Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon was one of 2012's biggest fantasy surprises. The rookie supplemental draft pick racked up 805 yards and five touchdowns on 50 receptions. After serving a two-game suspension to start the 2013 campaign, Gordon is ready to pick up where he left off.
Talent has never been a question with Gordon, but his off-the-field behavior is a big problem. In addition to a two-week suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy this season, Gordon failed tests three times for marijuana use in college, at both Baylor and Utah, according to Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland.
But Grossi says Gordon realizes that he his running out of second chances.
"I feel it’s a last chance opportunity for (me in) the league. Nobody wants a problematic type of person in their organization because of how it’s perceived to be. I definitely want to stay away from any controversy as long as I can, forever. That’s definitely my No. 1 priority," Gordon said, per Grossi's report.
If he tests positive for another banned substance, he faces a year-long suspension, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, so there is plenty of incentive for him to take the straight and narrow path moving forward.
Provided Gordon is able to do that, the sky is the limit. The wide receiver's 2012 output was amazing considering he hadn't played organized football the two previous years. His issues with substance abuse in college prevented him from getting on the field, but last season it appeared as though he hadn't missed a step.
Even more incredibly, Gordon produced those numbers with rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden at the helm. While Weeden and Gordon seemed to have solid chemistry, the QB has been one of the NFL's worst at the position over the past 19 NFL regular-season weeks, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Gordon's status is complicated a bit by Weeden's health, as the signal-caller suffered a thumb injury against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen.
It has been determined that Weeden will be unable to play in Week, 3, but rather than going with backup Jason Campbell, head coach Rob Chudzinski has decided to start Brian Hoyer, according to the Browns' official Twitter account.
While Gordon figures to be a focal point of the Browns' offense, Hoyer is obviously a huge question mark. Cleveland has struggled mightily on offense so far this season, averaging just eight points per game. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner seems intent on throwing the ball, but the Browns have been lacking in terms of weapons.
Tight end Jordan Cameron has developed into a credible threat, but there has been no production from the outside receivers. Gordon will change that immediately thanks to his game-breaking ability. The wideout made a number of huge plays last season, averaging better than 16 yards per catch. He is just what the doctor ordered for the Browns offense, as he can stretch the field and keep opposing defenses honest.
While Gordon will definitely be a fantasy factor as the season progresses, he should remain on your bench in Week 3 unless you're desperate. There's always a chance he will get free down the field and make a huge play, but the Browns may try to work him back in slowly. It won't be surprising if Gordon is used primarily as a decoy in Week 3 in an effort to open things up for everyone else.
Gordon also won't be an ideal fantasy play in Week 4, as the Browns will take on the Cincinnati Bengals and their stingy defense. After that, however, it will be smooth sailing. Not only will he have two games under his belt, but he will also have a nice string of matchups—the Browns face the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers in succession.
By the time Cleveland reaches its bye week in Week 10, Gordon should be firmly entrenched as a weekly fantasy starter, whether it's as a No. 2 receiver or a flex play. Gordon isn't a feasible start over the next couple of weeks due to tough matchups and uncertainty at quarterback, but hang in there—he is going to pay big dividends eventually.
Week 3 Projection: three receptions for 48 yards and no touchdowns.
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