With the 2014-15 season now in Wisconsin football's rearview mirror, Melvin Gordon is all but officially headed to the NFL. He's been forecast as the top running back for this draft class, especially given Todd Gurley's torn left ACL and Gordon's domination over Ameer Abdullah at Camp Randall Stadium in November. As of today, he's projected to land in the mid-to-late first round, but a climb into the early-mid first round is more than possible, dependent on a strong combine performance.
Let's glimpse into a few of the best NFL fits for MGIII:
Indianapolis Colts: Deficiencies in the ground game haunted the Colts this season. In four of Indy's five losses, the Colts' leading rusher amassed less than 35 yards. In their Week 11 loss to the Patriots, quarterback Andrew Luck led the Colts with 15 rushing yards. And in their Week 16 defeat in Dallas, Dan Heron led the team with 3 yards.
The Colts are in dire need of a go-to running back. Their No. 1 rusher this season was Trent Richardson, who they acquired in exchange for a first-round pick. Richardson, with 519 rushing yards this year, averaged just 3.3 yards per carry. That's 42nd in the league -- even Darren McFadden was better (3.4). Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton prefers a "run-first" offense, and it's clear after this season that the Colts need a running back. With the Colts possibly falling to the mid-to-late first round, depending on their postseason finish, grabbing Gordon is a distinct possibility and would make for a fantastic fit alongside the dynamic Luck. -- Sam Brief
San Diego Chargers: After just missing out on the playoffs this year, the Chargers will look to make several minor offensive tweaks, and the most glaring aspect in need of change is the running back position. San Diego's running backs were plagued by injuries at the tailback position throughout the season: we saw Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, Donald Brown and Branden Oliver all get their chance to shine under the spotlight and fall short.
The Chargers finished the season as the No. 30 rushing offense in the league, averaging a mere 85.4 yards per game. Mathews has been wildly unreliable since he was drafted in 2010 -- case in point this season, in which he missed 10 games due to a sprained MCL and later an ankle sprain. His rookie replacement, Oliver, excelled at times but was ineffective for most of the year, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry. Mathews is an unrestricted free agent this offseason and it would not be a shock to see the Chargers opt for another, more reliable tailback for 2015. There is perhaps no one more reliable than Gordon, who would be a steal for the Chargers at pick No. 17 in this upcoming draft. -- Zach Wingrove
Seattle Seahawks: As rumors swirl regarding discontent with Marshawn Lynch's antics and the 28-year-old's potential retirement, the Seahawks could find themselves with a major offseason crisis if Lynch leaves Seattle. The Seahawks (2,762 yards) led the NFL in rushing offense this season, finishing 408 yards ahead of the second-place team: Dallas. And Lynch (1,304 yards) is the NFL's fourth-leading rusher, delivering plenty of highlight Beast Mode runs along the way.
Depending on how far they make it in the playoffs, the Seahawks will likely have to trade up for a shot at Gordon. But a run-first team combined with a potential major void at tailback stands as a near-perfect suitor for MGIII. Not to mention, Gordon in Seattle would put him in the backfield with none other than former Badger Russell Wilson, an explosive runner himself (849 yards, the most of any quarterback). Could a better NFL pairing of ex-Badgers possibly exist? No chance. --Brief
Carolina Panthers: The Panthers have been riding the Jonathan Stewart/DeAngelo Williams tandem since 2008. Both backs have experienced their fair share of injuries throughout the years and, as a result, Carolina has lacked a clear-cut No. 1 running back in a while. The Panthers haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher in five years and Carolina has to be worried about the wear and tear both backs have endured throughout their careers (Stewart is currently in his seventh season in the league and Williams is 31, which is ancient for running backs in today's game). This offseason could be a chance for Carolina to start fresh and upgrade at the running back position. Can you imagine what Gordon and Cam Newton would be like running the read-option together? If Carolina wants to redefine the concept of an "explosive offense," the Panthers will at least consider the possibility of grabbing Gordon if he falls to them. -- Wingrove
Atlanta Falcons: Atlanta selects eighth in the draft, which stands a bit higher than Gordon's projected value, but the Falcons' need for a go-to tailback is glaring nonetheless, and the Heisman candidate appears to be worth the leap. Steven Jackson, who has just one year left on his contract, has been a bust in Atlanta. In 27 games with the Falcons, he has averaged just 46 yards per game. Jackson, already one of the league's oldest backs (currently 31), will be entering his 12th season next year and won't be the starting tailback in Atlanta for much longer. Moreover, the Falcons' anemic ground game held it back from playoff contention this year: ho-hum backups Jacquizz Rodgers and Devonta Freeman combined for just 57 rushing yards as the Falcons were shellacked in the Georgia Dome by the Panthers in the NFC South title game. Atlanta needs a threat in the backfield to balance its offense, and Gordon could fill the void. The Falcons were among the league's most imbalanced offenses this season, ranking third in passes attempted but just 27th in rushing attempts. If Gordon winds up in Atlanta, he could solve a major problem for a seemingly broken offense and, in turn, take a load off Matt Ryan's shoulders. -- Brief
Baltimore Ravens: After Baltimore released Ray Rice on Sept. 8, Justin Forsett proved to be a savior for the Ravens' offense this season, averaging 5.6 yards per carry while running for 1,266 and eight touchdowns. But will the Ravens be able to count on Forsett in years to come? In 2014, he ran for over 100 yards in just five games -- against Tampa Bay, Tennessee, New Orleans, San Diego and Cleveland (the No. 19, 31, 29, 26 and 32 rushing defenses, respectively). Furthermore, he will be 30 next year and could very well find himself on the decline in upcoming years. The Ravens will draft later this year since they were able to capture the final wild card spot in the AFC, but if the stars align, this year's draft might be an opportunity for general manager Ozzie Newsome to find the Ravens' running back for the future in Gordon.
In a highly competitive AFC North, Gordon could prove to be a very valuable cold-weather running back who is able to make the Ravens a multi-dimensional threat for years to come. -- Wingrove
Less likely candidates
Oakland Raiders: The Raiders were the league's worst rushing offense this year, averaging only 77.5 yards per game and scoring just four rushing touchdowns on the season. Second-year back Latavius Murray jumped hapless Darren McFadden and washed-up Maurice Jones-Drew to grab the starting position by the end of the year, rushing for 424 yards and two touchdowns. But is Murray a legitimate long-term solution for the Raiders? Regardless, Oakland has many issues to fix heading into this draft and will probably choose to look elsewhere with the fourth pick in the draft. -- Wingrove
New York Jets: The Jets stand as a traditional ground-and-pound team (NFL's third-ranked rushing attack in 2014) lacking a true backfield threat (Chris Ivory led the team with 821 yards; the washed-up Chris Johnson had 663). With the sixth pick, going quarterback or defense makes most sense for the Jets, but picking Gordon could bring an instant jolt to a struggling offense. -- Brief
Cleveland Browns: Like the Jets, Cleveland lacks a stud running back. And quarterback questions surrounding Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel and Connor Shaw (yes, Connor Shaw) mixed with Josh Gordon's Cleveland future now standing in limbo both push the Browns to rely heavily on their ground game. The addition of Melvin Gordon at the 12th pick could boost this 27th-ranked scoring offense to a more productive level, pushing aside the Browns' run-of-the-mill running backs like Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell. -- Brief
Minnesota Vikings: With Adrian Peterson's future in limbo, drafting Gordon could help the Vikings make a seamless transition between backs. This year, the Vikings' rushing offense ranked No. 14 in the NFL, averaging 112.8 yards per game. However, Minnesota has two young backs in Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon and will most likely be looking to improve its defense or offensive line with the 11th pick in the draft. -- Wingrove
Green Bay Packers: Just kidding. Wanted to make sure you were paying attention. The Packers are more than set at tailback with Eddie Lacy. -- Brief