Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin, RS So. (6’1’’, 207lbs)
Gordon’s numbers have been beyond impressive in limited carries over the past two seasons. Dating back to his true freshman year (in which he redshirted after three games), has carried the ball 135 times for 1,343 yards and 11 touchdowns, which averages out to 9.95 yards per carry.
He was part of a backfield with James White and Montee Ball last season, but with Ball now in the NFL, its Gordon’s time to carry the load. So far, he has responded nicely, leading the nation with 624 rushing yards through four games.
A physical runner with top-end speed, there is much to love about Gordon’s play. Gordon has excellent vision and burst through the hole and rarely goes down on first contact. He utilizes his blockers effectively and is a well-balanced runner.
In the open field, Gordon is extremely difficult to bring down one-on-one. He displays excellent cuts and makes defenders miss. I love the way he competes on every run and is consistently tough to tackle. He is a truly dynamic player who is special with the ball in his hands.
The primary concern with Gordon is that he struggles in pass protection, which is keeping him from being an every down back. Gordon has yet to catch a football this season and has only two career receptions. White, by comparison, has already caught 11 balls this season. Gordon must improve as a pass protector if he wants to prove he can stay on the field on third downs and show his ability as a receiver.
While Gordon is just a redshirt sophomore, I am willing to say he is the best draft-eligible running back in the 2014 NFL draft should he declare. I am skeptical of teams using first-round picks on running backs, but Gordon should be in the late first-round conversation.
Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin, Sr. (5’11’’, 246lbs)
Borland has made a ton of plays so far in his career at Wisconsin. He has 41 career starts and has accumulated 338 career tackles, 42.5 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, six fumble recoveries, three interceptions, 17 pass breakups and 13 forced fumbles. He is one forced fumble away from tying the Football Bowl Subdivision record for fumbles forced in a career.
Borland is a typical 3-4 thumper at inside linebacker. He is a downhill, physical player who functions well in small spaces and can excel when the play is in front of him.
He is best defending the run but has flashed the ability to stay on the field on passing downs. Wisconsin blitzes him inside and off the edges. He has shown the ability to beat blocks with quickness against guards and spin/rip moves against offensive tackles.
Borland can drop into pass coverage, but he is limited athletically and lacks sideline-to-sideline range. He does not consistently diagnose plays quick enough to overcome his limited range. Additionally, NFL teams will also be concerned about his lack of height.
Borland’s experience and prolific career will catch NFL scouts’ attention. He has an important Big 10 schedule ahead of him, however, to prove he has enough athleticism to be an NFL inside linebacker.