Josh Gordon: The Circus Continues

Here we are in the middle of another NFL offseason and coming upon another summer filled with Josh Gordon speculation. It’s become a fairly standard annual event at this point, at least it feels like it, right? Each breaking news report starts another ride on the Gordon rollercoaster. Gordon working out, or out at a club or hanging out with Johnny Manziel or applying for reinstatement or whatever – seems to get the fantasy community in a tizzy about what is next for Gordon and what to do with him for fantasy purposes.

His ADP in mock drafts swings wildly with each new piece of information, along with his trade value. “Oh no, Gordon is looking at an indefinite suspension. I’ll give you a 4th round pick for him?” “Hey hey, Josh Gordon is applying for reinstatement… I’m asking for a late 1st for him.” It never ends. It’s a non-stop cycle of ups and down for us in the fantasy community. I’m sure for him and those around him on a personal level it feels the same. All that said, the question is: Where does that leave us today?

Before we get to where we are now, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane. I love the Edmund Burke quote: “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” Without full knowledge of Josh Gordon’s past, it’s hard to know exactly what we can hope for in the future. Let’s take a quick look at his chronological timeline as far as disciplinary issues are concerned:

  • 2010: As a sophomore at Baylor, receives a suspension after being found asleep at a Taco Bell drive-through with a teammate. Police found marijuana in the vehicle occupied by Gordon and a teammate
  • 2011: At Baylor, suspended indefinitely by Coach Art Briles after failing a drug test. (I think it’s worth noting that this is Art Briles’ Baylor program. A program that according to multiple reports allegedly turned a blind eye to numerous accounts of sexual assault by multiple members of the football team. There were many other charges of misconduct and criminal behavior that were left unchecked. Some reports even include allegations of witness intimidation from Baylor staff and interference into investigations of that misconduct. I can only speculate what else went on behind the scenes for them to suspend Gordon twice in 2 years while legit criminals and sexual predators stayed on the football field.)
  • 2013: Suspended 2 games by the NFL for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy
  • 2014: July, arrested for driving while impaired
  • 2014: Suspended 10 games by the NFL for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy
  • 2014: The Browns suspend him one game for a violation of team rules
  • 2015: Suspended for the entire season by the NFL for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy
  • 2016: Denied Reinstatement after reportedly failing another drug test
  • 2016: Reinstated, but suspended four games by the NFL for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy
  • 2016: Gordon left the Cleveland Browns a week prior to reinstatement in order to enter an in-patient rehabilitation facility

Whelp, in short; that’s just brutal. Over the last six years, Gordon has had a substance abuse related arrest/suspension/treatment 10 times. I’m all for giving a person second chances in life, hell, maybe even 3rd and 4th chances, but 11 chances? A cat only has nine lives, Gordon has that beat by two already, and he is only 25 years old. I can’t think of any other player with a similar disciplinary record who didn’t end up out of football and incarcerated.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Browns tried to trade Gordon last year at the trade deadline but found no suitors. Gordon recently applied for reinstatement again, with a decision likely in late April or early May. If reinstated the Browns likely will look to trade Gordon. If there are no takers, the Browns are prepared to release him outright.

Take note that they’d be cutting him while he is still under team control for two more seasons. Flash has missed so much time (43 of his last 48 games) that his official NFL service time has been cut dramatically. While he should have already been enjoying free agency and all the monetary rewards that come with it at the end of his rookie contract, he’s still got to complete two seasons before he is even eligible.

That’s most of the “bad” on Gordon, just a quick glance at the “good” and why people want to see him succeed from a football standpoint: As a rookie in 2012, he caught 50 balls for 805 yards and 5 touchdowns. In 2013, despite missing two games due to suspension, he still managed to lead the NFL in receiving yards with 1,646 yards on 87 receptions to go along with 9 touchdowns. So, the tremendous upside is there with Gordon.

But can Gordon get his off-the-field demons in check and return to the field and become a productive NFL player again? Only time will tell. There are examples of each path he can follow. The Chris Carter path: who battled drug and alcohol problems early in his career and became a hall of famer. Or he can follow the Justin Blackmon path: who has battled alcohol problems following a rookie year (statistically better than Gordon’s by the way) only to see a series of arrests and suspensions derail his career up to this point.

What do you with Gordon now, as a fantasy football owner – a dynasty league owner? If you have been a Gordon owner for years, it seems a bit silly to just cut him. You’ve allowed him to eat up a roster spot all this time, why cut him now? At this point, what’s another off-season with him collecting cobwebs at the bottom of your roster? Wait until the NFL makes an official decision. If Gordon is reinstated, hold on until you can see what he looks like in preseason action.

If you’re looking to acquire Gordon, it should be on the cheap end of the spectrum. It’s hard to pay, even fair value, for a guy who has a real chance of never playing a down in the NFL again. Even if Gordon ends up seeing see the field, we’re talking about a guy who hasn’t seen live, NFL game action in years at this point.

If you believe in the upside, no one would fault you if you for giving up a 5th round rookie pick or similar. If you’re a seller, you probably need to take anything you can get at this point. He could be worth holding for another month until the NFL makes their reinstatement decision. The risk you take is that if not reinstated, he’s completely worthless. If reinstated, somebody probably overpays for him, so you’re taking a gamble.

His recent Instagram photo got people talking about him again. He’s in great shape aesthetically, but is he in football shape? There’s no way to tell just yet. It should be a slow next few weeks for Gordon unless he gets arrested or fails another drug test. As the date for his reinstatement hearing nears, expect to hear Gordon’s name to increase a bunch especially in fantasy circles.

What the future holds for Gordon, nobody truly knows – good or bad. For his sake, you hope he can get his life together and enjoy a lengthy NFL career. Looking back at his history since college, it’s hard to be optimistic due to him having stayed trouble free only once since at least 2009. However, as a Gordon owner, you can rest assured you’ll never have another dull off-season again. The circus continues each and every off-season up to this point and once again shows no signs of slowing down.

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Chicagoan living in Las Vegas. Fantasy Football writer & Director of In-Season Analysis for Dynasty Football Factory, blogger for USFantasy and contributor to TheFakeHockey. Member FSWA.

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