With the news breaking on Monday that Cleveland Browns star wide receiver Josh Gordon had been reinstated by the NFL, many wondered what it meant. How soon could Gordon rejoin the Browns, what would Cleveland’s intentions be with him, and of course, what did this news mean for Gordon’s 2016 fantasy football outlook?
— ESPN (@espn) July 25, 2016
Per reports, Roger Goodell approved Gordon’s reinstatement, which allows him to practice and play in preseason games, but will suspend the star receiver for the first four games of the 2016 NFL season. Gordon will, however, be able to practice and maintain communication with the Browns throughout his suspension, while he will also be at risk of being suspended should he fail another drug test.
While exciting news, it’s unclear how the Browns regard Gordon’s NFL return. The team has an entirely new regime running the show and just this past NFL Draft added four new wide receivers. The passing game has been completely remodeled, with Johnny Manziel and Brian Hartline released, Travis Benjamin now in San Diego and Robert Griffin III assuming the starting role under center.
With so many changes and Gordon’s constant poor decision-making in the past, it’s easy to see why a new regime would hesitate to trust Gordon going forward. On top of that, Gordon is set to be a restricted free agent in 2017, which puts Cleveland in an awkward spot. Not only do they have to trust Gordon this year, but they’d quickly have to decide whether he’s worth big money and a long-term investment.
2016 Fantasy Football Value
All of that is certainly interesting and needs to be figured out eventually, but it really doesn’t matter to fantasy football league managers. One way or another, provided he doesn’t fail another drug test or mess up in another way, Josh Gordon is set to return to the fantasy football realm in week five.
— numberFire (@numberFire) July 25, 2016
There are still red flags to consider, of course. Gordon could be in a weird situation with the Browns, he could mess up again, or he could be in a completely different situation if traded.
Because of all of that, Gordon is an obvious risk and you simply can’t invest a high draft pick on him. He did crush the league in 2013 with over 1,600 receiving yards, but we need to consider his surrounding talent, his current shape and how reliable he is going forward.
All of that mixed together makes Gordon certainly worth drafting, but somewhere in the middle rounds or later.
The good news is there is a steep drop off at wide receiver right around round six or seven in standard 12-man leagues, depending on who you value and how you wide receiver rankings look. Right around round six is where you’ll see guys like Larry Fitzgerald, Eric Decker and Emmanuel Sanders hear their names called. There are still interesting shots worth taking in that range (Tyler Lockett, Kevin White, etc), but an active and dialed in Gordon has to trump them.
That is about the range you’ll want to be targeting Gordon. However, the risk is real and you’ll need to gauge yourself just how much you currently trust in Gordon and how likely you think it is that he stays clean, stays out of any other trouble and also can crush it like he has in the past.
The latter is important, because even that wasn’t the case when he last played in 2014. Still, the idea here is upside, and in the sixth or seventh round, Gordon possesses it in spades. He’s worth the gamble there and just might be one of the top steals in fantasy football drafts when it’s all said and done.