INDIANAPOLIS — As the Ravens explore whether to draft a running back, they can tap into the long-standing connection between running backs coach Thomas Hammock and Wisconsin star Melvin Gordon.
Hammock was Gordon's position coach with the Badgers until last season, when he joined the Ravens coaching staff.
Gordon has been catching up with Hammock at the NFL scouting combine and has a formal meeting scheduled with the Ravens on Friday.
"I learned a lot from him," Gordon said. "He's a big reason I'm standing here today. He's taught me so much, from the mental aspect of the game. He brought me a long way. It's a tough road. I went through a lot, but I can definitely say I have him to thank for being here."
Gordon is the latest Wisconsin running back headed to the NFL, following the path of Montee Ball and James White. Gordon rushed for 2,587 yards and 29 touchdowns last season.
The Ravens could need a running back depending on how negotiations go with veteran free-agent running back Justin Forsett. Forsett is coming off a breakthrough season in which he rushed for a career-high 1,226 yards and eight touchdowns as the replacement for Ray Rice.
Gordon is known for his combination of size, moves and speed. He's drawn comparisons to Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles.
"I watch a lot of running backs," Gordon said. "I try to take little pieces of their game and mix it with mine. Every running back is different, Jamaal Charles is his own man, but we are similar. He's got that little burst I don't have."
Gordon is expected to be the first back selected in the first round since Georgia standout Todd Gurley is recovering from a knee injury. Gordon said he expects to run the 40-yard dash in the high 4.4- to low 4.5-second range.
Gordon could be available when the Ravens pick at No. 26 in the first round, especially since running back is no longer regarded as a high-priority position in the NFL.
"It's a passing league," Gordon said. "It's hard to say it's a devalued position. Maybe they didn't feel the running backs the last few years were first-round material. We have to change that this year."
The Ravens also met with University of Miami running back Duke Johnson.
Johnson is slightly undersized at 5 feet 9, 206 pounds, but is quick and elusive and has good hands. There are some durability concerns with Johnson, but his versatility and jump-cut running style have drawn comparions to Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy.
He's projected as a second-round draft pick after finishing his college career with 3,519 yards and 26 touchdowns.
"Being able to receive out of the backfield is the No. 1 thing," Johnson said. "I'm a mismatch with linebackers. I can catch the ball really well. I think at the end of the day if there's short yardage and I need to get it, I'll go and get it. Whoever drafts me will get a great player and they won't regret it."
The Ravens also have a meeting with Northern Iowa running back David Johnson, a projected third-round draft pick who had a strong week at the Senior Bowl.
Johnson played wide receiver and running back in high school and is an upright runner. He has rushed for 1,000 yards each of the past three seasons.
The 6-foot-1, 224-pound back weighed just 190 pounds coming out of high school and was offered scholarships to just Northern Iowa and Illinois State.
"I was probably a late bloomer because of my height," he said. "I was tall and lanky. I was 190 with clothes on. I wasn’t the biggest back coming out. I was able to catch. And with me playing receiver in high school, a lot of teams were projecting me to play receiver."