I’ve spent a lot of time looking into the Cleveland Browns this year. Probably more time than most people would want to spend looking at a team that has gone 1-31 over the past two seasons. But to me, they are one of, if not the most, interesting teams for Fantasy purposes this season. A big piece of that is Josh Gordon, who surprised everyone, including the Browns, when he did not report to camp. That is all behind us now, as he returned to camp today after taking care of his sobriety and mental-wellbeing.
First of all, kudos to Gordon for taking care of himself and putting himself in what he feels is the best position to succeed. Now that he is back though, Fantasy owners are wondering how to value him. I got you covered.
The Case for Josh Gordon
Initially, when I first looked into the Browns I decided that Josh Gordon was the only player on the Browns that I wanted to draft. I have changed my mind on that stance, but he is still the player I most want to own on Cleveland. The reason being, I believe he is the best fit for Tyrod Taylor. First, I believe that Gordon, unlike Jarvis Landry, can do more with fewer targets. It is no surprise that there are a lot of offensive weapons on the Browns, so I do not think we will see one player dominate the targets every single week. If they are distributed evenly, mainly between the top two targets, I think Gordon easily outproduces Landry then.
First, lets address why I think he is a better fit for Tyrod (or Tuh-rod now) than you may think. The belief that Taylor is a game manager who does not take shots down the field is simply not true. Does he take care of the ball? Obviously. But he is not afraid to air it out either. Taylor has had a pretty high aDOT (average depth of target) in each of his three seasons as the Bills quarterback. In 2015 he ranked third amongst all QBs with a 10.7 aDOT, that dropped to 9.8 in 2016, ranking sixth that year. Last year, without a true deep threat, he still managed to put up an 8.8 aDOT, which ranked 19th out of 40 QBs. This shows you that he will throw the ball down the field, which certainly bodes better for Gordon, than it does for Landry.
The last time we saw Gordon over the course of a full season was in 2013, when he led all players in receiving yards. That year he ranked 23rd in all wide receivers in aDOT at 14.3 yards. That is similar to Sammy Watkins in 2015, the best season any WR put up with Taylor at the helm. That year Watkins ranked fourth amongst receivers with an 18.3 aDOT and finished with 60-1,047-9. Gordon posseses that down field ability and is a better all around wideout, so he should be able to match, if not exceed what Watkins did that season. Landry on the other hand has ranked outside the top 115 in aDOT amongst receivers in each of the past three seasons. In fact, he accomplished a feat last year that had never been done before, being the first receiver ever to top 100-receptions and fail to reach 1,000 receiving yards. Clearly he needs volume to live up to expectations.
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Lets address the volume issue. Could there be enough passing volume where both Landy and Gordon can co-exist? Yes, of course. In fact, the last season the Browns did not have more than 500 passing attempts was in 2010. Since then, they had one season with fewer than 566 attempts. Under Hue Jackson, Browns quarterbacks threw 567 passes in 2016 and 574 in 2017. Being awful and always trailing in games inflate these numbers, and while the Browns have improved this season, they will be far from a juggernaut. However, in three seasons as the starter of the Buffalo Bills, Taylor has never thrown more than 436 times and has failed to thrown for more than 3,035 yards. In fact, this is what his average season looks like: 412 attempts, 2,952 yards and 17 touchdowns.
I like to think that the number will be somewhere in the middle. I think Taylor will throw more passes this season than he did with the Bills (as long as he is the starter) but I would not be surprised if the Browns attempt less passing plays than they have in recent years. Given that, I am more incline to trust the player who can take it the distance anytime he touches the ball, rather than the guy who relies solely on volume. Now that you know I will take Gordon over Landry, you might be wondering where you should take each of them.
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Well, I will tell you unless he falls into the sixth round, I will be passing up on Landry. I will gladly select Gordon in the fourth round and currently have him ranked inside my top-20 WRs. To me, Gordon belongs perfectly within my third tier of wide receivers, which includes names like Stefon Diggs, Amari Cooper, and Tyreek Hill. All of these receivers possess the upside to put up a top-five season, but all come with some sort of question marks. Currently, I have Gordon last of those four, but originally he was behind only Diggs. The upcoming weeks will be a big determinant of where he slots in, but there is no denying the upside he has if he is truly back and fully committed to football, which I do not have a reason to question. You should not be afraid to draft Gordon, but you should monitor his status closely going forward in the preseason as a determinant of how highly you should take him. Gordon is one of those players that if he hits, he can win you a Fantasy championship. You should never discredit those players, especially if you can now get him for a little cheaper, because people have been scared off the past couple of weeks.
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