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Josh Gordon Is a Value - Footballguys

Josh Gordon is regarded as one of the riskiest picks of 2018 fantasy drafts. Matt Waldman makes the case for Josh Gordon as a value in Gut Check No. 440.

Josh Gordon is a value. Even with an ADP higher than any production he's remotely delivered during the past five years, he's worth the risk.

With Todd Haley and Tyrod Taylor running the Cleveland Browns, Josh Gordon will be no worse than a top-20 fantasy receiver in PPR leagues if he starts 16 games. Fantasy owners believe it — Gordon's average draft position tells the story — but many fantasy analysts don't. 

Gordon is one of the most polarizing players among the Footballguys staff. After this article, my buddy Jason Wood will be swearing a blood oath to protect Footballguys subscribers from what he believes is a reckless take and tell them to run as far from it as possible. 

Especially when he learns that yours truly believes that a mentally and physically healthy Josh Gordon will be a top-5 PPR option if Tyrod Taylor performs to the level he did with Sammy Watkins in 2015 — and that's far less of a stretch than critics of Taylor characterize. 

This analysis is for fantasy owners with at least a moderate amount of risk-friendly behavior who have figured out a draft strategy where Gordon will be one of their targeted high-risk options. There's no doubt that Gordon is a high-risk option even if fantasy owners are taking him as a top-50 pick. 

Gordon's addiction is the only argument you need as a naysayer. One of the best things that addicts do is relapse. When looking at the aggregate, chances are high that Gordon will again.

According to an eight-year study of nearly 1200 addicts where according to Psychology Today, "They were able to follow up on over 94 percent of the study participants..." Gordon fits the basic profile of an addict who still has a strong chance of relapse: 

  • Only about a third of people who are abstinent less than a year will remain abstinent. 
  • For those who achieve a year of sobriety, less than half will relapse (Gordon's status). 
  • If an addict can reach 5 years of sobriety, his chance of relapse is less than 15 percent. 

It's more than enough to scare anyone off Gordon as a top-50 fantasy pick. However, there are compelling reasons to take issue with those who pile onto this analysis with skepticism about Gordon, Taylor, and the Browns offense.   

If Gordon doesn't relapse, the individual and collective pieces of the Browns offense provide a context where Gordon's average draft position is the winning side of the argument — and will likely be seen as a value pick when we look back at 2018.  

the Browns offensive line is better than advertised

Offensive line evaluation one of the muddiest endeavors in football analysis. Even so, there are situations where the context of how the game works can enhance or invalidate the data.

The Browns gave up 3.1 sacks per game in 2017 — among the worst in the league — and it isn't a one-year anomaly. Cleveland had the league's worst sack rate in 2016 and the third-worst in 2015. 

A vital factor contributing to all three years worth of these putrid sack rates has been quarterback and receiver play. Quarterback drops and receiver routes are linked and have specific timing. 

Broadcast analysts refer to a quarterback's internal clock for gauging pressure. It's an idea rooted in the basic timing of route progressions. Most play designs want the quarterback to get rid of the ball or run three seconds after the snap. 

Here's the timing that coaches teach developing quarterbacks in the passing game. The amount of time listed next to each act is the expected amount of time lapsed from the snap. These times are the points where the quarterback should be releasing the ball, moving the next route, or taking action to earn yards on his own or throw the ball away. 

  • Five-step drops from center or three-step drops from shotgun: 1.8 seconds. 
  • A hitch after the first read during the drop to turn to the second read in the route progression: 2.2 seconds.
  • A hitch after the second read in the route progression to locate the third read: 2.6 seconds. 
If the ball isn't out of the quarterback's hand after three seconds, coaches encourage quarterbacks to seek an opening outside the pocket so they can buy time for receivers to work to open grass, tuck the ball an run, or throw the ball away. This is true for all levels of football. 
 

The longer a quarterback remains in the pocket, the more likely that the defense wins the play. When a quarterback and his receiving corps are young, lack rapport due to frequent changes with personnel, and lack proven skill reading defenses, the quarterback spends too much time in the pocket with the ball in his hand and it leads to bad outcomes. 

No matter how skilled the offensive line is, if it's playing with a young and/or less skilled quarterback who holds onto the ball too long in the pocket — and lacks the skill to extend time outside of the pocket — the line will be blamed for a lot of sacks that were the fault of the quarterback and his receiving corps.

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