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Josh Gordon's Updated Fantasy Outlook for Patriots After Reinstatement

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistAugust 17, 2019

New England Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon warms up before an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

Josh Gordon is back with the New England Patriots after the NFL announced the star wide receiver has been conditionally reinstated and will rejoin the team Sunday. 

This is especially big news for fantasy players who are preparing to draft or who have already gone through the process and are scouring the waiver wire. 

First, even though the reinstatement is conditional, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Gordon will be "ready to go" for the season opener Sept. 8 against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium. 

Gordon is a difficult player to gauge in fantasy because of his inability to stay on the field. He was indefinitely suspended last December for violating terms of his reinstatement under the NFL's substance-abuse policy. It marked his third such suspension since 2014. 

After being acquired by the Patriots last September, Gordon showed flashes of being the superstar it appeared he would become with the Cleveland Browns.

He led the team in yards per reception (18), finished third on the team in receiving yards (720) and was fourth in targets (68) and receptions (40) despite appearing in just 11 games. 

Big plays were Gordon's specialty, with Pro Football Focus noting he had the highest yards-per-attempt average of any Tom Brady pass-catcher since 2006:

PFF NE Patriots @PFF_Patriots

Josh Gordon will be returning to the #Patriots for the 2019 season. His return could completely change the New England offense. https://t.co/nz5DVmbE4y https://t.co/YlURTCYDQG https://t.co/qytfTRej7R

This isn't a surprising stat because the one thing Gordon does consistently is produce. The 28-year-old averaged 17.3 yards per reception in his four-plus years of being active with the Browns. He had an NFL-high 1,646 yards in 2013 when Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer all started at least three games at quarterback for Cleveland.

The Patriots will have plenty of additional targets to go around with tight end Rob Gronkowski retired. James White and Julian Edelman were, by far, Brady's favorite options last season with a combined 231 targets and 161 receptions. 

New England was set to go into this season with some combination of Demaryius Thomas, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers and N'Keal Harry on the outside. Edelman will continue to operate primarily out of the slot. 

Swapping Gordon in as the primary option on the outside is a huge upgrade. 

CBS Sports' Chris Towers extrapolated Gordon's stats in 2018 over a full 16-game slate:

"At last season's catch and yards-per-target rate, that's 72 catches for close to 1,300 yards. And, with no Gronkowski around, Gordon is going to look like an awfully enticing red zone option for Tom Brady, so something in the range of nine touchdowns isn't out of the question. That kind of hypothetical line—72-1300-9—would have been good for the No. 13 WR last season."

Per FantasyPros, Gordon's average draft position is 176. Considering that was before he got reinstated, expect that number to go way up because his raw talent is so high and New England needed a boost at wide receiver. 

All of this sounds good, but be prepared to factor in some missed time for the star wideout. He's only played all 16 games in a season once, when he was a rookie in 2012. 

Gordon is a borderline WR1 in 2019 if he plays all season, but it is hard to justify drafting him in the top five rounds. If you can get him in the middle rounds, that will be the best way to get the most value and avoid the maximum risk he presents.