How To Approach Josh Gordon In Fantasy Football
It actually happened! After taking an aggressive stance on Josh Gordon in the DRAFT Best Ball championship and in other league formats, Gordon has been reinstated by the league and returned to the New England Patriots organization. Of course, this is not the first time that Josh Gordon has been reinstated or returned to a team.
Josh Gordon has been in the NFL ever since he was drafted in the 2012 NFL supplemental draft. Not the regular draft, because nothing has ever been normal for Gordon (including the fact that when he was drafted, he had not played football since 2010). He played 16 and then 12 games in the 2012-2013. Gordon was suspended for the first time in 2014 and then missed the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons. He then played in five games in 2017 before being a full member of the Browns in 2018. Gordon was then of course traded to the Patriots and was suspended again.
Ben Volin’s excellent piece on the Boston Globe website sheds the most light on Gordon’s situation with the Patriots at the moment. The biggest positive signal for us in fantasy football is that there is no suspension incoming. From Volin “Gordon was allowed to report to Gillette Stadium on Sunday, and immediately start participating in workouts and practices. He won’t be able to play in Thursday’s game because he won’t have had enough practice time with the Patriots, but Gordon does not have to serve an additional suspension. He is eligible to play in the final preseason game and in Week 1.“
Gordon’s non-suspension is part of Goodell’s new effort to be a little more player-friendly, likely due to the fact the NFL and NFLPA’s collective bargaining agreement negotiation is forthcoming. Volin’s piece further confirms that Josh Gordon does need to stay sober to avoid a suspension and to be an active member of the Patriots but that should be fairly obvious to any RotoExperts reader.
So from a playing time projection standpoint, we address Josh Gordon like this: His median projection probably does not include 16 games as he has been able to do that one time in his seven-year NFL career. However, there is no reason to project him to miss playing time the way that we would with an injured or actually suspended player. Therefore, we are taking a slightly aggressive approach in projecting Josh Gordon for a 16 game fantasy football season. He has been tagged with “Volatile Playing Time” in the projections and the rankings because it is certainly true. However, the best way to get an accurate sense of fantasy football player values is to assume Josh Gordon is on the field.
Lest we forget, Josh Gordon on the field is terrifying for opposing defenses. He is a legitimately great player.
Using the Adjusted Yards Per Attempt tool from Rotoviz, we can see Gordon’s historical efficiency in visual form.
In Tom Brady’s entire career, Josh Gordon is the most efficient player he has ever played with (minimum of 50 targets). Tom Brady averaged more yards per adjusted attempt targeting Josh Gordon last season than he did with Randy Moss and Rob Gronkowski or any of the other historical Patriots’ greats.
Gordon’s greatness was not just restricted to New England however. Since 2012, there are only 12 players with 400 or more targets who averaged 9.0 or more yards per target. They are: DeSean Jackson, Rob Gronkowski, Julio Jones, Brandin Cooks, Adam Thielen, Kenny Stills (we have been trying to tell you !!!), T.Y Hilton, Michael Thomas, Doug Baldwin, Calvin Johnson, Travis Kelce and… Josh Gordon.
I think it would be easy to believe that Gordon is “not worth the headache” or is more promise than production but the fact is, when Gordon is on the field, he is a superstar-caliber player.
Gordon lead the 2018 Patriots in yards per target, lead the 2017 Cleveland Browns in yards per target, and in fact is the Cleveland Browns franchise history leader in yards per target (minimum 150 targets).
In the three games that Josh Gordon played without Rob Gronkowski in the lineup for the Patriots, he posted stat lines of:
4 catches, 100 yards on 7 targets
5 catches,130 yards and 1 touchdown on 9 targets
4 catches, 81 yards on 12 targets
So when you hear someone say that Josh Gordon is nothing to get excited about or that they aren’t drafting him, that person just isn’t thinking about what they are saying. Gordon will be the clear top wide receiver on an offense was begging for one. With no answers at tight end after the departure of Rob Gronkowski, it has become fairly evident that just James White and Julian Edelman are not enough to sustain one of the best offenses in the league.
So now, we have to answer the question: what do you do with Josh Gordon in your fantasy football drafts?
My more aggressive nature wants to draft Gordon close to where he landed in our initial run via team-level projections. Gordon came in at WR21, projected for 16 games with a 21% market share of the Patriots team targets.
Gordon’s projected statline for 16 games is: 211 PPR points, 13.19 fantasy points per game, 111.99 targets, 67.89 receptions, 1,032.28 receiving yards and 6.8 receiving touchdowns.
However, I am a little more conservative with my actual ranking of Josh Gordon overall. I placed him at my WR30, behind Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Curtis Samuel, Christian Kirk, and Alshon Jeffery. Gordon has better projections than those players but all feature much more certainty in terms of role and playing time. Gordon may take time to get re-acclimated to playing pro football, he may find himself off the wagon again and it would be silly to deny that the range of outcomes for Gordon’s 2019 fantasy football season aren’t wide.
However, I will be fairly aggressive in drafting Gordon for the rest of the DRAFT Best Ball Championship (despite the fact that I already have a large share of him in my portfolio). If your goal is to win your league (and it should be) drafting players like Josh Gordon is what you should be doing. Gordon’s median outcome more than pays off the current draft capital you are required to spend on him but further, Gordon could be one of the top 10 wide receivers in fantasy and absolutely smash his ADP even as it climbs up into the seventh and sixth rounds.