Fantasy 5: Josh Gordon unlikely to return to WR1 status right away
There are plenty reasons the CLE WR won't be as good as he was in 2013, says Jeff Ratcliffe. Plus, the DEN and WAS running games.
Fantasy 5: Josh Gordon unlikely to return to WR1 status right away
Every weekday, the Fantasy 5 will take a look at the five most important NFL news stories for fantasy football players, giving you the advice you need to improve your team.
With training camps opening up across the league, we got some news yesterday that set the fantasy world abuzz. Let’s dive right into today’s Fantasy 5:
1. How should fantasy drafters value Josh Gordon?
After months of speculation, we finally have a conclusion to Josh Gordon’s most recent suspension saga. He’s being reinstated, but will face a four-game suspension to open the season. This news broke early than many had expected, with Gordon technically not eligible to apply for reinstatement until August 1. Though some concerns existed that the Browns wouldn’t welcome him back, Gordon is fully expected to be with the team this season. This news has obvious fantasy implications, but how should fantasy players proceed?
Gordon hasn’t played a down of football since Week 16 on the 2014 season. He appeared in just five games that year, but was fantasy’s No. 1 receiver in 2013 with 1,646 yards and nine scores on a whopping 149 targets in 14 games played. So the upside is certainly there. However, he’s now on a Browns roster that features more talent than it did back in 2013, when Greg Little led the wide receivers in offensive snaps. Cleveland drafted promising rookies Corey Coleman and Rashard Higgins to go along with ascending TE Gary Barnidge.
With more mouths to feed, it isn’t safe to assume that Gordon completely dominates the target share when he returns. That being said, he’s still very likely to see the largest workload. Still, a year off combined with the Browns shaky quarterback situation is enough to suppress Gordon’s value. Fantasy drafters would be wise to not expect Gordon to step right back in as a WR1. He’s better viewed as an upside WR3 when factoring in replacement value for his four-game suspension. That makes Gordon roughly a sixth- or seventh-round pick.
[Gordon’s expected return certainly throws a wrinkle into draft plans. You need to prepare and see how he’ll go in drafts before you enter the real deal. Take a spin with PFF’s new Draft Master tool to find out, plus get recommendations on the players you should target in every round of your draft.]
2. Can C.J. Anderson top 1,500 rushing yards?
The Denver Post sure seems to think so, but let’s not get out of hand here. With camp opening across the league, we’re almost out of the NFL’s exaggeration period. But hot takes like this one keep popping up, and deserve a closer look. The argument here is one we’ve heard throughout the offseason: Denver is going to run the ball more often this season. With Peyton Manning gone, the Broncos can run the actual Gary Kubiak offense. Therefore, Anderson benefits.
While we’re certainly going to see more of the traditional Kubiak offense, simply assuming that Anderson is the main beneficiary seems a bit shortsighted. Yes, the Broncos did match the offer sheet Anderson signed with Miami during the free agency period. But they also drafted Devontae Booker, who is an ideal fit for Kubiak’s zone-blocking scheme. Booker already figures to get work as a receiver, and the concern is that he eats into Anderson’s early-down work. At this point, Booker’s presence makes it very hard to be anywhere near as bullish on Anderson as the Denver Post. He’s best viewed as an RB2, which is essentially where he’s currently going as the 16th running back off the board.
3. Potential fantasy breakout: Phillip Dorsett
It was a disappointing rookie year for the former first-rounder, as Dorsett caught just 18 balls on 36 targets for 225 yards and one score. However, the Indianapolis Star pegged Dorsett as a potential breakout candidate, and we’re inclined to agree. Dorsett has field-stretching speed, and is in line for an increased target share with Andre Johnson no longer on the roster.
Perhaps more importantly, the Colts plan to run fewer two-TE sets this year with Coby Fleener now in New Orleans. That means more three-wide sets with Dorsett on the field along with T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. While Hilton and Moncrief are the preferred fantasy options, Dorsett may actually offer the best fantasy value, as he’s currently going as the No. 58 wide receiver in early draft ADP. His upside is worth a flier in the later rounds of fantasy drafts.
4. Is Matt Jones a fantasy value?
There’s been a lot of speculation about the Washington backfield this offseason. We were able to put the Arian Foster rumors to bed last week. Now we also need to move on from the narrative that rookie Keith Marshall could push Matt Jones for carries.
A former five-star recruit, Marshall was stuck behind Todd Gurley early in his college career with injuries – a torn right ACL as a sophomore, which didn’t heal right and limited his junior year as well – and the emergence of Nick Chubb limiting his touches over the last two seasons. However, he turned heads with a blazing 4.31 40 time at the combine. But despite that impressive time, Marshall lacks a strong resume, and some have even suggested he’s on the roster bubble.
Whether fantasy players like it or not, the Washington backfield is shaping up to be dominated by Matt Jones. Chris Thompson will get much of the passing down work, but Jones figures to be the lead dog in terms of touches. With a projected workload of roughly 250-plus touches in the Redskins’ potentially potent offense, Jones could offer surprisingly strong fantasy value at his current ADP in the mid-fifth round.
5. The top fantasy wideout in Minnesota is … Laquon Treadwell
Entering the pre-draft process, Treadwell was the consensus No. 1 fantasy prospect at wide receiver, but his stock fell after poor testing numbers at the combine. However, it went largely overlooked that Treadwell was still recovering from a broken left tibia and ankle dislocation that he suffered toward the end of his 2014 season. According to Treadwell, he essentially played “on one leg” last season with his foot feeling like it was on fire. Yet, he still managed to catch 82 balls for 1,153 yards, 11 TDs in 2015. Treadwell also caused 17 missed tackles, which ranked fourth among draft-eligible receivers.
The good news is that Treadwell now feels like he’s “back to full strength” as the Vikings camp is set to open July 28. A fully healthy Treadwell gives the Vikings the potency they lacked at wide receiver last season. He’s a strong candidate to lead the team in targets and fantasy points, but the drafting public is still picking Stefon Diggs a full round before Treadwell. The latter is coming off the board at the end of the 10th-round, which is strong value. Treadwell has very real WR3 potential this year.
Jeff Ratcliffe | Director of Fantasy
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.