The most important ability is availability.
It’s a quote I grew up hearing coaches preach. We’d hear it when a teammate was deactivated due to a slumping GPA, or when a guy would sit out with strep throat. We’d hear it when a less-talented player got bumped up the depth chart for a week over a guy with more talent who didn’t show for a morning workout. It’s still a commonly used quote. A quick Google search returned names like Bill Polian, Todd McShay, Brian Dawkins, and Ryan Shazier as having been quoted using the phrase (or a variation) in the recent past. Availability implies dependability, and the offspring of dependability is trust.
Despite his many on-field abilities, we haven’t seen the most important ability on display from Josh Gordon in a long time. When he runs out of the tunnel on Sunday to play against the Chargers, it will mark the end of a 1079-day absence from the gridiron. This drought is older than two of my three kids. If he (improbably) posts 100 receiving yards in the game, it will end a 1107-day drought since his last triple-digit yardage performance. Should he find the end zone, a 1450-day drought will be broken.
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Forgive me if I am conflicted about how to know how to feel about watching Gordon on the field, as a dynasty owner and as a Browns fan. This is a player who has been suspended by his college program, by the NFL (multiple times) and by his team as well. This is a player who clearly has battled internal demons, but has also lied to us many times. The most recent revelation was that Gordon was not just a substance abuser, but that he was selling more than 10k worth of marijuana per month while in college. I’m not sure he’s just “a confused, troubled kid” as we were told many times throughout this process.
It’s not that Gordon answers to us; he doesn’t. I am not his judge. However, in making a decision to trust a player enough to make a meaningful investment, which, I’m predicting we’ll have to do very soon (if his ADP history is any indication), then I can’t help but be hesitant.
Gordon never fully left the dynasty radar. He had an ADP of 25.17 in February 2016, despite having not played football for 408 days at that point in time. His ADP journey has a pretty identifiable trend line, although it continued to spike every time there was even a whisper that he might be reinstated. The dynasty community seems to have welcomed him back with open arms, as evidenced by his 84 spot ADP rise upon the news of his reinstatement. Why? His 2013 is one of the more special fantasy seasons in recent memory. He averaged nearly 118 yards per game and scored nine touchdowns in 14 games that season while catching passes from the likes of Jason Campbell and company.
A DLF Trade Finder search returned the following transactions involving Gordon this week:
- Gordon for Jay Ajayi
- Gordon for Jimmy Graham
- Gordon for Emmanuel Sanders
- Gordon for Michael Crabtree
As you can see, believers are already willing to give up significant capital to buy the Gordon return story. Is this a good decision?
Gordon is re-entering a situation where it isn’t difficult to imagine him succeeding (I’m feeling an extreme sense of déjà vu as I write this). The Browns are in dire need of playmakers (more déjà vu), and one of DeShone Kizer’s most transferable skills to the pro-level so far has been his deep ball. Gordon looks like he’s in shape, and reportedly ran a 4.3 second 40-yard dash in his first workout at the team facility in early November. If this is true, Gordon is two-tenths of a second faster than when he entered the league.
Earning targets shouldn’t be a problem. Coach Hue Jackson has already been quoted as saying Gordon will start immediately. The Browns have spent 178 targets on the following wide receivers this season: Rashard Higgins, Bryce Treggs, Ricardo Louis, Kenny Britt, Kasen Williams, and Sammie Coates. That’s an average of 16.2 targets per game that would be better directed at a player with Gordon’s talents than who they’ve been going to over the first 11 weeks.
If Gordon really is right this time, what can we expect him to do with these targets? The ceiling is the same as it’s ever been. He’s a player who had seven 100-yard games in 2013, including two performances of more than 230 yards. He’s a player who’s been targeted more than ten times in a game in 37 percent of career games. It would be unwise to ignore the significance of his dominance in his second NFL season.
Average receiving yards per game, Second NFL season
|Odell Beckham Jr.||2015||96.7|
Gordon’s sophomore campaign was head-and-shoulders above some of the other recently celebrated second-year breakouts. It’s a season that should be kept fresh in our memories as he retakes the field this weekend. If we erased every suspension from Gordon’s history and treated 2017 as the follow-up year to his 2014 season, he’d be a slam dunk first round startup pick. Of course, we can’t do that, but playing these mental games has helped me restore my appreciation for his on-field capabilities and what they can mean to a dynasty team.
I can’t tell the average dynasty player to go buy Gordon in good conscience. He already costs so much to acquire that if he fails, you’ll have meaningfully damaged your dynasty roster. I don’t own a single Gordon share across my portfolio and I’m honestly a little relieved that I can just watch his performance on Sunday without the emotional highs and lows that those who do own shares will no doubt experience.
If you are going to try to acquire Gordon today, treat the experience like buying a scratch off lottery ticket. Not one of the one dollar tickets… one of those huge 20 dollar tickets that you’d actually regret buying if every square came up blank. The potential payoff is the stuff of dreams, but the price of a chance to win is not for the faint of heart.
- Mount Bust-More? Historical Context for 2017’s Early First Round WRs - December 28, 2017
- The Return of Josh Gordon - December 2, 2017
- Player Value: Two Wide Receivers Who Might Never Be Cheaper - September 15, 2017