ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon informed the team that unless he receives a new contract, he would not report to training camp and will demand a trade.
It wouldn’t be the first time a running back forced his way out of a team over contract negotiations, and Gordon’s absence would leave the top rushing spot in the AFC West up for grabs. So who would be the best running back in the AFC West if Gordon were traded?
Could it possibly be Chiefs running back Damien Williams?
The obvious choice would be Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay. If you remove Gordon from the equation, Lindsay led the AFC West in rushing yards (1,037), rushing touchdowns (9) and yards per attempt (5.4) last season. He was one of two AFC West running backs to be invited to the Pro Bowl (the other being Gordon), and made a case to win rookie of the year.
But what about Austin Ekeler, the Chargers’ backup running back? He averaged 5.2 yards a carry last season, and on 145 touches, he managed to produce over 900 total scrimmage yards. It stands to reason that Ekeler’s load will increase in Gordon’s absence, giving him a chance to boost his numbers from last season.
Both Ekeler and Lindsay may have the rushing category on lock in the division, but Williams’ ability to make plays no matter how he gets the ball in his hands gives him a chance to claim the top running back spot.
While Lindsay may have Williams beat in all the rushing categories, the Chiefs’ now-starting running back is the better dual threat. Williams averages more yards per reception, caught more touchdown passes and only dropped one pass compared to Lindsay’s 12, all while receiving less than half the total touches Lindsay was getting.
Ekeler definitely has a case to be the better all-around back than Williams if you strictly look at yards gained. But if you take into account that No. 26 for the Chiefs only received nearly half the total touches that Ekeler got and still obtained the same amount of total touchdowns (6), you see where Williams has leg room to pass Ekeler up next season.
Above all though, Williams has the one thing teams likely value most when they have Super Bowl aspirations: playoff experience.
Even if you include Gordon on the list, Williams led all AFC West backs in rushing yards, yards per attempt, yards per reception, total receiving yards, reception touchdowns, total yards and total touchdowns in the playoffs. In every category Williams could lead in, he was at the top during the playoffs in the division. And while Ekeler and Gordon were his only competition, he beat both of them by a wide margin in the same amount of games.
There is always that possibility that any or all of these running backs might regress in 2019, and there is never certainty when it comes to potential injury in the NFL.
Raiders first-round pick Josh Jacobs wasn’t even discussed, and it might turn out he could have a breakout season like Lindsay did in 2018. It surely wouldn’t be the first or the last time that’s happened in the AFC West.
The point is that the door would be wide open for any of these players to walk through if Gordon decides he doesn’t want to be in LA anymore, and Chiefs fans are rooting for Damien Williams to come out of the other side.
Be honest. Taking away Melvin Gordon, who is the best running back in the AFC West?
This poll is closed
Damien Williams (KC)
Austin Ekeler (LA)
Phillip Lindsay (DEN)
Josh Jacobs (OAK)