It’s Time to Sell Josh Gordon

When we take a look back at Josh Gordon’s NFL career to this point, it resembles an intense rollercoaster, which includes some exhilarating highs and disappointing lows.  These highs and lows  have been represented by his dynasty Average Draft Position (ADP) over his career.  Back in February 2016, Gordon had and ADP of 25 overall (dynastyleaguefootball.com).  Less than a year and a half later, in July 2017, Gordon’s ADP dropped to 216 overall.  These highs and lows can be attributed to the fact that Gordon is extremely talented but has found difficulty staying on the field due to his off-field issues.  As of July 2018, Gordon’s ADP is 41.50 overall, making him the 20th WR off the board.  Based off this ADP, I believe it is time to sell Josh Gordon.  I could point to all of the off-field concerns, but for the sake of this article, I am going to focus on the actual football concerns I have with Gordon being drafted so highly.

The Browns have a Ton of Offensive Weapons

When looking at the Cleveland Brown’s 2018 offensive depth chart, the team is completely different from the squad they threw out on the field in 2017.  Some of the key additions to this Brown’s offense are WR Jarvis Landry (trade/extension), RB Carlos Hyde (Free Agencey), RB Nick Chubb (Draft) and WR Antonio Calloway (WR).

The Browns traded for Jarvis Landry this off season and gave him a 5-year, $75,500,000 contract extension, with $47,000,000 being guaranteed.  I believe that the Browns brought in Landry to fill the Antonio Brown role.  Brown is obviously a more talented version of Landry, but Landry has shown that he can be a target monster, just like Brown was in new Cleveland OC Todd Haley’s offense. Brown had at least 154 receptions in each season while playing under Haley (ffstatistics.com). It is reasonable to expect Landry to get 150 or so targets in this offense, if he assumes the role of the primary possession receiver.

Along with acquiring Hyde and Chubb this offseason, the Browns also gave Duke Johnson a 3-year, $15,610,000 extension, with roughly half of it guaranteed.  The Browns have made a huge investment in the running back position, which should lead to them being heavily involved in this offense, both in the rushing and passing game.  I will get into it more in the next section, but Todd Haley has a history of using his running backs in the passing game, which should cut into the possible work that Gordon could get.

Hold Your Horses on Todd Haley

The fantasy community has been really excited about the Cleveland Browns naming Todd Haley as their Offensive Coordinator.  And they should be! Haley has been the OC for the Steelers since 2012 and has made Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown fantasy superstars. Although we should be excited, the hype has gotten a bit out of control, creating massive expectations for Josh Gordon.

Let’s take a look at how the WR 2 in Haley’s offenses have done the past 4 seasons. Since 2014, the WR 2 has finished as the WR 21 (2017), WR 61 (2016), WR 39 (2015) and WR 59 (2014).  The outlier in this group is 2017.  The reason for this is the WR 2 was JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had 2 games being the WR1 because Antonio Brown was injured.  In those games, JuJu had a total of 218 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Although JuJu produced outside of these 2 weeks, it is hard to believe JuJu would have finished as a top 24 WR without Brown missing some time.  As I mentioned above, I believe that Landry will be the WR 1 in this offense.  If so, I find it hard to believe that Josh Gordon finishes as a top 24 WR while in Cleveland.

One final note about Todd Haley’s offense is that he likes to use the running back position in the passing game.  Since 2013, the running back position has accounted for 12% – 20% of the target share.  Now, that is primarily with Le’Veon Bell, who is one of the best running backs in the league.  But Cleveland has some pretty talented running back in terms of catching the ball.  Duke Johnson had 74 receptions in 2017 and Carlos Hyde had 50 receptions in 2017 with the San Francisco 49ers.  I expect Haley to use these running backs, which will eat into the workload for Josh Gordon and limit his upside.

Don’t Get too Excited about Tyrod Taylor

In 2018, the primary quarterback will be Tyrod Taylor.  Although Taylor has been a decent streamer over the last few years, Taylor has been brutal in terms of supporting wide receivers, in terms of fantasy.  Here are how the top 3 WRs in an offense ran by Taylor have finished over the last 3 seasons

Wide Receiver Finishes for the WR 1, WR 2 and WR 3 in Tyrod Taylor Offenses

(ffstatistics.com)

WR 1 WR 2 WR 3
2017 WR 85 WR 102 WR 116
2016 WR 66 WR 84 WR 90
2015 WR 20 WR 57 WR 77

Now I understand, these stats are from when he was in Buffalo, one of the worst offenses in the NFL over the last few seasons.  But how much can we expect this to change in Cleveland.  No matter how much the scheme and talent has changed, Tyrod is still going to focus on the RBs out of the backfield and the short and intermediate routes, which should primarily be Landry and TE David Njoku.  Even if Josh Gordon was to finish as the WR 1 in this offense, its hard to see a scenario where he finishes higher than a top 18 WR, because Tyrod doesn’t provide that huge upside for his wide receivers.

If rookie QB Baker Mayfield were to see major playing time this season, which I don’t expect, it would be difficult for him to support a high-flying offense that can support multiple offensive weapons.  I believe that Mayfield could eventually bring a ton of upside to this offense, but we are going to have to wait for 2019 or 2020 to see the full effect of Baker Mayfield. If Gordon can show that he can stay on the field and produce with Mayfield, that may be the time to go out and buy Josh Gordon.  But until then, Josh Gordon just isn’t worth the price for me

Overall Finishes for QB and Coach were found at ffstatistics.com

ADP data was based off July 2018 Start-Up ADP from dynastyleaguefootball.com

Contract data was found at spotrac.com

About Mike Colaianne

Mike is a recent college graduate, now teaching Physical Education in the Chicagoland area. Growing up as a die-hard Chicago sports fan (except the Cubs), he has always had a passion for sports. As a P.E. teacher with way too much time on his hands, Mike quickly started to gain a new passion, fantasy football. When not teaching, he can be found either coaching lacrosse or watching his Chicago sports teams. Find him on twitter @mike_colaianne

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