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Melvin Gordon couldn’t be more wrong about value of RBs

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon either wants an extension from the team before the season or has demanded a trade.

The two-time Pro Bowler doubled down on that Saturday by indicating that he would like to remain a member of the Chargers. He also made it clear that it’s all about getting that Brinks truck.

Though, the criticism of Gordon is not about the fact that he wants a raise. He’s undervalued in the running back market.

Rather, it’s Gordon’s take about the overall value of running backs in today’s NFL. He seems to think that it’s the second-hardest position in the league outside of quarterback. Gordon also used Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game absence from the Dallas Cowboys back in 2017 as an example.

This could not possibly be more wrong. Gordon might want to play hard ball. But he’s going to have to take a different approach moving forward.

Whether running backs should be valued at a higher clip remains to be seen. But that’s not how NFL front offices view the position. Just look at the number of offensive players at each position earning $10-plus million this coming season.

  • Wide receivers: 22
  • Quarterbacks: 19
  • Offensive tackles: 18
  • Guards: 11
  • Centers: 4
  • Running backs: 3
  • Tight Ends: 1

This obviously does not fall in line with what Gordon says. Like every other entity in a capitalistic market, it’s about supply and demand in the NFL. The numbers mentioned above tell us a story of demand being low for running backs while the supply is there.

Gordon’s take that running backs are invaluable adds to this point even more. That has not been the case in the recent past. We have facts to back this up.

Pittsburgh Steelers: James Conner goes full Le’Veon Bell.

  • Bell’s decision to hold out throughout the 2018 campaign seemingly put Pittsburgh in a less-than-ideal situation.
  • After all, Bell had averaged north of 1,900 total yards and 10 touchdowns over the previous two seasons.
  • In his stead, second-year back James Conner went for 1,470 total yards and 10 touchdowns at a clip of 5.4 yards per touch.
  • Conner counted $754,000 against Pittsburgh’s cap last season. Bell is set to count nearly $9 million against the New York Jets’ cap in 2019 after signing a free-agent deal with the team.

San Francisco 49ers: Undrafted free agent shoulders the load.

  • San Francisco doled out a surprising four-year, $30 million deal to Jerick McKinnon back in March of 2018. Before he even played a regular-season game with the team, McKinnon suffered a torn ACL.
  • Not panicking to add a proven veteran, the 49ers relied on former undrafted free agent Matt Breida to do a bulk of the work.
  • Breida responded by putting up 1,075 total yards at a clip of 6.0 yards per touch. He also caught 87 percent of the passes thrown in his direction.
  • This came with the young running back spearheading a top-13 rushing attack while counting $556,000 against the cap.

Seattle Seahawks: Late-round pick outplays first-day selection.

  • Seattle shocked a lot of people during the 2018 NFL Draft by selecting former San Diego State star Rashaad Penny in the first round.
  • Running backs being selected on Day 1 of the draft has been an exception to the rule recently.
  • Penny responded by putting up just 419 rushing yards as a rookie. Meanwhile, former seventh-round pick Chris Carson gained north of 1,300 total yards en route to helping Seattle rank No. 1 in the NFL in rushing one season after it finished in the bottom 10.

We can continue to go up and down the line here. But it’s rather apparent that Gordon’s example of Ezekiel Elliott is far outpaced by more prevalent examples of running backs not having a great impact.

Sure we’d like to see players earn their value in contracts. We’d also like to see the market dynamic improve at running back.

But based on recent history and trends among NFL front offices, that’s not going to happen. It most definitely isn’t going to happen when looking at a back in Gordon who has gained 1,000-plus rushing yards just once in four seasons.