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Melvin Gordon could thrive in fantasy with right team

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Leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft, each day NFL Fantasy will profile a prospect who could make a splash in fantasy next season. Today's subject is former Wisconsin running back and Heisman Trophy runner-up Melvin Gordon.

When it comes to running backs entering the 2015 NFL Draft, Todd Gurley has long been considered the best of the bunch, but amidst the talented crop of tier-two backs, Melvin Gordon's name is frequently mentioned as one of the next best. Gordon is likely to hear his name called on Day 2 of the draft as one of the first backs selected. But what can we expect from him from a fantasy perspective? Obviously, as with all running backs a lot of that will depend on where he lands in the NFL. But I went to his college tape to see what I could find out before he sets foot on an NFL practice field.

» Gordon's NFL.com draft profile

» Full "Prospect a Day" list

2015 NFL DRAFT

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Strengths


     » Quick feet and change of direction
     » Great burst into the second level
     » Solid vision at finding/exploiting running lanes
     » Fights for extra yardage well

When you watch Gordon from his time at Wisconsin, the first thing that pops off the screen is his quickness and burst into the open field. He had 40 runs of 15 or more yards in 2014, but that was also thanks in part to his massive offensive line opening up holes the size of a small house. Still, Gordon showed an ability to be shifty at the second level without sacrificing much speed -- a valuable asset.

Gordon won't be able to separate as easily from NFL defenders as he did in college, but he did show good vision in being able to identify and exploit running lanes behind his offensive line. If Gordon can get into the right system with good coaching, his skillset could translate well from a fantasy perspective, particularly as an early-down thumper.

Weaknesses


     » Tries to take runs outside too frequently
     » Stuffed on 19.2 percent of his carries
     » Lacks elite-level speed on breakaways
     » Needs to improve pass protection

One of the knocks against Gordon is that he too frequently will rely on his speed if a hole isn't there and bounce a run to the outside. That won't fly in the NFL, and while Gordon does have good vision he will need to learn to be more patient behind his line in order to become a fantasy football superstar. Gordon ran a 4.52 40-yard dash at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, good for fifth among running backs, but not exactly a blazing time. He likely won't be ripping off many breakaway runs at the NFL level, but good fantasy backs don't necessarily need to -- just look at Eddie Lacy.

Gordon looked natural as a pass-catcher during drills at the Combine, but he rarely got into the mix at Wisconsin. He'll likely need to improve his pass-protection skills if he wants to be a complete back at the NFL level, otherwise he'd likely come off the field on third downs as Ryan Mathews did early in his career.

Ideal NFL fantasy fits


     » Dallas Cowboys
     » San Diego Chargers

Ever since DeMarco Murray left Dallas for Philadelphia, pundits have been circling the Cowboys as a team likely to take a running back at the top of the NFL draft, and Gordon could thrive in Dallas. Going from his mammoth offensive line in college to one of the NFL's most dominant in Dallas would certainly ease his transition, and the 'Boys have pass-catching backs in Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle to spell Gordon while he gets acclimated on third downs. The passing game orchestrated by Tony Romo would also help Gordon not face constant loaded fronts. Ditto for San Diego, who needs a back like Gordon since Ryan Mathews also left for Philadelphia. Gordon could immediately slide into Mathews' old role of the early-down thumper, ceding third-down work to Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver.

Early fantasy draft projection

Gordon is probably the second-most recognizable name at his position coming into this draft, but that doesn't mean he should be the second rookie running back called in your fantasy draft. A lot will depend on where he lands, but as of right now he'll at least merit a mid- to late-round flier given his college production and physical tools.

-- Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar

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