 3; Doug Martin at No. 31 and David Wilson at No. 32 — with none going in the first round since.
“There’s a myriad of reasons, probably,” Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said. “The shelf life has been a concern, I think. You draft a player in the first round, you ideally probably want to get to a second contract. There just haven’t been a whole lot of those types of players that teams felt were worthy of that.”
But Licht, like everyone, sees talented prospects at the position this year. Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Gordon both project as mid-first-rounders.
“It’s a passing game,” Gordon said. “It’s hard to say if we’re a devalued position. Teams are just going with the picks they actually need. I don’t know the thoughts that’s going through their head. Maybe they didn’t feel the running backs the last couple of years were first-round talent, I don’t know. Le’Veon Bell and Gio [Bernard] were pretty good. I can’t answer that. We just have to change that this year and show people that we’re capable of going in the first round.”
Gordon finished as the Heisman runner-up and won the Doak Walker Award after rushing for 2,587 yards and 29 touchdowns last season. He finished 41 yards short of Barry Sanders’ single-season record of 2,628 yards set in 1988. (The NCAA didn’t count bowl stats until 2002, and Sanders rushed for 222 in Oklahoma State’s bowl game.)
“To even be mentioned in the same sentence as Barry Sanders is an honor,” Gordon said. “That’s a great person to be second to — a great player, phenomenal player. I was 40 yards away, and it sucked a little bit, but it is what it is. It’s standing there for someone else to break.”
Gordon finished his career with 631 carries for 4,915 yards and 45 touchdowns, which is why he, along with Gurley, will end the first-round running back drought this year.
Charean Williams, 817-390-7760