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Player Spotlight: Josh Gordon

A detailed look at Josh Gordon's fantasy prospects for 2013.

The path that Josh Gordon took to the NFL was far from standard. Prior to the Baylor Bears' 2011 season, which resulted in a Heisman Trophy for Robert Griffin III and the Bears' highest post-season AP rank in 25 years, Gordon received an indefinite suspension for a violation of team rules. He then chose to transfer to the University of Utah, where he sat out the entire season before deciding to declare for the 2012 NFL Supplemental Draft without playing a snap for the Utes. The 6'3" receiver with a 4.52 forty-yard dash and 36-inch vertical jump generated plenty of buzz, ultimately being selected by the Cleveland Browns in exchange for their 2nd Round pick in 2013.

Gordon's 2012 STATISTICS

GTRGRECYDY/RTDRANK
16 95 50 805 16.1 5 37

Widely considered a raw prospect, after not having played college football the previous season and joining the Browns after their OTAs, the learning curve was quite steep for Gordon. He was able to overcome those obstacles, rising to the top of Cleveland's lackluster receiving corps and leading the team in both receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. After the dust settled on his rookie season, he ranked 37th among receivers in total fantasy points.

GORDON'S STATISTICS OVER LAST 12 GAMES IN 2012

TIMEFRAMEGTRGRECYDY/RTD
L12 12 81 43 712 16.6 5
AVG -- 6.8 3.6 59.3 16.6 0.4
AVG X 16 GM 16 108 57 949 16.6 7

While finishing near the WR3 border was an accomplishment in its own right, he actually fared much better than that for a large portion of the season. After the first four games, which were a major period of growth for him and Brandon Weeden, Gordon posted numbers worthy of a WR2 in fantasy football. In fact, by extrapolating his statistics from the last 12 games in 2012 over a 16-game season, he would have ranked 24th among receivers.

With a new coaching staff in town, including Norv Turner as offensive coordinator, the potential of Gordon further increases. Turner's offense will incorporate much more downfield passing and he has already spoken highly of Gordon:

“He’s an impressive guy. He’s young. He has a lot of work to do, but he’s got a lot of ability. If you put those two things together and you just grind, as a player and a coach, I think he can be a really fine player.”

Gordon, himself, chimed in on the new offensive scheme, stating, "defenses will be shocked to say the least with how much we're running downfield." For a glimpse into the potential of Gordon in a Turner coached offense, look no further than the accomplishments of Vincent Jackson:

V. Jackson under turner from 2008-2011

YRGTRGRECYDY/RTDRANK
2008 16 101 59 1098 18.6 7 12
2009 15 107 68 1167 17.2 9 10
2010 Removed because a lengthy hold out limited playing time
2011 16 114 60 1106 18.4 9 10
AVG 15.7 107.3 62.3 1123.7 18.0 8.3 10.7

Jackson developed into the San Diego Chargers' leading receiver in 2008 and then proceeded perform as a WR1 from that point on when he was on the field. His astounding 18.0 yards-per-reception from above indicates just how vertical of a passing game Turner employed. Granted, Weeden and Gordon may not yet be on the same level that Philip Rivers and Jackson were, but I do believe that Gordon can evolve into a similar force as Jackson.

Whether Gordon reaches his potential is up to him. Just recently, Will Burge of ESPNCleveland.com reported some disconcerting news:

"Gordon was scolded during practice for not finishing plays or running after the catch. He is frequently the last receiver into position drills and has yet to work with Greg Little and Weeden after practice, despite the fact that Little and Weeden have worked on routes after every single session thus far."

In Gordon's defense, Burge also mentioned that Gordon was dealing with patellar tendonitis. The tendonitis will subside and be a non-factor, but Gordon must improve his work ethic in order to excel in the NFL.

positives

  • Possesses the desired measureables of a top receiver
  • Turner’s downfield passing has exhibited strong track record with leading receivers
  • Both, Gordon and Weeden, should continue to develop together in their sophomore years
  • Has had time to acclimate to NFL after the short preseason of a supplemental pick

negatives

  • He is suspended for the first two weeks of the season and is one failed drug test away from a one-year suspension
  • Questionable work ethic may prevent him from reaching potential

final thoughts

The two-game suspension has greatly attributed to the lack of buzz about Gordon and will almost assuredly make him a bargain on draft day. According to Footballguys’ most recent ADP data, he is being drafted as the 39th wide receiver off the board. Considering his current value and his potential to perform as a WR2, Gordon is most definitely a target of mine entering the 2013 fantasy football season.

2013 projections

My Projections

GRSHYDY/RTDRECYDY/RTDFPT
14 2 17 8.5 0 54 907 16.8 6 128.4

David Dodds' Projections

GRSHYDY/RTDRECYDY/RTDFPT
14 0 0 0.0 0 57 832 14.6 5 113.2

other viewpoints

Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com believes Gordon can be a superstar...

In his second year, Gordon can be a superstar in this offense if he can avoid drifting off the straight and narrow. His two-game suspension at the start of the season for testing positive for, he said, codeine, will either be a wake-up call or the beginning of the end for him. Gordon’s physical skills are elite and he is only 22 years old.

Kevin Hanson weighed Gordon's risk versus reward for Bleacher Report...

There is certainly risk with Gordon, but he will miss Weeks 1 and 2 when there are no byes and you should have plenty of wide receiver depth and options to fill his spot. Once he returns, however, he has a chance to be a top-20 fantasy (or better) WR from Weeks 3-16 provided he stays healthy and out of trouble.

Pro Football Focus' Joe Owen provides warning of a sophomore slump for Gordon...

A two-game suspension and immaturity could hamper the growth of Gordon for at least another season. After the first four weeks of last season, fellow rookie and teammate Travis Benjamin had more fantasy points than Gordon. Over the last three games of last season, the 2012 Browns’ supplemental draft choice also had the third-worst fantasy points per opportunity among NFL wide receivers taking at least 60 percent of a team’s snaps. It looks as if the dip in output will continue into the first few weeks of the 2013 NFL season. If Benjamin makes a solid impression while starting in Gordon’s place then pass distribution Gordon’s way could dwindle.

You can find me on Twitter: @KyleWachtel


More from Kyle Wachtel:

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Coaching Carousel: Jeff Tedford - May 28
Coaching Carousel: Jay Gruden - May 13
Coaching Carousel: Norv Turner - April 28
Coaching Carousel: Kyle Shanahan - March 27