Want to know why serious fantasy football players get headaches around draft time? It’s because of situations like the one Josh Gordon is facing now.
Gordon was an absolute fantasy stud last year and led the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards. He also hauled in nine touchdowns and averaged an impressive 18.9 yards per catch. What’s more, he was targeted 159 times and put up all his numbers in only 14 games thanks to a two-game suspension.
Thus far, Gordon has been durable as well. He played in all 16 games in 2012 and in those 14 contests last year.
He’s a fantasy slam dunk this season, right?
If we look at the numbers in a vacuum, Gordon would be worth a first- or second-round pick as an elite game-changer at wide receiver. However, he and the Cleveland Browns are still awaiting word on the appeal of a possible year-long suspension from the NFL. With fantasy drafts right around the corner, the question now becomes how we treat Gordon.
The thought here is that he is still worth a late-round flyer in your draft (or a small-money gamble in auction formats).
For one, it’s been rather clear during training camp that the off-field issues are not impacting his approach to the game or his production. Daryl Ruiter of 92.3 The Fan recently suggested as much:
Second-year wide receiver Charles Johnson reiterated those thoughts, via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com:
Man, Josh Gordon is an athletic freak, man. He's a one-of-a-kind. From when I first got here until now, you can just see how he's grown. He's a hard worker, you can see each day he comes out and keeps working harder and harder. And I think he's grown as a person. Man, we're a better team with Josh Gordon, I'll tell you that.
From Cleveland’s perspective, it’s good that Gordon’s approach between the lines is rubbing off on his teammates, because someone else is going to have to step up in the receiving department.
Gordon also has fantasy value because of that lack of depth. The Browns will rely on Andrew Hawkins, Miles Austin and Nate Burleson at wide receiver during his absence. It’s safe to say Gordon will get plenty of targets if and when he is on the field this season.
Plus, if Johnny Manziel does win the quarterback job, he will look for a safety blanket as he garners experience in the NFL. What better safety blanket can a rookie signal-caller ask for than the NFL’s leading wide receiver from a year ago?
Clearly, Gordon has incredible fantasy value if he’s on the field. With a possible year-long suspension looming, you aren’t going to consider taking him early in the draft, but you should take a chance on him in the 10th or 11th round.
If he does get suspended for the entire season, it’s not exactly crippling at all to drop a late-round draft pick for someone on the waiver wire. Chances are, Gordon was on plenty of waiver wires himself last year before he took the field, so perhaps it will even lead to a hidden gem if you do your research.
Let’s say Gordon’s suspension is only eight games instead, which is well within the realm of possibilities. That means you have to stash him and take up a spot on the bench for the first half of the season, but you will have one of the best receivers in the league waiting for you when the stretch run rolls around.
That’s a better option than using that late-round pick on yet another journeyman running back.
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