I hope you held onto your Josh Gordon shares because Flash has a new home. He has been traded for a conditional 5th round pick to… where else but New England. Belichick has summoned his dark powers yet again, this time hoodwinking John Dorsey into a deal with absolutely no risks for the Patriots after it was reported they didn’t want to trade him to an AFC team. The Browns will be Browns I guess…
Ian Rapoport first reported the details of the trade:
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 17, 2018
And Adam Schefter followed it up shortly after:
Full compensation trade update: Patriots send Browns a 2019 fifth-round pick for WR Josh Gordon and get back a 2019 seventh-round pick if he is not active for 10 games, source tells ESPN. Trade was supposed to be for a 6th-round pick, but Patriots don’t have a 6th.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 17, 2018
This is peak Belichick. If Gordon pays off, he’s got an uber-talented WR under contract for 2018 on a salary of $790,000, and is a restricted free agent in 2019, allowing the Patriots to control him using the tender process. If he does flame out (no pun intended), the costs of kicking the tires will be a downgrade from a 5th round pick to a 7th round pick. An insignificant cost.
But what does this mean for Gordon’s dynasty value? It’s probably at the highest it has been over the past three years now, and if you’re a skeptic about him maintaining his sobriety, you’ve been handed a golden opportunity to sell. If you find the right person, you might be able to swap him for a 2019 1st – there are Josh Gordon truthers out there (including myself, and Izzy E from DTC).
If you’re still a believer, but don’t have any Gordon shares, this isn’t the ideal buying window – that was five minutes after the Browns announced they would cut him, but if you held him all this time because he is your ride or die, well done. If you took a chance and bought him low in the offseason, hold him, don’t be concerned about his ability, or lack of football over the past three years – Josh Gordon can absolutely still play.
It didn’t help last year that he had the WOAT, DeShone Kizer throwing him the ball:
Last year, 46% of Josh Gordon’s targets were catchable (93rd of 93 qualifiers).
In 2013, when Gordon had 1,646 yards and nine TDs in 14 games, 64% of his targets were catchable.
A 64% catchable target rate would’ve ranked 56th last year.
All he needs is a chance.
— Pat Thorman (@Pat_Thorman) August 20, 2018
Despite not playing for nearly three years, he posted 4 catches for 85 yards on 11 targets and dominated Casey Hayward in his return to football. Casey Hayward was graded as the #1 cornerback in 2017 PFF, posting the best season since Revis’ legendary 2009 season (Revis graded at 96.6, and Hayward at 96.4), allowing just a 42.7% pass completion whilst shadowing opposing WR1s.
He can definitely still play and call me crazy, but I think he might see a bump in catchable targets if he’s on the field with Tom Brady…
Despite all this positivity I have about Gordon, we really don’t know how he will fare learning the playbook in NE, and how many games he will see this season. If we know one thing about the Patriots, it’s that players have to earn their opportunity by gaining the trust of Belichick and Brady on the practice field.
So what does it mean for the New England offense?
If he does get the chance to see the field, he provides an upgrade to the entire New England offense. It does strike a blow to the value of the other WRs in New England, however, particularly Phillip Dorsett who was beginning to carve out a role, seeing 7 targets per game over the first two weeks of 2018.
I have had concerns about Julian Edelman, and despite him looking crisp in the preseason, he will be 32 ½ years old, coming off an ACL repair, and a PED ban. He has been one of Brady’s favorite targets, but whether he can stay healthy will be a big question mark. He’s only started a total of 35 out of a possible 35 out of a possible 64 games since 2014.
Chris Hogan should see his ceiling limited by Gordon’s presence too. He might have stepped back into the deep threat role vacated by Brandin Cooks, having led the NFL in YPC in 2016. However, given the question marks about the WR corps in general in New England, there might be a buy-low opportunity here. Given his versatility and ability to line up all over the field (18% of his 2017 snaps came from the slot), Hogan should still see plenty of snaps. He was also able to produce fantasy points with competition for targets from other WRs. From Weeks 2 to 8 last season, Hogan was the WR5 averaging approximately 15 ppg, with Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, and Gronk sharing the field with him. It’s not difficult to imagine Gordon and Edelman (if healthy) taking over those roles from Cooks and Amendola, and Hogan maintaining some productivity. Perhaps he benefits from not drawing WR1 coverage from opposing defenses?
It is worth mentioning that James White and Rex Burkhead might suffer the most from this move. If the Patriots are able to field 3WR sets with Gordon, Hogan, and Edelman, supported by Gronkowski at TE, it leaves little to go around in the way of the passing game for the running backs. Whilst the Patriots have only run 3WR sets at a rate of 46% over the past 2 seasons (per Sharp Football Stats), that might change given the personnel they now have at their disposal.
Having seen very little of Sony Michel, it is too early to predict his involvement in the run game.
Finally, Gronk should benefit from having a WR of the caliber of Josh Gordon to draw coverage away from him. Good luck to any team who wants to double team him, and leave Gordon unattended. He will continue to receive plenty of volume from Brady – he’s averaged over 7 targets per game in his Patriots career. Plenty for him to remain a top fantasy TE asset.
Football aside, Josh Gordon is just a feel-good story. He hit rock bottom and is finding his way back. There is a great documentary produced by Uninterrupted, all football fans should see. It’s compelling and will probably make you root for Gordon. This purely my opinion, but between how he has conducted himself since his return to the Browns, and him taking some time away from the team for his mental health, I believe that Gordon is showing the right signs to being able to stay healthy and substance free.
You can find me on Twitter @FF_DownUnder. I’m always down to talk fantasy football, especially about Josh Gordon.