There are a lot of words to describe the 21-year-old Josh Gordon from Baylor: fast, athletic, big, raw, immature, risky and the most commonly used term…enigma.
He was kicked off the Baylor football team and was planning to play at Utah before changing his mind and entering the supplemental draft. On Thursday the Browns nabbed Gordon in the second round, surrendering their second-round pick next year in the process.
Gordon enters the Browns organization having played a grand total of zero collegiate downs in 2011.
Was he worth the risk?
Gordon ran a blazing fast 4.52 second 40-yard dash in front of 21 NFL scouts this week. There is no question that his athletic abilities are NFL-worthy.
Standing at 6’3’’ and 224 pounds, he has the potential to be a tremendous red zone target, in addition to possessing the ability to sprint past the competition. Add terrific hands to the equation, and Gordon has everything you would like from a receiver on paper.
But the NFL is not played on paper.
While merely running around a field with no contact this week for scouts, he pulled a quad muscle and was unable to finish the workout.
What’s going to happen once Gordon puts on the pads?
Another problem I have with Gordon is his collegiate production.
After recording a whopping one pass for seven yards as a freshman in ’09, he made 42 catches for 714 yards and seven touchdowns his sophomore season. Not bad, but 302 of those yards came against Kansas and Kansas St. He registered a mere 100 yards against powerhouses Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma St.
Can he produce against elite-level competition in the rugged AFC North right off the bat?
Route running is going to be a major adjustment for Gordon, according to an AFC college scout who spoke with NFL.com’s Albert Breer:
“The issue is those Baylor guys are tough, there's no playbook, there's a lot of route conversions. He's gonna be starting over from a fundamental standpoint. He doesn't know how to run routes, and he has some natural tightness."
He has a lot to learn on the field, and who knows if he is prepared to handle the life of an NFL player off the field. With a checkered past, it’s certainly no guarantee.
ESPN’s John Clayton agrees that if Gordon is going to be a productive player, it’s going to take a while:
Even though Josh Gordon went in the second round, his true value to the Browns won't be felt until his second or third year.— John Clayton (@ClaytonESPN) July 12, 2012
So while the future is potentially bright for Gordon, he won’t make a major impact right off the bat, which is a problem for a Browns offense that finished 29th in yards per game and 30th in points per game last season.
Gordon will join Greg Little, fourth-round pick Travis Benjamin and Mohamed Massaquoi as the main targets for either Colt McCoy or first-round pick Brandon Weeden.
There isn’t a veteran receiver who can show Gordon the ropes. This is a young, inexperienced team just like Gordon. Weeden (likely to start) can’t provide him with veteran tips.
So ultimately, Gordon doesn’t need to be ready right away. It would be a shocker to everyone in the NFL if the Browns were to muster a .500 record. The expectations are low.
This is a year for the young players to develop and get reps at the NFL level. Gordon will have a year to get familiar with the game and get back into football shape.
Gordon is not the savor for the Browns in 2012. As for 2013…that’s completely up to him.