Using a mid-round pick on Josh Gordon, at this stage in the offseason shouldn’t be considered a “contrarian” pick and especially shouldn’t be classified as a “plant-your-flag” type pick either. Picking Josh Gordon in the middle rounds of a draft is a calculated risk - 0ne that can be easily hedged against and offers enormous potential returns. Below are the arguments in favor of why you should throw your name into the hat for what is way better than just a lottery ticket.
signs are trending in the right direction
Viewing Gordon’s situation just through the scope of his off the field concerns, and ability to get back on the field, is not as a hopeless an outlook presently as the fantasy football community has become accustomed to the past two years. Gordon isn’t even eligible to be reinstated until August 1, but Commissioner Roger Goodell has already met with him. The last time, earlier this year, that Gordon was eligible to apply for reinstatement - in January – nothing was heard regarding his case for months, until it leaked in April that Gordon had failed a drug test, and this was why he was seemingly stuck in limbo. The proactive nature of the parties involved this time around are cause for optimism. This is not to say Gordon has had the quietest of off-seasons. He was spotted at the music festival Coachella with Johnny Manziel and was even rumored to have been living in Los Angeles with the troubled quarterback. It’s easy to view these instances with negativity and judge Gordon harshly, but it’s important to recall what other star player has also been linked frequently to Manziel this offseason, defends JFF adamantly whenever given the opportunity, and has a history that includes a failed drug test. That would be arguably the best defensive player in the NFL and receiver of a very hefty pay day this offseason: Von Miller. The positive recent developments of Gordon’s offseason should stick out, and hold more water, than his historic transgressions.
assume he is reinstated...
At this point, it seems fair to assume that Gordon at least has a very good chance of being reinstated. It doesn’t make sense that the Commissioner would be meeting with him in advance of the date that he can apply for reinstatement just to tell him that he’s not playing football this year – a simple phone call to his agent would have accomplished that. However, it does seem likely that Gordon will face some sort of suspension. For argument’s sake, give him eight games. Yes, it will not be ideal not having Gordon for those first eight games, but, the below are important considerations and distinctions to make:
- He won’t be coming back from injury, so outside of managing his weight and getting into football shape the same concerns won’t exist that would if he were coming back from injury like players such as Sammy Watkins, Thomas Rawls, and Jimmy Graham.
- Whereas many early round picks will get hurt, lose playing time, prove to be incompetent, etc. Gordon’s stock really can’t fluctuate negatively once the season starts - unless he has more run-ins with the law or The Shield. Once the season gets under way, and a few weeks go by, Gordon’s value will rise as his return date gets closer. If your league allows trading, and you want to hop off the train and turn him into an asset that can help you in the present, you should be able to find multiple suitors amongst the teams that have gotten to solid starts in the standings and are looking to prepare for the playoffs.
- To somewhat expound on the above point, Gordon’s value in the scope of this season has very few contingencies once his return date is established. Few will argue that once he returns, Gordon will ascend to being the number one option in Cleveland’s passing game. Yes, the Browns do actually have some nice weapons on offense in 2016 (Duke Johnson, Gary Barnidge, Corey Coleman) but if Gordon’s on the active roster, it’s fair to expect him to be treated as a focal point of the team’s week to week gameplan. Now, it’s far more difficult to make that same case about the players with an 8th round ADP (the point at which your author feels it’s a fair time to take a chance on Gordon). Let’s do a quick categorization of the players currently with an 8th round consensus ranking - picks 85-96 - according to FBG’s Average Draft Position page.
Obviously, it’s easy to argue or poke holes in these classifications, but largely the point I’m trying to make here is that the guys that you are getting in the 8th round are not going to be game changers unless something unanticipated breaks their way. The 8th round is far enough along in the draft where hopefully your bases are covered with respect to bankable commodities, and you can try and hit a home run – drafting a player that it doesn’t require substantial imagination and manipulation of reality to visualize him being a true difference maker. Admittedly though, when you pull the trigger on Josh Gordon in the 8th round, it looks even better in hindsight when you…
...hedge your risk
One way to do this would be to secure Corey Coleman, who many feel is likely to jump right in as the Browns number one receiver in Gordon’s absence. That’s very understandable, to definitely consider, but you can also protect yourself by just shooting for floor at the wide receiver position with other high draft picks. In the FBG mock draft that we just completed, Gordon was the 5th receiver that I selected. My first four were Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, and Torrey Smith. I feel very comfortable rolling into the season with those four guys as my WR core, while I wait to get Gordon back on the field.
the quarterback situation
The Browns quarterback situation is very interesting, relative to the impact it should have on Josh Gordon. Gordon’s breakout year took place mostly with the likes of Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell quarterbacking the team. Both guys, especially Weeden, were unafraid when it came to forcing the ball in to Gordon down the field. The last time we saw Gordon on the field, he was catching (very few) passes from Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer. No one is going to praise the arm strength of either one of those quarterbacks. In 2016, Gordon is projected to be catching passes from his former college quarterback, Robert Griffin III. If there’s one thing that you consistently here about Griffin, even after multiple rough years, it’s that he throws a fantastic deep ball. Now, by no means should Gordon be considered solely a deep ball specialist, but based on his play historically, we should expect him to derive a large share of his value from downfield catches. Griffin should offer Gordon the best quarterback play he’s received to date.
Overall, the upside that Gordon offers is immense enough that it is worth positioning multiple draft picks around the assumption that you will need to cover for his short term absence, so that you can reap the immense rewards that will accompany his return to the playing field later this year.