The fantasy playoffs are upon us, and those of us (like me) who took the chance and picked up Josh Gordon from the waiver wire when rumblings of his return began to circulate, were pleasantly surprised by his better-than-expected performance on Sunday.
But can we trust what we saw Gordon do against Casey Hayward, who Pro Football Focus ranks as the NFL’s #1 cornerback this year? Or was that just a flash in the pan for a Browns team that ranks dead last among the 32 teams with a record of 0-12?
My advice is, if you need fireworks, play him against the Pack… but know that he could fizzle.
While we should be celebrating his rockstar return in which he matched Odell Beckham Jr. as the only other receiver to put up 85 receiving yards against the Chargers this year, we have to slow down the hype-train for a minute before throwing all of our chips in on him.
The only wide receiver with more than 85 receiving yards against the Chargers this year was Odell Beckham. Josh Gordon hit that today after not playing football for three years.
— JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) December 4, 2017
Here are some risks to consider:
1. Look at 2014
We all remember Gordon’s 2013 season in which he was the #1 wide receiver in the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards. And if we’re being honest, that is what those of us who have rostered him WANT to remember; but he performed a little under that threshold during his 5-game 2014 return.
His Yards per reception average in 2014 was down to 12.6 from his 2013 18.9 – which is still great, but it wasn’t quite as impressive as his pro bowl 2013 campaign.
So we could easily see anything from WR3 production- Wr1 production from him at the end of this season, it will be very difficult to predict.
2. Was Casey Hayward playing his best? Time will tell.
Casey Hayward, though he is 2017’s best corner, may not have been on his game on Sunday. On the Monday prior to the game, he lost his brother to a tragic car accident.
Chargers’ CB Casey Hayward will play today, per source, despite the death of his brother last week:… https://t.co/4bGKC6hYy2
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 3, 2017
As a result, he missed practice with the team and preparation for Gordon. Adding to the heartache, he also lost his mother to breast cancer in 2016, which must have made this all the more difficult for him – my most sincere condolences.
3. The Browns are playing ‘Moneyball.’
Yes, it’s true, and as a result of this strategy, there is serious reason to believe that they are tanking for draft picks, making their usage of any impact player extremely suspect.
On January 5, 2016, the Browns hired Paul DePodesta, the real man behind the Brad Pitt movie ‘Moneyball,’ as their chief strategy officer. Depodesta uses a statistics-based algorithm to choose players that are the least expensive to roster, and make the highest impact for the team. Getting the right players at the right price is the name of the game.
— Last 2 First / Satch (@SportsOhio7) October 23, 2017
The problem is that it legitimately appears as if the Browns are obtaining those ‘right players’ at the cost of throwing away entire seasons much to the chagrin of fans, and fantasy football participants, let alone the players themselves. Since the hiring of DePodesta, the Browns have only won 1 game, and that was the second to last of the 2016 season. This year, they have yet to win a game.
So they’re either tanking or what they’re doing is just not working.
If setting up the entire team for failure through roster mishandling wasn’t reason enough for pause, I think back to the time the Browns were on their way to winning their first game of the season last year in week 10 against the Ravens. But instead of letting Kessler stay in the game, they decided to bench him in the third quarter for Josh McCown. The Browns would go on to lose that game 7-28.
So will they keep Gordon in the game should things lean towards a Browns victory? Or would they limit his snaps? These are the risks that we unfortunately have to consider if we want to start Josh Gordon during the fantasy playoff push.
Despite all of these negatives, there are still several reasons for optimism regarding his fantasy outlook in the upcoming weeks – which include:
1.The fact that the Browns seem genuinely willing to give him a large workload.
Prior to the game on Sunday against the Chargers, Browns’ head coach Hue Jackson made no secret about how excited he was for what Gordon could bring to the table. He said, via Josh Edwards from 247 sports: “I have big plans for [Josh]. I plan for him to play and play as much as he can handle. I think he is a very talented player. He needs to play, needs to get out there and play”
Via Ohio Sports journalist Nate Ulrich, Jackson said, referencing Gordon: “it’s like Christmas, I get to open a new toy. I know what’s in that box, but I just want to see how good it is. It’s exciting that he’ll be back out there.”
Jackson delivered on his statements, inserting Gordon into the game on 48 out of 63 offensive snaps. Gordon trailed only Corey Coleman for field time among the wide receiver corps, according to the official website of the Browns.
The Browns, just as much as any of us who have him on either a playoff-bound team or a dynasty league, want to see what Gordon can offer. And that gives me a reason to believe that he can contribute in the next few weeks.
2. Gordon seems to be one of those rare quarterback-proof wide receivers.
What makes Gordon’s career numbers even crazier, is the quarterback play he has had to deal with while posting his ridiculous stats.
his quarterbacks throughout the years have been:
Brandon Weeden and Thad Lewis in 2012
Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden, and Brian Hoyer in 2013
Manziel and Bian Hoyer in 2014
Deshone Kizer in 2017
Enough said? I think so.
3. He truly is one of the most athletic wide receivers that the NFL has ever seen.
Josh Gordon is a one of a kind player. He’s listed at 6-3 and 225 lbs on the official NFL website. Danny Kelly from The Ringer once said: “He’s got Julio Jones’s breakaway speed at somewhere between Dez Bryant’s and Brandon Marshall’s size.” and he’s right. The man is a playmaker – when he touches the field, magic happens.
My point is this; he has never totally flopped and is unlikely to now. Even if he doesn’t explode for an average of 150 yards and 2 touchdowns per game down the stretch like we all hope, he should still be a consistent player and fantasy asset for those of us who can’t help but put him in our lineups.
— NFL (@NFL) December 8, 2017
I, for one, am definitely going to play him against the struggling Packers’ defense this week. Next week? Who knows. But I feel confident that he can at least get me a solid ten points this week in a must-win game for me to get into the playoffs.
Here’s to hoping Josh can get back to his 2013 ways and kick some tail on Sunday!