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Josh Gordon is back! What do fantasy owners do now?
Josh Gordon is back! Well, he is kind of back. The Cleveland Browns wide receiver was reinstated on Monday with the caveat that he will have to sit out for the first four games of the 2016 season. He will get to practice with the team and play in preseason games which will be a huge boost to him getting back to where he needs to be.
Let’s flashback to 2013, when Gordon took the league by storm. He put up 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in just 14 games. A season in which Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer were the guys getting Gordon the ball. A situation oddly similar to his current one including questions at the quarterback position and unproven receivers around him. The five games he played in 2014 was a mixed bag in terms of production. The Flash Gordon elements were there but the work was less consistent. I’m curious to see how much of that was from his skill and how much was team frustration. Those five games were over a stretch during the middle of the season. He wasn’t able to build up and get ready to go.
For his potential 2016 value there obvious. While he is a guy that needs a ton of targets to be productive the potential is there for a massive season. He is a guy that has a 53$ catch rate during his time in the NFL.
Gone is Travis Benjamin who had 124 targets a season ago. While you don’t want to assume there is a fixed number of targets for an offense that one player can take if another departs it feels pretty safe to assume the Browns will find a way to get their most talented pass catcher the ball. The question becomes when should you consider drafting him?
NFL.com’s Matt Harmon assumed Gordon would likely go in the 5th to 7th round range in his latest piece. A range that feels pretty fair with his potential. You will want to assess how your team is shaping up and how much risk you’re willing to assume. For met the 6th round is the earliest i would start to consider him and even that feels pretty aggressive. Michael Floyd, Donte Moncrief, Allen Hurns and Eric Decker are the wide receivers currently going in the late 5th or early 6th in PPR per Fantasy Football Calculator. I will take all of those names ahead of Gordon with ease. The next wave of wideouts includes Jordan Matthews, John Brown, and Tyler Lockett all names I would gladly take before Gordon. These players may not have the same ceiling as Gordon but their floor is so much higher with the potential upside you look for in this range. When these names are gone you will be staring down the likes of DeSean Jackson, Kevin White and Marvin Jones. It is at this point where I will pull the trigger on Gordon. Waiting this long may leave me with little to no shares of Gordon but I’m ok with that.
The Addition of Gordon is a bit of a negative on the rest of the pass catchers, primarily Corey Coleman and Gary Barnidge. I expected a heavy workload for Coleman in his rookie season, making him a guy I was looking to draft. While he is still somewhat interesting he will take a dip in my rankings. The first four weeks will be a great barometer for Coleman and Barnidge. Both should be the primary targets in this offense and have a chance to carve out a consistent role. The return of Gordon in Week 5, where he will face another player coming off of suspension in Tom Brady, will cut into their production.
Both Barnidge and Coleman could provide value if their ADP overcorrects and drops too far. Coleman is currently coming off the board with late 9th round pick which is far too high at this point. If his ADP dips back into the early to mid 11th where it was in a month ago I may be willing to buy in. I still expect Barnidge to be the number two target in this offense but his target total likely dips under 100.
There is one benefactors of the return of Gordon is his quarterback. There are two names in play and both have a pretty drastic 2016 outlook. Robert Griffin 3, another player who was last relevant in 2013 has the potential to be top 10 type quarterback assuming everything comes together. Gordon, Coleman, Barnidge, Duke Johnson, and if one of the other rookies pop could comprise a dynamic group of pass catchers. If Griffin utilizes his legs like we saw during his time in Washington the sky’s the limit. Unfortunately we have seen Griffin be inefficient and not accurate most recently which could render all that conversation moot. The other and admittedly less sexy option is Josh McCown. While the upside is not there with McCown there is a feeling he is much safer. He has shown the ability to be fantasy relevant in parts of the last three seasons. McCown could be a very nice streamer or third QB in Superflex/Two Quarterback leagues. McCown would be a safer option for the skill position players for the Browns and may be the best option for fantasy owners. The Browns quarterback will be something I am paying close attention to as training camp rolls along and the preseason gets going.
Feel free to go after Gordon in upcoming drafts but try not to let excitement overtake you on draft day. This could lead you to buyer’s remorse, a place no fantasy owner wants to be.