Fantasy Football 2014: Who Will Be This Year's Josh Gordon?

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IJune 11, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 29:  Cordarrelle Patterson #84 of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball 50 yards for a touchdown against the Detroit Lions on December 29, 2013 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Last season, Josh Gordon had an absolutely incredible year with the Cleveland Browns after a solid-but-unspectacular rookie campaign in 2012. He was perhaps the runner-up to Peyton Manning for fantasy football MVP, and even more impressively, he only played in 14 games in 2013-14.

Gordon combined a mixture of speed, strength and great hands to make big plays while also being reliable on short and intermediate routes.

According to Fantasy Football Calculator, he was also only a mid-round draft pick in most fantasy leagues, so his owners got a tremendous value.

Let's get down to it and figure out which wide receiver will be this year's Gordon with a major breakout year in 2014-15.

One of the most promising candidates is Cordarrelle Patterson of the Vikings. The former Tennessee standout was picked 29th overall in last year's draft but caught just 45 passes as a rookie—the majority of those coming later in the season.

If you're looking for the player with the most similar skill set to Gordon, Patterson is your guy. He is listed at 6'2" and Gordon at 6'3". Patterson weighs in at 220 pounds, and Gordon has just five pounds on him.

Both have that long and powerful—but deceptively quick—running ability that allows them to beat defenders in tight spaces and then gallop away from safeties in the open field.

They also have great length and can pluck a ball thrown anywhere in their vicinity, making them reliable as short-yardage targets as well as deep threats.

That breakaway speed is a major reason why Patterson could light up the stat sheets this season. However, his Achilles' heel as a fantasy player could be the reliance on either rookie Teddy Bridgewater or underwhelming veteran Matt Cassel at quarterback.

But Gordon proved that a receiver doesn't need an elite passer to be dominant, and Patterson has all the tools to break out. 

He really only has to worry about Greg Jennings—who will turn 31 during the season—and Jerome Simpson, who had a nice 2013 season but is nowhere near the talent that Patterson is.

There will be plenty of targets for Patterson, and he will be a fantasy star if he makes the most of them.

Indianapolis' T.Y. Hilton is another intriguing player. The speedster picked up the slack in 2013 when Reggie Wayne went down for the season with a torn ACL October 20.

In the nine games following Wayne's injury, Hilton had four performances of seven or more receptions and three games of over 120 yards.

Hilton's consistency is far from elite, but his raw talent is pushing him toward that category. He's unbelievably gifted in the open field, and for Gordon that factored into his incredible numbers last year in a big way.

Wayne is now 36 years old and can't be counted on as the same player after ACL surgery. He can still be a reliable target for Andrew Luck, but Hilton will likely be asked to carry more of the load.

Luck is another huge aspect of Hilton's fantasy potential. He's a supremely gifted thrower and athlete but still has to refine his game more and make better decisions.

Having a better offensive line is part of that, and tackles Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus will have to keep improving while new center Khaled Holmes will be relied upon to hold things together on the inside.

Free-agent addition Hakeem Nicks will be the biggest obstacle toward Hilton putting up monster numbers, but Nicks has been very unreliable over the past two years while Hilton already has the upper hand in terms of chemistry with Luck.

Still, there is obviously a chance that Wayne and Nicks will both look great, relegating Hilton to his deep threat role.

But if the whole offense continues improving and Hilton gets a bigger role, he could put up some monster stats and be a big steal.  

Finally, Chargers receiver Keenan Allen also has the potential to turn into a legitimate No. 1 fantasy wideout in 2014 if he builds on his great rookie season.

After slipping to the third round in the draft, Allen set out to prove everyone wrong and was San Diego's best receiver for most of the season.

He was second on the team with 105 targets and led the squad with 1,046 yards. His 14.7 average yards after catch and eight total touchdowns are extremely encouraging for his future as well.

Philip Rivers had a renaissance season at quarterback in 2013, and he and Allen should continue meshing together next year.

While Antonio Gates is still around, Allen will be virtually unchallenged as the team's top receiver—Malcolm Floyd and Eddie Royal are simply complementary guys at this point.

Allen isn't the most dynamic athlete, but he's a steady playmaker who should only get better this season. He had a better rookie year and was used more than Gordon was in his first year, and there's still plenty of room for him to truly break out in a big way.

There are of course a few other solid options, but each has a significant enough flaw keeping him behind these three in terms of breakout potential.

Arizona's Michael Floyd is a great talent, but remains the clear second option behind Larry Fitzgerald, with tight end Troy Niklas and receiver Ted Ginn added to the equation for 2014 as well.

Kendall Wright of the Titans is incredibly overlooked in general and had 94 catches last season, but he managed just two touchdowns. He is more of a short-yardage receiver who's dealing with an average Jake Locker at QB.

Houston's DeAndre Hopkins is also immensely skilled, but with Andre Johnson ahead of him and either Ryan Fitzpatrick or rookie Tom Savage at quarterback, there's only so much he'll be able to do.

Alshon Jeffery wasn't included here because I'd argue that his breakout year was 2013; it would be incredibly difficult for him to significantly improve on those stats in Chicago.

All of these guys are great players and could represent some solid values in drafts this summer, but which one has a Gordon-like breakout season will determine many a fantasy league.

Who will it be?


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