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Melvin Gordon Proving the "Experts" Wrong

Sometimes scouts and pundits are dead on. Other times they can be dead wrong.

Just ask Melvin Gordon.

Yes, it was a long time ago, but to truly appreciate how great Gordon has been as a receiver out of the backfield, you have to go back to when he was coming out of Wisconsin in 2015.                                                                    

The pundits raved about the running back's overall game leading up to the draft, calling him a surefire first-round pick. They gushed over his powerful running style, long strides and knack for finding the end zone.

Still, they doubted him in one significant area – the passing game. Just take a look at these notes from at the time when discussing his receiving abilities.  

"Uncomfortable pass-catcher with marginal hands."

"Either dropped, double caught or smothered many throws."

"Not trustworthy enough to be a three-down back."

Fast forward to today and all that hogwash looks foolish.  

Gordon is now firmly entrenched as one of the league's preeminent pass-catchers out of the backfield.

He caught 58 passes for 476 yards and four touchdowns last season. His four receiving touchdowns were the most of any running back in the AFC, and the third most in the entire NFL.

Through two games he is on pace to blow those numbers out of the water.

Thus far, Gordon ranks fourth in the league, and first in the AFC, in both receptions (15), targets (20) and receiving yards (140.0).

However, that only tells part of the story as a deeper dive shows just how impactful he is as a receiver.

Gordon's 117 yards after the catch are far and away the most of any running back as the next closest is Joe Mixon with 77. Meanwhile, nine of his 15 catches have gone for first downs, which is tied with Christian McCaffrey and Chris Thompson for tops among all running backs. He is also the only player at his position with multiple touchdown receptions on the year.

Gordon's ascension into one of the best receiving backs in the league may have caught some by surprise, but not Philip Rivers. The quarterback has seen firsthand how Gordon wasn't satisfied to simply dominate on the ground, watching as the 25-year old has worked his tail off to become the dual-threat he is today.

"I think it's just (been) a gradual build," Rivers said after the win in Buffalo. "I think he's also embraced the passing game more each year he's been here. His first years, Danny (Woodhead) was going to be the guy in those situations. Danny goes down that year, and he had to learn the protections. He had to be in the mix. I think now he's at a point where he sees the running back as a three-down position, and also who cares how you get the touches? It's not a twenty-five carry, 150-yard league anymore. It's a 16 carries, seven receptions (league). How many touches does he get for 150? You see it around the league. The best backs, that's what they do. I think he also has embraced that (like), 'Shoot, I don't care if you're handing it to me, I'm going to run a heck of a route and throw it to me.' Not that he didn't embrace it early. I think he's grown into that, At Wisconsin, it was handed to him and he ran throughout (huge) holes. I think that's just (what's come) as he's grown as a pro."

On Monday, Head Coach Anthony Lynn echoed Rivers' sentiments, explaining how Gordon is a much better receiving threat than he imagined before he joined the Chargers.

"Just with studying the 2016 tape when I first came, I thought (to myself), 'This guy better catches the ball a lot better than I thought. And then he backed it up….I started to see that last year. Melvin has excellent hands and is a decent route runner. We're trying to get him more involved in the passing game, as I think you've seen in the past few weeks."

With the success the team's had targeting him through the air, odds are we'll continue to see more of that in the weeks to come as well.

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