It’s been since December of 2014 since we last saw the infamous Josh Gordon, and over the last three years, he has been more of an enigma than anything else. The allure started with his monster 2013 season where he amassed 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in just 14 games. Then came another suspension in 2014 where he was suspended for the first 10 weeks. After returning from suspension he failed to find the end zone and racked up a measly 60.6 yards-per-game over a five-game stretch. Then came the season-long suspension in 2015. Over his last two seasons, of playing time, you have seen ridiculously good Josh Gordon and terribly inefficient Josh Gordon. So what should expect from him in 2016? Let’s start by looking at the offense as a whole and see how things will shake up.
Cleveland Browns Target breakdown
Corey Coleman: Entering 2016, I was a big supporter of Coleman and his raw ability. He was going to be a guy I targeted in the middle rounds of a draft because of the large target share he was going to see. With the reinstatement of Gordon, I don’t feel as great about Coleman as I once did. That doesn’t mean that he is a guy you should shy away from. I still think he could be a sneaky flex option for teams that can start four WRs. I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb to say that Coleman and his ADP will likely fall from the WR41 he currently sits. I’m not predicting a free-fall but I think he slips at least four or five spots down to the range of Laquon Treadwell and Tavon Austin.
Gary Barnidge: Barnidge was a guy that many felt had a solid floor, and especially after a season in which he had a target share of 20% which was fifth-highest among all TEs last season. Things in 2016, were looking great because he was likely going to be a red zone beast and see the second most targets. With Gordon coming back, I doubt Barnidge see’s the same sort of target share. He should find himself in the 15-18% once Gordon returns. I was already wavering on Gary Barnidge and his value in 2016, I will likely avoid taking him this season.
Duke Johnson: I’m particularly high on the second-year back, and feel he could unseat Isaiah Crowell as the starting back in 2016. Either way, Duke Johnson seemed like a lock for 60-80 receptions in 2016. I still feel like it’s entirely possible, but there is now some level of trepidation here. He went from a guy who was going to see the second or third most targets, to now fourth in line for targets. Of course, there is still the chance that Hue Jackson still wants to get the ball in the hands of one of their most dynamic playmakers. I would also expect a drop in ADP, which would make him a very intriguing value pick. He’s still a strong PPR candidate who could take over as the lead back.
Best of the Rest: The other options are Andrew Hawkins, and rookies Rishard Higgins, and Ricardo Louis. I was excited for both Higgins and Louis for 2016 and beyond, but both of their redraft value just went from slim to none. You can effectively take these guys off any list that you may have had, and for you dynasty guys it’s going to take a few injuries or heaven forbid another suspension for Gordon.
What to expect from Josh Gordon:
Let’s be honest, Josh Gordon has an insanely high ceiling, but he hasn’t played in 22 months. Even when he did play in 2014, he was not the same guy he was in 2013. Now, some of that can be explained by merely the fact that he missed the first 10 games and he was bound to be rusty.
As for 2016, I wouldn’t expect the same 27 percent target share he saw in 2013. To be fair, I would expect something closer to a 20% target share once he returns. He will also be dealing with another unknown in Robert Griffin III. Griffin was an exciting player coming out of Baylor, but Washington ruined him and he hasn’t been the same since. It will be interesting to see what Hue Jackson can do with him. If he can get him right, then RG3 could be a sneaky fantasy asset in re-draft leagues this season.
As for Josh Gordon and the road ahead, he has already hit a bump in the road with the news coming out on Tuesday that he suffered a quad injury that will keep him out for the next few weeks. News like this doesn’t help Gordon, as he can’t afford to miss any time.
With everything considered, Josh Gordon should be a viewed as a WR3 with WR1 upside. I would personally look to take him around the fifth or sixth round of a 12-team league, and feel fantastic about it. He is lottery ticket who can cash in big time, but could also blow up in your face. I will be paying close attention to see how the ultra-talented WR looks in camp and in the preseason. If he looks like the old Josh Gordon than I would expect to see his ADP (WR54) to dramatically rise.
So what route are you going to take? Are you avoiding him or are you planning on targeting him? I will try and have as many shares as I can because I overvalue upside almost to a fault. So jump on the Josh Gordon bandwagon, or maybe you’re still here. It will be interesting to watch and see if this turns into a feel-good story. We should get our first look of real game action once he returns Week 5 against the Patriots.