It’s turning out those very same teams were foolish for not selling the farm to acquire the Cleveland Browns’ rising star.
Gordon set an NFL record with back-to-back 200-plus yard performances in Weeks 12 and 13 of the season—both losses for the Browns. Think about that for a second. No receiver has ever been able to string together two consecutive games like Gordon did, all while catching passes from soon-to-be unemployed quarterback Brandon Weeden.
Where do you rank Gordon among the NFL's best receivers?
He’s no one trick pony, either; he did it in a variety of ways. Running crisp and fluid routes is one of his biggest strengths. There are few better than him at shifting weight when coming out of a break and accelerating up field.
Gordon also won’t just beat defenders with his deceptive but significant speed and technique. He is very aware of his surroundings, allowing him to grab and run, sometimes stiff-arming or shedding would-be tacklers on his way to significant yards-after-catch gains—510 yards to be exact through 11 games.
His strong 6'3", 225-pound frame probably doesn't hurt in that department either.
Gordon has also shown he has what it takes to render a defense helpless and completely take over a game. On one drive, albeit in “garbage time” against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Gordon caught every pass—seven receptions for 79 yards—including a touchdown.
That’s dominance, favorable game situation or not.
His 1,249 yards are second in the NFL only to Calvin Johnson. That’s without having played the first two games of the year due to a suspension. And his 19.5 yards per reception are best in the NFL of receivers with 25 or more catches.
The telling sign of his emergence as an elite player this season is his team’s absolute reliance on him. While Gordon missed those two opening contests, Cleveland’s offense floundered, scoring only 17 points combined.
Sure, like any young player in the NFL, Gordon could improve in some areas. His focus has been questionable at times, leading to drops in a couple of key situations. During his rookie season, he dropped a potential game-winning touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts. In 2013, he is tied for 19th in the league with six drops.
Following OTAs, Sports Illustrated's Greg Bedard accused Gordon of loafing on the practice field and raised concerns about the receiver’s commitment and future in the game, per CBS Cleveland.
That has proven to be somewhat of a non-issue this season, as Gordon has exploded. Although, it would be nice to see him have more success winning contested passes.
The real concern for the youngster, though, is maturity. He is just one mistake away from being banned for an entire season by the league. Although, he has stayed out of trouble and off of NFL disciplinarians’ radar since returning from suspension in Week 3.
Shortcomings and concerns aside, the proof is in the tape. Gordon is shining bright in a pass-heavy Browns offense, in a pass-heavy league.
Just imagine where he might be in a couple of years if the Browns finally find a consistent quarterback. Easier said than done, especially for the Browns. Gordon has caught passes from three different QBs this year. Some consistency would do wonders for him.
With all things considered, Gordon has definitely arrived. If you think he hasn’t earned top-10 status yet, you’re watching a different game than the rest of us.
All stats provided by Pro Football Focus (Subscription required) unless otherwise noted.