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We got great news from the football world Saturday morning, as Josh Gordon announced he is returning to the Browns following his leave of absence. Gordon, who announced he would not be with the team in training camp "citing a desire to stay on a positive path," according to the team, will return to the Browns in the coming days.
In a statement, Browns GM John Dorsey had this to say:
"As he assimilates back to our team, Josh will initially participate in meetings and conditioning and will gradually resume all football activities as deemed appropriate."
What this means in the short term remains to be seen, but it does clear up the uncertainty surrounding Gordon's availability this season. It's not clear whether he'll log any time in the preseason, but he should be there when the Browns open the season Week 1 against the Steelers. Gordon needs to be cleared to practice and play first, but I don't see any reason to expect he won't be at this point.
That's good news for the Browns, it's good news for Gordon, and it's good news for Fantasy players. You probably don't need me to say it, but Gordon has shown as much potential as any receiver in the league. Still just 27 years old, Gordon set the NFL on fire in 2013, hauling in 87 passes for a league-high 1,646 yards in 14 games in 2013.
Gordon has, of course, played just 10 games since, while sitting out two full seasons due to suspensions. However, even in those 10 games, he's been effective, hauling in 42 passes for 638 yards, a 1,000-yard pace over 16 games.
If he stays right and just plays to that pace, he's a relative bargain as the No. 22 wide receiver off the board, with an ADP in the early fifth round. And, if he can tap into any of the upside he showed in 2013, he has top-five potential. He's a fine choice in that fifth-round range.
It's not fair to expect 2013 numbers from him, obviously. Gordon has played 10 games in four seasons since and will be coming into the season having missed training camp, with at most two preseason games under his belt with a new offensive coordinator and quarterback. He'll also have something he's never really had in even his sporadic playing time in Cleveland: Legitimate competition for targets.
In 2013, Gordon received a whopping 26.9 percent of the Browns' targets from Week 3 on. He was targeted on 17.7 percent of his offensive snaps. Last season, despite coming on late, he was targeted on 16.2 percent of his snaps, and was the target on 25.8 percent of the team's passes from Week 13 on. He's going to have to learn how to share.
Jarvis Landry has been a star in training camp for the Browns, and has been a target hog throughout his career, holding the NFL record for most receptions through a player's first four seasons. Last season, no Browns player had more than 93 targets, and no wide receiver had more than 61. How they divvy up targets this year will go a long way in determining how valuable both Gordon and Landry can be.
Still, we know what the potential is. There's a reason Fantasy players are actually excited about the Browns for what seems to be the first time in forever – Carlos Hyde, still. If Gordon is right, he and Landry could be one of the most effective receiving duos in the league, and you can see how it would be a perfect fit, with Landry working the middle of the field, while Gordon hits for big play after big play. And with Tyrod Taylor's ability to extend plays, there's a world of potential here.on
There's also risk, to be sure. Gordon could be one misstep from another suspension, or he could decide to proactively remove himself from the team again if he feels like he needs to in order to protect his health. There are concerns here, but all indications are Gordon has done what he needed to do to get himself on the right track. For that, he should obviously be celebrated.
And Fantasy owners should once again be excited about the potential. Yes, things are looking up in Cleveland, and Gordon is a big part of that. If he stays on the field, the sky is the limit.
So what sleepers should you snatch in your Fantasy Football draft? And which huge running backs do you need to jump all over? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy Football cheat sheets from the model that called Alvin Kamara's huge breakout last season and find out.