LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Continue to hate Melvin Gordon. Please. As someone who owns Gordon in a few keeper leagues, we like him motivated.
And all the hating from his rookie season when he was a bust helped him thrive as a sophomore in 2016. In a big way.
Gordon heard all the negative noise.
"Definitely motivation," Gordon said in an interview with CBS Sports at the Pro Bowl. "It's expected that people are going to talk trash and hate you. It's all part of the game."
To say Gordon struggled as a rookie in 2015 is an understatement. Given the starting role for the Chargers as the replacement for Ryan Mathews, Gordon had 184 carries for 641 yards (3.5 yards per carry) and no touchdowns and 33 catches for 192 yards.
That's not a misprint -- he didn't score at all. He appeared in 14 games and had none with double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league.
In his second year, Gordon wasn't sought after by Fantasy owners on Draft Day. He was the No. 22 running back drafted on average on CBS Sports in Round 6.
But with an improved offensive line and a new approach, Gordon bounced back and was a star for Fantasy owners. He finished as the No. 8 running back in standard leagues with 254 carries for 997 yards (3.9 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns and 41 catches for 419 yards and two touchdowns in 12 full games.
He suffered a sprained PCL in his left knee in Week 14 at Carolina and missed the final three games, but he scored double digits in Fantasy points in nine of 11 full outings. It helped that Danny Woodhead suffered a torn ACL in Week 2, but Gordon expected to play well in 2016.
Nothing was going to hold him back.
"Just confidence," he said. "That's pretty much all it was. I was more confident in myself."
He also heard plenty of negativity during the season when the thought was his successful campaign was a fluke. Even two of my colleagues, Heath Cummings and Chris Towers, encouraged Fantasy owners to sell high on Gordon.
Heath said in his Week 5 Believe It or Not column that "no one is a bigger sell-high" candidate than Gordon. At that point, Gordon had rattled off five games in a row with at least 11 Fantasy points. By Week 9, after three more games with at least 15 Fantasy points, Heath issued a public apology to Gordon -- with a song on our Fantasy Football Today Podcast.
Chris had a similar opinion in his Week 7 Hot Takes column, which was titled "Still time to sell Melvin Gordon." Chris wrote that "the bottom is about to fall out for Melvin Gordon." Then, by Week 9, Chris wrote "boy, was I wrong about Melvin Gordon."
This isn't to pick on Heath and Chris. Gordon had efficiency issues in the beginning of the season and was touchdown dependent, and he only had one game with 100 rushing yards through Week 7. He easily could have regressed to the running back who was a bust in his rookie year.
But instead, thankfully, he got better as the year went on, and we hope that carries over to the 2017 season. Gordon was an alternate for the AFC at the Pro Bowl because Le'Veon Bell (groin) was hurt, and Gordon said one goal for next season is to earn his spot on the roster.
He also wants to keep working on his game.
"I'm going to work on everything," Gordon said. "I'm not content with where I am at all. I want to be the best back in the league, so that's what I'm focused on."
There are a few things that will be different for Gordon in 2017. We have to see what the Chargers will do with Woodhead, who is a free agent, although there's a report the Chargers want him back. A healthy Woodhead will impact Gordon, but we don't expect that to lower his Fantasy value, which is likely a Top 15 overall pick in all leagues.
There's also a new coach for the Chargers in Anthony Lynn, who spent 14 years as a running backs coach and offensive coordinator and helped seven running backs rush for more than 1,000 yards. Lynn has worked with guys like LaDainian Tomlinson, LeSean McCoy, Fred Taylor and Jamal Lewis, and he's excited to coach Gordon.
"He's very dynamic," Lynn said about Gordon in a news conference. "He's a hard-working young man. He took his game to another level, and we're going to help him take it even further. He's just growing like a weed right now when you watch him from his rookie to his sophomore year. Any young man that studies the game like he does and works as hard as he does, I get excited about."
And then there's that move to Los Angeles you might have heard about for the Chargers. Gordon said he'll miss playing in San Diego, but he's excited "to build our fan base" in Los Angeles.
Gordon likes having fans. It's better than having people hate him. And it's hard to expect anyone to hate him if he repeats his performance from last season in 2017.