The Josh Gordon era is coming to an end in Cleveland. Whether he will be released, as Cleveland GM John Dorsey’s statement indicates or not is the only remaining question.
Browns to release WR Josh Gordon
Statement from GM John Dorsey: pic.twitter.com/bQmWraH8Nr
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) September 15, 2018
Adam Schefter later tweeted out that teams have already placed calls to the Browns to inquire about trading for Gordon. It’d make more sense for Cleveland to get anything for Gordon than release him for nothing, but the Browns are the Browns so who knows.
Teams already calling the Browns, who league sources believe are far more likely to trade Josh Gordon than release him.
Gordon is a vested vet and is not subject to waivers. So if he is cut, he is a free agent and can sign where he wants, for what he wants.
A lot at stake.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 16, 2018
What (seems) certain at this time is Gordon is gone, and the impact of his exit from Cleveland will have far-reaching implications. Let’s take a look at the ripples.
Do not cut Josh Gordon! At this point, no one knows if Gordon will be released or if instead he will be traded. Gordon could choose his own fate or have it decided for him. Let’s assume for a second that whatever has caused Cleveland to decide to move on from Gordon does not involve a substance abuse issue. Could you imagine Gordon in a Dallas uniform, maybe Buffalo? Both teams are in desperate need of an alpha receiver, and Gordon would fill that role. Hold onto Gordon until you hear more news. If he has failed another drug test, then it’s likely he’ll receive a lifetime ban. If that is the case you can cut him at that time.
Once Gordon had to take time off during the preseason Landry became an instant target for me in every dynasty league where I didn’t already own him. Why? Because I felt Landry would end up leading the league in targets in 2018. Even with Gordon in the lineup, Landry saw the 4th most targets of all receivers, 15, last week. For entertainment purposes, 15 targets per game would work out to 240 targets on the season. They’ll probably be just a bit of regression I’m guessing. Landry captured a 38.58% target share in week 1, good enough for 6th in the league after one week. The targets and target share will normalize. Based on Landry’s career thus far and the lack of competition for targets in Cleveland there’s nothing that makes me think Landry can’t lead the NFL in targets this season.
As I noted in my earlier article Todd Haley’s WR1 averages 28.67% target share over the last three seasons. Before the loss Gordon, Cleveland had about 185 targets vacated from 2017. Gordon’s departure adds another 42 targets to that vacated target total. Tethered to an offense that threw much less than Haley led offenses Landry saw over 160 targets twice in his four career seasons. If Landry doesn’t see at least 175 targets in 2018, I will be stunned.
Though not strictly target related, last week Landry had an average depth of target (aDOT) of 13.9 after a 2017 season where his aDOT was just 6.4 on the season. Between the expected target volume and increased depth of targets not only could Landry lead the league in targets he could also be in line to be the overall WR1 this season. If you can purchase Landry at yesterday’s prices, I suggest you do so.
After averaging a paltry 3.8 targets per game in 2017, Njoku saw seven targets to kick off the 2018 season. Though Njoku could only convert three of those targets into 13 receiving yards, the uptick in targets was still encouraging. Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield have both shown a proclivity to throw to tight ends in the past, and there’s no reason to think this won’t continue with Njoku. Charles Clay, who is inferior to Njoku in every physical metric that exists, was targeted 5.7 times per game last season with Tyrod Taylor as his primary quarterback, good enough for 14th most at the TE position. Clay finished as the TE9 last year scoring 9.0 fantasy points per game.
If Njoku, who is bigger, faster and stronger than Clay can garner the same modest 5.7 targets that Clay saw last season, he will easily surpass what Clay did in 2017.
Nominally the starter in week 1, Callaway only played 16.7% of snaps last week. If you have lived through the Josh Gordon experience, Callaway has to feel like deja vu all over again. Callaway played zero college snaps in 2017 due to a suspension stemming from credit card fraud. He then had a diluted drug sample at the NFL combine, after having been cited for marijuana possession as a college student. There was also the time he was accused of rape (sorry the term “Sexual Assult” is too vague for me).
Did I miss anything? That’s right; he was cited for marijuana possession in August of this year, which is after the NFL combine, you know the one where he failed a drug test. Even if every other offensive skill player on the Browns roster were to be suspended or abducted by aliens tonight, I am not touching Callaway. Unless I can get him for a 2019 rookie 3rd or later that is.
Already squeezed for carries with the addition of Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb, Josh Gordon playing all season would have not been good for Johnson. Johnson’s fantasy value is tied to his receiving. Being squeezed for targets was not something his fantasy value could survive. Week 1 saw Johnson produce a sad 3.5 fantasy points on 1 reception and 5 carries. If you’re looking for a reason to be optimistic Johnson did see 6 targets, which is actually more than the 5.8 he averaged in 2017 when he finished as the RB14 in per game scoring.
My concern with Johnson is the volatility of his fantasy scoring. Using the weekly fantasy points graph via FFStatistics we can see Johnson’s weekly finishes had many ups and downs. In case graphs aren’t your thing, Johnson had as many RB1 weeks (6) as he had RB3 or worse weeks (6) last season. In general, without Gordon eating into the target pie, things should be status quo for Johnson in 2018. You’ll have some boom and some bust weeks.
Tyrod Taylor/Baker Mayfield
Losing a playmaker of Josh Gordon’s ability has to be looked at as a loss right? But when the playmaker that you’re losing is Josh Gordon, did you really lose anything? I know that sounds a bit contradictory so I’ll expound further. The talent level of Josh Gordon is rare. Gordon has all the tools to be the best wide receiver in the NFL and maybe even one of the best in the history of the NFL. Gordon has also shown time and time again that you can not rely on him to actually play. Numerous drug suspensions have caused Gordon to miss most of his career. Josh Gordon is a modern-day Shoeless Joe Jackson, more myth than man. What Gordon could have been will always outweigh whatever accomplishments Gordon actually produced on the field of play.
All the preamble above is just my verbose way of saying I see no effect on Taylor/Mayfield. I never expected Gordon to play this year anyway, so the one game that Taylor got to play with him was a bonus. The Browns still have extremely talented pass catchers in Landry, Njoku and Duke Johnson. If they can’t produce with that trio they weren’t going to produce anyway. Feel out your league mates that own them. If you sense that this has lowered Taylor and/or Mayfield’s value in their eyes I suggest you make a move for one or both.
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