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Five Melvin Gordon Replacements for Broncos in the Draft

Melvin Gordon is set to hit free agency but the Broncos will have plenty of options in the draft.

John Elway signed veteran running back Melvin Gordon to a two-year deal to bolster the Denver Broncos running game in his final free-agent period as GM. While Gordon did help the Broncos rushing attack, he was a detriment at times because of his fumbles which was a concern when he was signed. 

Nevertheless, the Broncos signed Gordon as a sixth-year veteran with 14 career fumbles and he added seven more during his two years in Denver. The issue wasn't just the number of fumbles but the timing of them. 

Gordon's giveaways seemed to come in the worst possible in-game moments with consistency. Despite that, he was a big piece of a Broncos offense that struggled overall. Gordon also made for a good pairing with rookie Javonte Williams. 

I'm not debating whether the Broncos should or shouldn't re-sign Gordon as it's been discussed ad nauseam. However, if the Broncos let him walk, they'll need to find some way of replacing what he brought to the offense. 

Mike Boone can provide the speed and burst, but Gordon was great out of the backfield as a receiver and he was a competent blocker. Boone didn't see a lot of action in Year 1 but could be in line for a more significant role. 

A lot will depend on the scheme the Broncos will be running next year, not just for Boone but for any potential replacements. There is a lot the Broncos have to look at in the coming months. 

What does the 2022 NFL draft offer up? I've identified five potential replacements to replace what would be lost if Gordon isn't retained. 

James Cook | Georgia 

Round: 2 or 3

Cook is the younger brother of Minnesota's running back Dalvin Cook, who was selected when Broncos GM George Paton was still with the Vikings front office. While Cook would work better in an outside/zone scheme, he has enough traits to be effective in any scheme and there is plenty of speed and explosion as he picked up over 1,000 yards from scrimmage for the Bulldogs this past season, with 11 total touchdowns. 

Denver could use that explosive piece to balance out the power that Williams brings to the offense. Williams/Cook would make a dynamic one-two punch but differently than the pairing with Gordon this past season. As the pre-draft process unfolds, it wouldn't be surprising to hear Cook's name mentioned as a riser. 

With his ability as a receiver out of the backfield and the explosion that Cook brings to the table, it would be yet another weapon for an offense loaded with weapons. The question will be whether Paton will spend another early draft pick on a running back the year after trading up to get Williams. 

It would be a move that would upset many fans but the potential pairing could end up being a nightmare for opposing defenses to try and defend against, especially if the Broncos get a legit quarterback. 

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Rachaad White | Arizona State

Round: 4 or 5

Looking at what Gordon brought to the offense, White is pretty similar. He is explosive but he isn't elite and does a good job of making plays with the ball in his hands. On top of that, White is very effective as a receiver out of the backfield and shows traits to be an effective blocker. The big difference is ball security, with White having four career fumbles. 

White isn't the most patient runner and will find himself running into the blocking instead of letting it develop, which got him into trouble often in college. However, White has great vision, and if he can become more patient, he would be more effective overall. White's durability is another plus. 

If the Broncos don't want to take a running back on the first two days of the draft, they could look at White early Day 3. He would be a natural counterpart to Williams because they have a complementary skill-set. 

While neither is that super explosive back that is a home-run threat every time they touch the ball, they balance each other out and could make for a legit duo at the position. 

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Sincere McCormick | UTSA

Round: 5 or 6

While McCormick seems to be flying under the radar, that will likely change during the draft process. He possesses some of the best vision of all the running backs in this class, and it is paired with a good feel for the run as it is developing which is where most of his chunk plays come from. 

Now, McCormick isn't the fastest or most explosive running back, but he can make defenders miss and even bounce off would-be tacklers to pick up more yards. Adding that with the power Williams brings could quickly tire out a defense, as Williams forced 63 missed tackles and McCormick forced 47, which would be tied seventh-highest in the NFL this past season. Denver would lack a home-run hitter, but wearing down defense is valuable. 

McCormick checks off ball security and receiving ability out of the backfield with what he brings as a runner. His pass protection shows plenty of fight, but he cannot hold up for more than a split-second, which was enough at times. 

Nevertheless, the pairing would be solid and would allow the Broncos to wear down the defense and open things up for Boone to be a threat later in the game. 

Zonovan Knight | North Carolina State

Round: 5 or 6

If Denver is looking more for a counter punch as a runner, the Knight makes sense as he is explosive and brings good power to his runs. However, he doesn't offer much on third downs with his pass protection being messy and his work as a receiver being inconsistent. Knight has a history of drops when working out of the backfield as a receiver. Although he registered none in 2021, he still has six on 59 career targets. 

What is impressive with Knight comes as a runner especially in tight spaces with many bodies around him. He has great footwork, and it helps him get by multiple would-be tacklers. Knight has good vision and is paired with exemplary patience, but is right on the mark with how patient he is. You don't see him wait too long to see the hole close up, but he hits it quickly and burst. 

Knight and Williams would be a solid duo, but probably the worst fit of the potential five here. There isn't enough from Knight on third down for it to be more than solid, especially with Williams having his issues as a receiver, though his blocking is excellent. They would be great in obvious running situations but can be slightly problematic when it comes to obvious passing downs. 

Pierre Strong, Jr | South Dakota State

Round: 6 or 7

If you want a home-run threat to balance out Williams, Strong should be up there. He isn't the quickest mover but he has those extra gears when he gets to the second and third level. Strong is one you want to see make a single cut and get going north/south almost right away, which is why a heavy zone scheme would be excellent for him.

Strong isn't one you want to keep in blocking, but he has shown the traits to be an effective receiver out of the backfield, though on a limited basis. Unfortunately, there isn't much versatility with Strong in scheme or role so he must be used as the counterpunch to the bell-cow back. Despite the lack of versatility, Strong's ball security has yet to be an issue, though the jump to the NFL could potentially change that. 

There is no doubt that Williams can hold up as the bell-cow, so pairing him with someone as explosive as Strong would be one heck of a combo punch. Williams has the power to wear down a defense on sustained series, and then you can turn to Strong to deliver the knock-out blow. Of all the pairings, this would be one of the more traditional power-to-speed combinations that were all the rage in the NFL not that long ago. 

Bottom Line

There are plenty of running back options in this class, but it will come down to what the Broncos do with Melvin Gordon and how they want to replace him. Denver could also bring him back or even look to free agency, though the draft is an excellent way to get younger and cheaper at the position. 

However, running back is likely down the priority list with everything else the Broncos need on their roster. 


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