The Patriots faith in Josh Gordon has been rewarded, as it was announced Friday evening the veteran wide receiver will be allowed to play in 2019. And, with no suspension looming! Gordon enters the season with a chance to play 16 games for the first time since 2012.
Gordon will provide a big boost to a Patriots' offense that is facing down life without Rob Gronkowski for the first time since Tom Brady was in his early-30s. Assuming he can get up to speed in time for the start of the season, Gordon should play a pivotal role. Where should Fantasy players' expectations be?
Pretty high, actually. Obviously, given his track record, there is always the possibility Gordon will slip up and face punishment from the league, but if he doesn't, he showed last season he still has plenty in the tank.
Gordon, who famously led the league in receiving yards back in 2013 in just 14 games, saw time in 11 contests with the Patriots in 2018. It took him a little while to find his footing, as he wasn't targeted more than five times in a game until Week 5, his second game with the Patriots. Over his next nine games, however, Gordon caught 37 of 64 targets for 669 yards and three touchdowns, a near-1,200 pace, on better than 10 yards per target. That's impressive stuff considering he was joining a complex offense in the middle of the season.
Now, he's got nearly a year under his belt with the Patriots playbook, and spent time working out with Tom Brady in the offseason — one of those signs that the Patriots expected him to be cleared at some point. Gordon averaged 65.5 yards per game with the Patriots, and honestly, that might be closer to his floor than his ceiling.
Gordon proved he still has plenty left in the tank in 2018 and has been productive whenever he has been on the field even given all the ups and downs. Sure, there's been nothing close to that incredible 2013 season, but in 16 games over the last two seasons — we'll throw out the one game he played a minor role for the Browns before they traded him in 2019 — he's had 1,055 yards on 58 catches. And again, that was being thrown into the fire mid-season, without much familiarity with the team around him or his quarterback.
How high can the ceiling be? Well, we wouldn't expect him to be the Patriots' top target in the passing game as long as Julian Edelman (108 targets in 12 games last season) is around, but the Patriots have plenty of targets to replace from last season: 72 from Gronkowski, 55 from Chris Hogan, 28 from Cordarrelle Patterson … There's room for Gordon, to be sure.
And, given the efficiency Gordon showed with Brady last season, he won't need a ton of targets to be productive, especially since he might be the lone true deep threat on the team. Let's say Edelman gets to 135-140 targets in a full season, and Gordon settles in as the No. 2 option with 125. At last season's catch and yards-per-target rate, that's 72 catches for close to 1,300 yards. And, with no Gronkowski around, Gordon is going to look like an awfully enticing red zone option for Tom Brady, so something in the range of nine touchdowns isn't out of the question. That kind of hypothetical line — 72-1300-9 — would have been good for the No. 13 WR last season.
That's right, there could be top-12 wide receiver upside with Gordon, even after all this. There's plenty of risk involved, to be sure, but Gordon has an incredible opportunity, and he already proved in less-than-ideal circumstances in 2018 that he can still be a very productive receiver.
This news pushes Gordon into the top-30 at wide receiver, with similar potential to popular breakout picks like Chris Godwin and Kenny Golladay. He won't be ranked or drafted quite as high as those two, but he belongs in the next tier after them, as a high-upside breakout candidate.
He also pushes Tom Brady up draft boards just a bit, though not too much. Brady was being drafted as the No. 15 quarterback by CBS Fantasy Average Draft Position — a bit of a reach, in our eyes — and that remains the right range for him. But this certainly gives Brady more upside than we otherwise thought he had, so if you want to wait to get a QB, he's a fine late-round option.
Gordon is going to be one of the most fascinating players in the league to watch in practice over the next few weeks, and Fantasy players will be paying very close attention to him especially. If everything goes right, Gordon still has the potential to be a Fantasy star. Wouldn't that be something to see?