Before 2012, it's been pretty rare to get excited about anything regarding the Cleveland Browns. Having been the NFC North's punching bag for so long, fans had been longing for some sort of jolt to give them a reason to keep watching. The drafting of Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden helped not only fans, but fantasy owners who have done their best to stay away from the Browns outside of Peyton Hillis' breakout year in 2010. But what many owners may not realize is that a new fantasy sleeper popped up late last week.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you WR Josh Gordon.
Never heard of him? That's okay, most of the fantasy world is just starting to find out about him now. And when I say hype, I think it was more for the fact that last week's NFL news wasn't all that great. With most of last week's NFL talk being about Drew Brees' contract or Adrian Peterson's bar incident in Houston, many believed that a slow news week was the main reason Gordon got so much press. But nevertheless, Gordon still got press leading up to Thursday's Supplemental Draft. The Cowboys, Eagles and Browns sent representatives to Gordon's Pro Day. So he did grab the attention from a few teams. But it was the Browns who wound up forking over a 2013 second-round pick for Gordon's services.
Before I talk about the reasons why I like Gordon, lets get his checkered past out of the way. I won't go into details, but Gordon played one year at Baylor in 2009, wound up failing a marijuana test, which resulted in an indefinite suspension following the 2010 season. He then transferred to Utah, but sat out the entire 2011 season. He could have easily suited up for Utah this year, gained some draft value, but opted to enter the NFL's Supplemental Draft because of money. Had he stayed in college, many believe he may have been one of the top receivers taken in the 2013 draft.
Even though Gordon only had one year of college stats (42REC/714YDS/7TDs), he has the measurables to be a quality NFL prospect. At 6'4/220, he's a big target for whichever quarterback wins the Browns' starting job. And even though he was timed at 4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, that's still better than Rams WR Brian Quick, who timed at a 4.55 at the Combine. He also excelled in the Wonderlic test, scoring equal to the level teams want out of a quarterback prospect. And for those who worry about his past drug problems, Gordon passed a surprise urine test and also says his troubles are behind him. I know some might raise their eyebrows at this, but I'd like to think Gordon is being genuine with his remarks and wants to prove he is worth what the Browns gave up.
Considering other teams had Gordon on their radar, the Browns give him the best chance to make an impact fast. Lets face it, one could argue they have one of the worst crop of receivers in the league, with the last legitimate receiving threat being Braylon Edwards. Greg Little, who is supposed to eventually be the team's No. 1 receiver, can't hold onto the ball, having dropped 14 passes in his rookie season. Former second-round pick Mohamed Massaquoi has proved to be a dud. And Josh Cribbs is nothing more than a glorified gadget player who excels mostly on special teams.
As of now, Gordon is projected to be the backup to Massaquoi. But team GM Tom Heckert expects Gordon to play a significant role as a rookie. Known as a quality run blocker, Gordon will find time on the field when Richardson gets the ball, which gives him an edge. And as the season progresses, I can see the Browns using Gordon's size in mismatches against opposing defenses. I'm going to go out on a limb and say Gordon will be the eventual starter sometime in 2012.
As for his fantasy value:
His dynasty value is fairly high right now and steadily climbing. He isn't a first-round rookie option. I don't like him THAT much. But if you have a late-second to early-third round pick, I'd take a chance on him. I know he is going to make noise sooner rather than later. Once he gets his bearings and absorbs the offense, many believe he can be a No. 1 receiver. He recently signed a four-year, $5.3 million contract, so he will have all of training camp to work with the team. As for his redraft value, he's nothing more than a late-round flier at best. He's still raw. And only having one year of college ball under his belt will make his learning curve that much tougher. Not to mention the Browns run a West-Coast offense, one of the hardest offenses to learn if you're a receiver.
If the Browns have shown us anything it's that quality sleeper options can crop up at a moments notice. And to think we haven't even thoroughly talked about training camp battles yet.
UPDATE: After an up-and-down training camp, which isn't surprising since Gordon has been so raw coming out of college, he is slowly starting to look great in recent camp. He doesn't look like a Week-One starter right now, but he could eventually push Mohamed Massaquoi for the No. 2 spot.