Oddsmakers online and in Las Vegas have begun to take prop bets on whether Chargers running back Melvin Gordon will be on the sideline for Week 1. There may be real value in betting against it.
First, the backstory: Melvin Gordon wants to get paid. Plain and simple. The star back is entering the final year of his rookie deal and will be paid $5.6 million before becoming a free agent.
That $5.6 million isn't enough, as his agent made clear that Gordon wouldn't attend training camp until his client's compensation is more appropriately dealt with in a new contract. In other words, Gordon is setting up all the roadblocks of the 2019 LeVeon Bell holdout, and there's every reason to believe he may be willing to go the distance like Bell, too.
In fact, Gordon even addressed that possibility last year when Sports Illustrated followed him on a game day and then captured him discussing Bell's holdout over a meal with his father.
Last fall SI spent a game day with Melvin Gordon, and when asked by his dad, he shared his thoughts on Le'Veon Bell sitting out last season 👇 pic.twitter.com/YP6VYqp2mb— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) July 11, 2019
Talk about direct from the source. If there was any question about Gordon's philosophical approach to holding out, consider it answered.
At the same time, the stats are decidedly not in Gordon's favor. First, there's the numbers of the conventional variety:
"We're devalued" - Melvin Gordon on the state of RBs.— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) July 12, 2019
NFL's most expensive RBs
1. Gurley: replaced by CJ Anderson after injury
2. Johnson: missed 15 of last 32 games w injury
3. Freeman: missed 16 of last 32 games w injury
4. McCoy: avg'd 3.7 YPC last 2 years
...but go pay RBs
Then there's the Quality Stats analysis. While Gordon's performance in 2018 appeared to be the key factor in Los Angeles' No. 6 ranking in Offensive Rusher Rating, it wasn't the only factor. And the very player he respected for holding out — LeVeon Bell — may himself highlight precisely why the Chargers would be smart not to bend to his demands. That's because the Steelers rushing attack was better without Bell in 2018 than it was with him in 2017.
|SEASON||LEAD BACK||OFFENSIVE RUSHER RATING||ORR RANKING|
If you look deeper into the numbers, you'll find that the Steelers ran the ball for more yardage in 2017, but those gains came via far more carries (222 more yards on 92 more attempts, to be exact). While Conner and co. had more fumbles in 2018, they had more touchdowns, too.
The larger point remains: The Steelers let Bell sit out an entire season, replaced him with a career backup and that player went on to earn a berth in the Pro Bowl. As Warren Sharp noted above, that isn't a good look for running backs out to earn a big payday.
The combination of that statistical reality and Gordon's own insistence on a new deal could very well be enough to ensure he sits out at least some of the season. Given the +155 odds on Gordon missing Week 1 (at Bovada), compared with -220 that he makes the season opener, there's real value to be had if one believes in Gordon's personal commitment to getting the deal he feels he's owed.