I don’t know what to make of Josh Gordon returning to the NFL.
On one hand, we have the legendary 2013 season…and the legend has grown. He had a 10-game suspension the following season, along with a so-so performance in the five games he did play in 2014. His 2015 season was totally lost due to suspension. Absence has made the heart grow fonder for many. What if Josh Gordon circa 2013 is lurking, ready to strike in 2016?
However, we’ve all seen really good WRs hit a hot streak…anyone remember when Mike Sims-Walker exploded onto the scene for Jacksonville in his second year, out of nowhere, and then disappeared after that? Stefon Diggs was on fire when he got his chance last year…for about four games and then he faded away. Torrey Smith was unreal his first few weeks in the NFL…and has been just good/OK since. Sometimes things happen for a moment, and then do not sustain. The NFL ain’t easy. Gordon had an amazing six-game run mid-2013 (five 120+ yard games, two 230+ yard games), and was simply ‘solid-good’ before and after that (60+ yards per game in his other 29 NFL games with just 8 TDs). There’s no guarantee on Gordon-2016 instantly going back to his mid-2013 performance just like that (fingers snapped).
I remember the legendary 2013 too. I get the ‘what if’. He’s been capable of ‘it’, or so it would appear. What if he can do ‘it’ again? What if he gets clean and goes to even higher levels?
It’s been 2+ calendar years since the Gordon 2013 ‘arrival’; that’s a long time. I decided to go back to the 2013 and 2014 tape, and get reacquainted with Mr. Gordon. I watched several of his games from 2013 and 2014, trying to get a feel for what happened back then…perhaps a fresh perspective. After watching it all, here’s my conclusion: I have no idea what to expect from him in 2016.
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Seriously, how do you take the great slice of 2013 and insert it into 2016? It was a different era. Different coaches. Different players. It’s a complicated crime scene to figure out. I’m sitting there watching tape and laughing – as he’s working with ultra-important (at the time) Davone Bess. Jordan Cameron was an emerging star. At that time, you took Bess and Cameron VERY seriously for fantasy…just 2+ years later – one is way out of football, and the other has become a shell of himself in Miami. They weren’t that way in 2013–2014. Those guys mattered. If those guys can die off quick…why not Gordon?
If I wanted to denigrate any of Gordon’s play…any wrong routes or drops, etc., from 2013–2014 – I’d also have to give him the grace that he was working with awful Brian Hoyer…and as-awful Jason Campbell. I’ve pointed to the 2014 drop-off in performance/stats in order to downgrade Gordon in my mind, but guess what…he was working with god-awful rookie Johnny Manziel for some of that 2014 death spiral – no wonder Gordon’s numbers tanked late 2014.
In 2016, Gordon returns to work with just as flimsy a QB in Robert Griffin III. He’s also surrounded by like 19 rookie WRs and Andrew Hawkins to work with. Will Gordon be a ‘go to’ or triple covered working with a QB who cannot get him the ball very well? What if Josh McCown takes over in Week 3 and changes the landscape? I really don’t know how to paint this Gordon-2016 picture. But applying logic – if Gordon succeeded with Jason Campbell in 2013, he’s going to be fine, seemingly, with RG3/McCown in the even more wide-open/favorable NFL passing game of today.
I walk away from this study with two main points in conflict, and one wipes out the other at a certain point.
#1: Josh Gordon is very talented.
You could try to make a case that he’s an elite WR talent. He’s a ‘natural’…is the best way I can put it. Sure, he runs the wrong routes sometimes. Sure, he has a few drops. Sure, he struggles some when battling with better corners. He’s still a talent…a raw, natural talent. So ‘natural’ that the other issues are secondary worries. His talent overcomes the issues, usually. Gordon has size, speed, and agility…and then some. He has very good hands…and when he drops a pass it’s usually because he’s lollygagging. When he’s fully engaged, he catches everything. He reminds me of Terrell Owens. I never liked T.O. personally, but he just succeeded more times than not…when he ‘was into it’.
I don’t question Gordon’s talent. He has ‘it’ physically. He has ‘it’ hands-wise.
He doesn’t have ‘it’ mentally.
#2: You’re going to ignore the record…you’re going to. I know it. 2013 holds too much allure.
— Kicked off team/transfers from Baylor to Utah, after two years with Baylor.
— Never plays at Utah, because he fails drug tests (allegedly).
— Doesn’t admit to the Utah drug tests until after the 2012 Supplemental Draft (allegedly).
— 2012…up-and-down rookie performance, but shows signs of something.
— 2013…suspended first 2 games by NFL, becomes a star after.
— 2014…suspended first 10 games.
— 2015…suspended for the season, and indefinitely.
— Spends a lot of his 2015-16 away time with Johnny Manziel…smart.
— 2016…suspended for first 4 games.
— Next suspension: to be determined.
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I know Gordon has talent, but I also know I’m living on borrowed time with him if I have him in Dynasty/Fantasy. I can’t tell you not to take the risk, because we all know if you roll the dice mid-redraft, etc., that if he stays clean – you have a WR1 on your hands, potentially. If he stayed clean for years, he could develop into a Julio Jones-like weapon for Fantasy. Also…tomorrow…it could all go to zero value with another suspension.
My advice would be as follows, if you have Josh Gordon in Dynasty (and about the same in redraft)…
Gordon is an ‘A’ talent with an ‘F’ mind. If you can trade him for a strong ‘B’ asset (a ‘B’ with upside), you do it. Sell some of the risk…take a discount versus nothing at some point. The people that are sniffing around, trying to steal him from you, offering ‘C’ and ‘D’ assets for him…just keep him and take your chances. Don’t give him away…take a risk in that instance, knowing you might lose him again tomorrow.
Gordon’s a hot potato, but not one you give away for fear of having nothing later…he’s one to find ‘the true believer’ in your league who will give you ‘B’ or better value in exchange. If not, you hold…and hope and pray.
If you’re asking me if he can play…’is he that good’? Yes. It appears so. Still raw, but very talented in a pass-happy league.
If you’re asking me whether to trade him away or redraft him at some point…I’m all for it depending upon the price/cost. If you have him, you must assume the clock will strike midnight soon. You only have him for 11 games at most this fantasy season. Don’t ride a high horse assuming/hoping he’ll be fine from now on. The smart bet is – he won’t be ‘fine’, and the most Gordon will ever do for you again long-term is if you can exchange him for a ‘B’ or greater talent, and move on…like the Browns will if they get the chance.