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Josh Gordon: Are We Doing This Again?

Josh Gordon is the fantasy football equivalent of this Grand Theft Auto meme. We know he's unlikely to have an impact on your fantasy season. We know he's unlikely to ever get close to his peak of 2013 again. We know there's a better chance he doesn't finish the season than there is of him being thrown into a starting lineup during the fantasy playoffs. And yet, we all keep coming back.

Nobody can ever truly quit Josh Gordon. There's quite literally nothing else like him in the fantasy football world, and there probably never will be again. When Josh Gordon showed up in Fan Controlled Football to play for the Zappers back in February, it was hard to imagine that he'd ever show up in an NFL game again. A few months later he gets signed by the Chiefs. This man will have caught passes from Johnny Manziel and Patrick Mahomes in the same season. You cannot make this stuff up.

So Josh Gordon is back, and he's joining the most lethal offense in the NFL over the past few seasons. The path is there to him being a productive fantasy asset. Is it likely, and is it worth getting back on this wild ride? Let's take a dive into the depths of the Gordon files.

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The Player

If you're lucky enough to be new to this, just give this video a peek and hop aboard the Flash Gordon hype train with us.

Let's try and briefly summarize Josh Gordon's career. After multiple suspensions in college, he was drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL Supplemental Draft by Cleveland. After a solid rookie year, he was suspended for two games due to violating the league's substance abuse policy. He returned in 2013 to put together one of the most legendary seasons the league has ever seen from a receiver, shattering NFL Records and putting together the best four-game stretch for a receiver in the history of the NFL.

The legend of that season has only grown since due to his lack of appearances on the field. He was suspended again for the first 10 games of 2014, then the entirety of the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Since 2017, we've seen Gordon pop up sporadically in Cleveland, New England, and Seattle, but he continues to violate the league's substance abuse policy and get suspended. He's been suspended in some capacity every year since 2013.

During his stints with New England and Seattle, Gordon did prove that he can still be a threat when he's active. He was a legitimately playable fantasy asset during his 2018 run in New England and was a home-run hitter in both situations. He averaged 17.1 yards per catch across the two seasons, which would have been the 10th highest number last season among players with at least 20 targets. Just take a look at his last career catch: a 58-yard diving grab. The man is still a menace when he can get on the field.

Gordon has only appeared in 28 games since 2015, which can be viewed as a positive or negative depending on your outlook. He'll obviously have plenty of rust to shake off, but his body hasn't been nearly as beat up as most players who were drafted almost a decade ago. Gordon hasn't missed any time due to serious injuries. He has only missed time for suspensions. He arrived at Kansas City in incredible shape and the coaching staff has had nothing but good things to say about him.

And he's only 30 years old. While it's not commonplace for 30-year-olds to emerge as great players, there's been plenty of success stories regarding older players finding their footing in recent years. Darren Waller emerged as an All-Pro caliber tight end at 27 years old in his fifth season, and Logan Thomas popped into fantasy relevancy at the age of 29 after being a journeyman for years. These are players who were not highly-touted prospects and hadn't had any success in the NFL prior to their breakouts.

Josh Gordon is a former All-Pro. Stranger things have happened than a former All-Pro getting in the right mental headspace and becoming a prominent player once again. We saw a similar scenario happen with Antonio Brown last season.


The Situation

Gordon obviously could not be heading into a better real-life situation than Kansas City. He'll be joining an elite coach and an elite quarterback with a clear path to a meaningful position on the depth chart. That's great for Gordon, but how does Kansas City look as a fantasy destination?

During the Patrick Mahomes era in Kansas City, two pass-catchers have mattered for fantasy purposes: Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. During Mahomes first three years as the starter, there was only one player to record over 600 yards in a season and two players to record over five touchdowns besides Hill and Kelce.

It's not like the Chiefs haven't gone out and brought in other pass catchers besides Kelce and Hill. The team invested $48 million into Sammy Watkins in 2018, an investment that certainly did not pay off for them. Watkins failed to eclipse 700 yards or 3 touchdowns in a season during his three years in Kansas City. Save for an outrageous 198 yard, three-touchdown performance to open the 2019 season, Watkins was useless for fantasy purposes. Watkins could not even put up 10 fantasy points per game during any of his three seasons in Kansas City.

The team also invested a second-round pick in speedster Mecole Hardman in 2019. Hardman has been a decent player on the field for the Chiefs, but he hasn't been worth much from a fantasy perspective either. Hardman finished as the WR58 in half PPR scoring last season and hasn't produced numbers this year either.

History tells us that there simply isn't room for another reliable fantasy option in this offense. The Chiefs like to spread the ball around when they aren't force-feeding Kelce and Hill. Last season, the trio of Watkins, Hardman, and Demarcus Robinson each saw at least 55 targets and each recorded over 400 yards. The most likely place for Gordon is to replace Watkins in this trio and become a useful role player in this lethal offense.


Is Gordon worth picking up?

I can't advise giving up anything of value for Gordon. If he's already been picked up, he's not worth trading for. If you're high on the waiver priority list, he's not worth blowing your priority for. If you play in a league with FAAB, he's not worth a significant FAAB investment. The risks are way too high on Gordon to invest anything meaningful in him, and the path to him becoming a fantasy force in this offense feels unlikely. However, if Gordon is just sitting there in 12+ team leagues for free? I would take a shot on him if you have an open roster spot.

The upside is just simply always there with Gordon, even if we've only seen flashes of it over the past few years. Gordon is going to be motivated as hell to contribute here. He has to know this is likely his final chance to prove that he can be a reliable player on and off the field. Andy Reid has had nothing but praise for him, and so much so that he might suit up Gordon as soon as Sunday. And as I mentioned earlier, he really isn't that old for a receiver, and he has virtually no wear and tear on his body over the past six years.

Even though the Chiefs haven't produced a useful third option in their passing game for fantasy purposes, they haven't had a guy come in with the ceiling Gordon has. Watkins coasted to big contracts thanks to his draft capital and raw talent, but as a player he was almost always disappointing in the NFL. Gordon didn't just have a good season in 2013. He had one of the best seasons in NFL history and was catching passes from Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell. If he can even be 70% of that version of Josh Gordon, he's going to be an absolute force.

If Gordon can stay active and on the field, he's at worst a guy you can throw out as a dart throw in your flex, which isn't a bad asset to keep on your bench in deeper leagues. We all know the ceiling for Josh Gordon. The sky has always been the limit. Unfortunately, he usually isn't cleared for takeoff.

You know the risks and you know the rewards when it comes to Gordon. Don't pay up for him, but if you can get him for free, what's the worst that can happen?

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