Fantasy Football: Burning Your Waiver Spot on Josh Gordon

Josh Gordon
Josh Gordon

Josh Gordon has incredible potential coming off your league’s waiver wire.
(Photo Credit: Dawgpound Nation)

How much is Josh Gordon worth to a fantasy owner? If you asked that question today, you would get answers ranging from “nothing at all because he’s suspended” to “anything it takes” from those who are hoping his suspension gets overturned. So where is the truth?

I am fully in the camp that says to break the piggy bank open and spend to get Josh Gordon on your team. In one of my leagues, I spent 60% of my free agent auction budget on Gordon last week, and I don’t regret it. In fact, I won’t even regret it if Gordon’s suspension stays in effect all year.

As C. D. Carter has written, success in fantasy football is directly tied to creating a good process. The results are the fruit of good processes. We can’t control outcomes in the NFL, so we don’t obsess over whether we get the results we want.

So let’s talk about the proper process for evaluating a waiver claim. If we get the process right, we can be comfortable no matter what results we get. As for the waiver process, there are a few factors you should consider every time:

The Player

It goes without saying that each player on the waiver wire is unique. This week, Jake Locker and Stepfan Taylor may both be on the waiver wire in your league, but they present far different values. Here are the three main factors to consider when you look at a player on the waiver wire:

  • Upside
  • With every waiver pickup, you need to evaluate your best-case scenario: Does that player have the potential to become a starter for your team, or would his best situation make him a bye week fill-in? Both of those are fine reasons to pick up a player, but you are going to put far less priority on the latter.

  • Consistency/Risk
  • This factor is directly tied to the first issue: are you picking up a potential every-week starter or a bye week backup? If the former, you should be willing to accept a much higher risk, because you’re looking for high risk and high upside. You are okay if you have to cut this player after a couple weeks, because you’re only holding them with the hope they break out and become an every-week starter. If your goal is to get a guy who will only start once, during a bye week, you should look at players with less risk, players in the mold of Shonn Greene, who will average at least five points each week.

  • Fit For Your Team
  • Is this a pickup at a position of need, or do you already have two bench players at that same position? If you are looking at a desperate need, you will be willing to take a lower value on the two factors above, upside and risk, because you’re in a bad spot. But if you’re looking to upgrade a position of strength, you need to be much more picky with your choice.

Opportunity Cost

Opportunity Cost

What is the opportunity cost?
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Opportunity cost looks at what you’ll be giving up if you make a particular choice. As an example, if you choose to spend your Saturday morning sleeping in, you’re passing up the possibility of watching those morning cartoons. The morning cartoons — and everything else you could have spent that morning doing — are the opportunity cost in that scenario.

  • Lost Roster Spot
  • For this factor, consider how deep your roster goes. If you are in a league with a shallow bench, your opportunity cost appears higher because you are dropping a talented player. But when we look deeper, you realize that the waiver wire will have many more talented players left available than if every team has a deep bench.
    Your evaluation of this factor involves you weighing the player you would drop against the player you would pick up, considering the three factors listed above: upside, consistency/risk, and how he fits with your team needs.

  • Lost Waiver Position/Budget
  • You evaluate this factor differently depending on your league settings. If your league gives you a budget to spend on waiver claims, this is an independent variable, one that you control. If your league uses a waiver order system, you won’t have control over your position on a weekly basis. So let’s look at both situations.

    If you have a waiver budget to spend, you should evaluate the three other factors first, then let that evaluation dictate how much you spend on any given player.

    If your league uses a waiver order, there is far less opportunity cost to a pickup. Your only loss is a decrease in your position on the waiver order.

So What About Josh Gordon?

Let’s take a look at how this analysis relates to Josh Gordon as a potential pickup this week.

Upside: This is the factor that puts Josh Gordon off the charts as a waiver option. Despite missing two weeks last year, Gordon finished as the best wide receiver in the NFL. There is a near-zero chance you will find any other player with an upside approaching Gordon’s on the waiver wire this year.

Consistency/Risk: Right now, this is the worst factor in the Josh Gordon analysis. There is one hundred percent consistency: He is currently guaranteed to get you zero points every week. Putting that more clearly, there is massive risk, because unless the status quo (namely, the suspension) changes, you won’t get a single point out of Gordon this year.

Fit For Your Team: How does your team look at backup wide receiver? Do you already have one or two backups who are good enough to start for you on the bye weeks? If so, Josh Gordon will be a fine pickup because you’ll still be okay on the bye weeks. Then again, because we’re still three weeks away from the first bye week, you can even get away dropping a bye week fill-in, because you have a couple weeks to find a replacement if Josh Gordon doesn’t pan out.

Lost Roster Spot: Because we still have three weeks until the first bye, holding a suspended player is less costly than it will be by Week 4. For now, you can be comfortable losing a roster spot, because you’re unlikely to need every one of them. With a typical five- or six-man bench, you would still have enough depth even with Gordon filling up a spot.

Lost Waiver Position/Budget: Like I wrote, if you’re in a waiver order league, you aren’t giving up much by picking up Josh Gordon. You move lower in the order, but for a player with Josh Gordon’s upside that’s a price well worth paying.

Do It Now - Josh Gordon

Pick him up! Do it now!

If your league uses a free auction budget, you have to do more thinking here. How much are you willing to spend? I told you that I spent 60% of my budget last week, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I am of the opinion that no other free agent will even approach Josh Gordon’s upside this year, so I’m willing to pay the price to grab him, even if he only has a 1% chance of playing this year — and I think his odds are higher.

Conclusion: Pick up Josh Gordon. Do it now if he’s on your league’s waiver wire or free agency list. As long as you believe there is a non-zero chance that his suspension gets lifted, Josh Gordon is a fantastic pickup. Decide what percent chance you think Gordon has of playing this year, then select how much you spent to get him.

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