|At 6-foot-3, 224 pounds, Gordon has drawn comparisons to A.J. Green from NFL scouts. (US Presswire)|
Only a few days ago, Josh Gordon was a relative unknown, a talented but raw college football player who hadn't played a down since 2010. Now, suddenly, he is the focus of the entire NFL world, in one of the rare dormant periods in the constant pro football news cycle.
Gordon, who left Baylor after being suspended indefinitely and transferred to Utah but never played a game for the Utes, is likely the only player who will be selected Thursday in the supplemental draft, and, given his collection of size, speed and gifts, he just might go as high as the second round.
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That would be a rarity in and of itself, and interested teams have been scrambling for a week or so to gather film, information and background on the prospect after the league announced he was eligible for the draft only several days ago.
So, just that quickly, he has gone from possible 2013 draft prospect to focal point for organizations in the here and now. Trust me, there are many teams very interested, including the new employer of his old college quarterback, Robert Griffin III, who is longing for a reunion with his former teammate.
Around 20 teams were represented at Gordon's workout at the Texans facility on Tuesday, where he ran in the low 4.5s in the 40-yard dash -- plenty respectable given his height and weight (6-foot-3, 224 pounds). He has limited college experience and will need help learning routes and fine-tuning his precision, but some scouts I've talked to have thrown around possible comparisons to A.J. Green. They believe, had Gordon stayed at Baylor after a marijuana-related arrest and played with RG3, he would have had top-10 potential.
For Gordon, that's heady stuff.
"The last 10 days have definitely been really unbelievable," he said at the end of a long Tuesday.
You see, the last time he played competitive football, he was a sophomore, and RG3 was deep in his learning curve and not the Heisman-winning, second-overall selection we see before us now. But other than a few teams negotiating with their franchise-tagged players, there isn't a lot of action around the league these days.
Thus, no shortage of pro or college scouting directors showed up to watch Gordon up close, most of them for the first time, and many of those teams scheduled individual meetings with him either Monday or Tuesday. Several sources called the workout impressive, with Gordon pressing on with drills despite pulling his left quad during his second attempt at the 40.
"I definitely didn't perform as good as I would have liked," Gordon said, "and looking back on it, maybe I should have stretched a little more, but I was glad I got through the receiving drills and I worked as hard as I could."
Some talent evaluators I spoke with had a third- or fourth-round grade on him, but others believe the amount of interest, the potential of the prospect, and the fairly widespread need at his position will propel him to get selected by the second round (a year ago, Terrelle Pryor had a fifth-round grade from many teams -- and went in the third). Among those interested, according to team and league sources, are the Browns, Redskins, Cowboys, Eagles, Colts, Dolphins, Panthers, Saints, Chiefs and 49ers.
The Redskins are particularly intriguing because of the RG3 connection and their lust for more weapons for him. Team sources said Griffin has been actively lobbying the front office and owner Dan Snyder for Gordon. Snyder will do whatever he can for his star players; he has a history of listening to them and the Redskins have employed the supplemental draft in the past. Griffin has also remained in contact with Gordon, and while the Redskins already lack a first-round pick from 2013 in the trade with St. Louis to acquire RG3, sacrificing another high 2013 pick to acquire a potential impact player now is hardly out of character.
The Browns are also high on him, according to a team source, and have spent a lot of time and energy around the Baylor program in recent years. They know it well. They worked hard on a trade for RG3 before losing out to Washington. They drafted Baylor tackle Phil Taylor in the first round in 2011. They coveted Baylor receiver Kendall Wright this year; they planned to take him with their second pick in the first round and quarterback Brandon Weeden in the second round. But when Wright was picked sooner, Cleveland ended up taking Weeden at No. 22.
Gordon has better physical gifts than Wright, and few teams are as needy for help in the passing game as the Browns.
The Cowboys are notable as well, as they have been aware of the Houston native for a while, sources said. Also consider that Jerry Jones is never afraid of being bold or going out on a limb for something he believes in. So pouncing on Gordon early wouldn't be a shock. (Doesn't something like this, particularly when always picking late in rounds, seem like something Bill Belichick might explore, too?)
The supplemental draft order will be determined Thursday morning utilizing a weighted lottery in which teams that won six games or fewer last season have the best odds of getting the highest selection order (the Colts, for instance, would have 32 balls in the pot via having the first overall draft pick back in April). Once an order for those teams is established, then the remaining non-playoff teams from the 2011 season have a lottery for the next set of places, and finally a lottery for the 12 playoff teams rounds out the order. Teams submit ahead of time the highest round in which they would be willing to part with a 2013 pick for an available player in the supplemental draft.
A process that takes months leading to the annual spring draft gets condensed into mere days for young men like Gordon. There's not as much prep time, but as he noted, the process isn't as dragged out. So in some ways, this is less mentally and physically taxing as the series of meetings and workouts leading up to the entry draft.
Gordon is just excited to be able to reconnect with the game he loves, and the prospect of playing football anywhere has him overjoyed. Sure, getting back together with RG3 would be special.
"I actually just got off the phone with him before I spoke to you," Gordon said late Tuesday night. "That would be pretty crazy. It would be, if not the best thing for me, then certainly at least a dream come true. But I guess the odds of that are 1 in 32."
But he's anything but picky about the situation.
"I'm more than grateful just to have the opportunity to play for anyone who would pick me, or if that didn't work out, anyone who would sign me as [an undrafted] free agent," Gordon said. "I'm more than grateful for a chance."
Gordon is polite and modest, but he won't have to worry about free agency. He's a day away from embarking on a pro career.
Gordon left Baylor, a Baptist school, following his suspension in July 2011, but then had to sit out a year after transferring to Utah, which meant paying for his own schooling and training. He was pursuing a hardship transfer waiver to return home and enroll at the University of Houston for the 2012 season, but would have likely needed online courses to qualify, and might have had to miss games through delays even if he were able to get in the school.
He wavered through late June. "I really didn't make up my mind until two days before the deadline to apply [to the supplemental draft]," he said, but given all the uncertainty of his eligibility and coming from a humble background and with the NFL beckoning now, the decision was made.
Gordon, who caught 42 passes for 714 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore, has learned from his mistakes, and matured from his football and collegiate odyssey. In a league of second chances, he more than merits his first look, and players with far greater transgressions have been given repeated opportunities. (As an indication that marijuana is not a part of his life, Gordon recently passed a drug test, the results of which he distributed to NFL teams on Tuesday according to a club official who attended his workout).
In this day and age, with the proliferation of the passing game, bypass size and speed at your own peril (remember how much Atlanta parted with to move up into Cleveland's spot and take Julio Jones in 2011). All the movement at the top of the 2012 draft showed the wheeling-and-dealing mentality that has taken hold with so much cost certainty on draft picks in the new CBA, and the opportunity to secure a potential first-round talent, now, at a discount, will loom in the minds of many a front office.
I fully expect multiple teams to put in selections for him, quite possibly in the second round. The results of Tuesday morning's lottery could end up being pivotal for a certain franchise, and the future development of a raw but extremely talented receiver.