How High Will Josh Gordon Go in the NFL Supplemental Draft?

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How High Will Josh Gordon Go in the NFL Supplemental Draft?
Photo Courtesy of Baylor.edu

If there's a draft, there's a debate, and the supplemental draft is no different.

This year's edition features a prospect in the Terrelle Pryor-Ahmad Brooks strata of raw talent. Former Baylor wide receiver Josh Gordon measures in at about 6'4" 225 pounds and runs in the high 4.3's/low 4.4's. He has also displayed good hands and fluid athleticism for such a big man.

On the other hand, Gordon left the Baylor program after being suspended and never played a down at Utah after he transferred there last year (due to NCAA rules). Gordon was productive, but not dominant during his final year at Baylor.

Start by subtracting whatever round Gordon would be worth in the 2013 draft by one. If he would be a third-round pick in a typical draft, he would be worth a second-round pick in the supplemental draft. The team exercising the pick can start developing him this year instead of next. An optimistic franchise would view this selection as a steal late in the draft. This is usually in line with the values given to future picks in trades during the current draft.

Adam Caplan from the Sideline View wrote that Gordon could go as high as the "first half" of the Supplemental Draft. Draft expert Josh Norris of Rotoworld wrote that he would be surprised if Gordon draws more that a sixth-round pick because of character questions and stiffness hidden by a very limited demonstration of route-running skills at Baylor.

On Twitter, Norris emphatically stated that Gordon was not in the class of fifth-round picks Danny Coale, Marvin Jones and Juron Criner, or sixth-round picks Tommy Streeter, LaVon Brazill and Marvin McNutt. The obvious implication being that Gordon is not even worth a sixth-round pick.

In a way, Norris is right. Gordon is vastly inferior to Coale and Jones in quick-outs and route-running. He also doesn't have Criner's ball skills and catch radius. All of the trio project as quality NFL wide receivers, but also secondary wide receivers who will never draw double coverage or change a defense's approach to combating an offense.

Still, Gordon's speed and build make him a potentially lethal mismatch for any cornerback on deep passes. You can say the same about Tommy Streeter, but even with a limited sample size, Gordon has vastly superior natural hands and ball skills. That Streeter even went in the sixth round despite a lack of consistency catching the ball shows the value of size and speed at wide receiver.

Teams that already have a size/speed prospect they like, or teams that don't emphasize the need for a size/speed wide receiver in their offense, will likely agree with Norris' take. Another variable here is the "inside information" about Gordon's character. If he doesn't have a good explanation for the winding path his career has taken, the risk index in risk/reward gets a lot higher. If Gordon indeed does not merit more than a sixth-round pick from any team, this alone could be the culprit.

Just as in the regular draft, "it only takes one team" for a player to go higher than expected. Washington plays fast and loose with their picks, and Robert Griffin III could go to the mat for Gordon behind closed doors. Baltimore and Houston are in championship windows. Miami needs a playmaker in the wide receiver corps and has an extra third-round pick next year.

A supplemental draft pick is like an auction bid—indicative of not only a team's evaluation of a player, but what they think the outcome will be of other teams' evaluation of the same player. This variable introduces more inflation, because after all, if your evaluation leads you to believe Gordon could "hit" and deserves a third-round pick, shouldn't that make you more likely to believe that another team picking earlier in the round will come to the same conclusion?

Dazzling size/speed combinations often lead to the biggest reaches at wide receiver. Without knowing more about the nature of Gordon's off-the-field problems and his current conditioning and level of dedication, there's a large element of speculation to this prognostication; but I believe Gordon will get taken with a good team's late fourth or weaker team's early fifth-round pick.

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