In Thursday’s Supplemental Draft, the Cleveland Browns made a bit of a surprise move in using their 2013 second round pick on former Baylor wide receiver Josh Gordon. By using such an early pick on Gordon, dynasty owners are obviously wondering what his long-term prospects are. That second round pick is the highest supplemental draft pick used in the NFL since 2003 when the Houston Texans spent a second on running back Tony Hollings. Will Josh Gordon beat the production of a guy that you’ve likely never heard of? Let us take a closer look.
So who is Josh Gordon? The résumé is rather limited, as he really only produced for one season before being kicked off the team by Baylor administration. The Bears coaching staff fought hard to keep him but were unsuccessful and as a result Gordon transferred to Utah. Josh Gordon sat out all year at Utah as the NCAA requires, though he was still able to practice with the team. This gives him an upper hand on a guy like Greg Little, who Cleveland took a chance on in the second round of 2011 without even having practiced for an entire year. It’s safe to assume that Browns scouts observed Josh Gordon practicing at Utah and Cleveland was the only team that he had a chance to visit in the weeks leading up to the supplemental draft.
Connecting even more dots, it makes sense that the Cleveland Browns were high on Josh Gordon after publicly targeting his former teammate at Baylor Kendall Wright with the 22nd pick this past year (and selecting Phil Taylor with their first round pick the year prior). What is worth noting is the production increase that the Baylor receivers saw from 2010 to 2011.
Kendall Wright: 78 receptions for 952 yards 7 TD 26.1% of passing yardage
Kendall Wright: 108 receptions for 1663 yards 14 TD 36.3% of passing yardage (selected with the 20th pick by the Titans)
Terrance Williams: 43 receptions for 483 yards 4 TD 13.2% of passing yardage
Terrance Williams: 59 receptions for 957 yards 11 TD 20.9% of passing yardage
Tevin Reese: 45 receptions for 401 yards 0 TD 10.9% of passing yardage
Tevin Reese: 51 receptions for 877 yards 7 TD 19.2% of passing yardage
Josh Gordon: 42 receptions for 714 yards 7 TD 19.6% of passing yardage
Josh Gordon: ????
In most cases, the production of a college wide receiver exhibits a positive linear trend. Projecting what could have been with Josh Gordon, his 714 yards in 2010 accounted for 19.6% of the Baylor receiving total. Not improving upon that percentage would have led to 895 receiving yards for Josh Gordon in 2011 with the increased production of the offense (namely RG3). But Kendall Wright improved nearly 10%, Terrance Williams improved nearly 7%, and Tevin Reese accounted for almost an 8% increase in receiver yardage output. A 1,000 plus yard receiving season from Josh Gordon had he played at Baylor in 2011 doesn’t just seem like a conservative projection, it’s practically a given.
Stats aside, what do we know of Josh Gordon’s skillset? I lack the resources to sufficiently scout the game of Gordon, but what you hear is mostly positive. At 6’3 224 and a 4.52 forty yard dash, his size/speed makeup is above average. That 4.52 forty yard dash is also likely without the training of speed coaches for months in advance like prospects receive prior to the NFL Combine or their Pro Days. Some say that he is more of a 4.4 guy had he not pulled up lame on his attempt in the forty. He plucks the ball out of the air with his hands and there is very little concern of him putting the ball on the ground (though there was not much with Greg Little coming into Cleveland either). The main concerns coming out for Gordon are production versus competition (he did pile up most of his yardage on inferior opponents) maturity (with the off-field issues), tendencies to round off his routes (so people say), and ball security.
So what should we expect early on from Josh Gordon? Will 2012 be seen as more of a redshirt year or could he see the field in 2012? With rookie Brandon Weeden at quarterback, I don’t expect the Cleveland offense to air it out early on and instead to ride the back of Trent Richardson. As I said in this article my expectation is a Sam Bradford-like rookie year from Brandon Weeden based on trends of Pat Shurmur quarterbacks. But the Cleveland receiver depth chart is pretty up in the air, with the only lock appearing to be Greg Little as a starter. Gordon will duke it out with Mo Massaquoi, Josh Cribbs, fellow rookie Travis Benjamin, Carlton Mitchell, and Jordan Norwood. His natural talent is higher than all of those guys, but how soon will those things click after not playing in a game all last year?
There seem to be some cries of desperation from sources around the league regarding the Cleveland Browns. A second round pick in a pretty high price but based on the time value of draft picks, this translates closer to a current third round pick. For me to believe that Cleveland were getting desperate, it’s likely that they would have spent some of their abundant salary cap space, which is near the largest available in the league. But, if that were the case you have to believe the mindset would be to get production out of Josh Gordon sooner instead of later. Greg Little did play early and often (983 out of 1087 total offensive snaps), so tossing a youngster into the fire doesn’t seem to be something that scares off the Cleveland coaches.
In a dynasty league, the value of Josh Gordon should probably rest somewhere after Greg Little and his former Baylor teammate Kendall Wright given the amount of projecting that is going on. Still, if you like a high upside gamble later on, Gordon might be just what you’re looking for. To me, the biggest endorsement of Josh Gordon is that Cleveland (a team which really values their draft picks) was willing to use a second round pick in 2013 on him after his not even playing at all last year. He is now squarely on fantasy radars as a player that you absolutely must monitor in training camp. Monitor how Josh Gordon progresses on the depth chart in training camp and perhaps more importantly, watch Brandon Weeden. Wide receiver more than any other position is production dependent upon the guy under center.
Follow Mike on Twitter @MDaneshgar.