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Here at Football Guys, I’ll use my methodology for evaluating wide receivers, Reception Perception, in order to look for clues about a wide receiver’s fantasy value. We’ll examine players to buy or sell, and check in on the progress of young dynasty assets. In this edition, Reception Perception will help you take a stand on Josh Gordon for the rest of the season.
Fantasy owners were forced to make a decision on Josh Gordon early on in the season. Reports of a possible reduction in his season-long ban form the league surfaced, and many rushed to pick him up off waivers. After that, owners needed to take a strong stance. If you had Gordon now, holding on to him meant sacrificing a valuable roster spot during the bye week madness. If you fielded a contending team, and wanted some extra juice for the playoffs, you needed to sell a solid player, or two, to trade for him.
Regardless of how you got Josh Gordon on your roster, you made it here to his return. And you should be very much grateful you have him.
There were worries of a limited workload for, and any rustiness from, Josh Gordon before he took the field last week. Gordon was far from perfect, but eight catches for 120 yards was better than many could have hoped for. Now, what can we expect from Josh Gordon as his owners begin to march on towards the playoffs? Reception Perception looks to answer one of the most burning questions on fantasy football players’ minds.
Alignment and Target Data
Josh Gordon is yet another in a long line of X-receivers we have studied in the Reception Perception series. With 61.1% of his coming snaps on the left side, and 81.5% on the line of scrimmage, Gordon fit the profile as well as anyone.
However, the Browns and first-year offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, showed a commitment to move Gordon around. He took a fair amount of snaps on the ride side of the field. Gordon went in motion on a few of the 18.5% of his snaps where he started behind the line. The fact that Cleveland gave Gordon a decent amount of snaps in the slot suggests they know how to get him in mismatches. Gordon is simply too big, and far too fast, for any defense to handle in the slot.
We had not seen anyone assume the X-receiver role in Kyle Shanahan’s Cleveland offense before last week. For good reason, as Taylor Gabriel, Miles Austin and Andrew Hawkins are not cut out for such duties. However, that position is targeted in an unusually heavy manner in Shanahan’s system:
Of all Josh Gordon’s Week 12 Reception Perception numbers, the targets are the most encouraging. Against Atlanta, Gordon ran 32 qualifying routes, and he was targeted on 46.9% of them. If you have not been following this series all season that blows every other player’s target data out of the water. Gordon’s involvement in the passing offense was strikingly heavy in just his first week back.
Even through mistakes, the Browns continued asking Brian Hoyer to feed Josh Gordon. Gordon only hauled in 53% of his targets. Some of the incompletions were misfires by Hoyer—including two very poor throws that were behind a wide-open Gordon. Yet, there were moments where Gordon was clearly rusty, and some bouts of inefficiency were the consequence.
What fantasy owners have to be most excited about is the heavy amount of targets. Even more points should follow once Gordon gets more acclimated, especially since he played even better than his stats would indicate.
Route Analysis and Success Rate Versus Coverage
Most of Josh Gordon’s routes in Week 12 were of the “just get the ball in his hands” variety. He ran slants on 21.9% of his routes, and he is frankly deadly on those patterns. Gordon’s size and speed combination is too much to handle in the short areas of the field. He can out physical defenders off the line of scrimmage, and once the ball is in his hands, he can take it to the house with ease.
No one makes yards after the catch look easier than Josh Gordon. Which is why the Browns asked him to run posts and screens with a decent amount of frequency.
Beyond these in-breaking routes, it is encouraging that the Browns trust Gordon enough to run every route on the tree. No one will mistake Gordon for a technician; his style of play has more of an art form to it. And no matter what, he gets the job done:
(SRVC denotes success rate versus coverage for each route. PTS indicates how many PPR fantasy points a receiver earned on each particular route)
This is about as good as it gets from a SRVC chart as you can expect from a wide receiver. Not just a player who just returned from an eleven weeklong suspension, but in general. Josh Gordon posted an uninspiring 0% and 33.3% SRVC score on digs and outs, but it was all sunshine otherwise.
We already know Gordon ran slants more than any other route last week. As mentioned, he is deadly on those patterns. He posted an SRVC score of 85.7% on slant routes, and amassed 3.7 PPR fantasy points. The point total is actually a bit modest considering Gordon’s acumen on slants. Expect more in the future.
In this game, Gordon did most of his damage on post routes and screens. Same with the slant, he can use his speed to separate and to elude defenders in the open field. Simply put, it did not matter what Atlanta did in Week 12, more often than not Josh Gordon bested them:
Use zone, use man, but it doesn’t matter. Josh Gordon is going to find a way to get open. He was strong in beating both brands of defensive coverage last week, and that is right in line with what we know about him.
Gordon doesn’t get the credit he deserves in being an aware, and smart player that knows how to find holes in zones. Not enough people talk about how he is a creative route runner, and natural player who can separate at critical moments in man coverage. Fantasy owners should be falling all over themselves at these SRVC numbers. Josh Gordon is back, and hasn’t lost a single step.
If you managed to hold on to Josh Gordon all this time, congratulations are in order for you. Those owners were gifted an elite WR1 just in time for use in the fantasy playoffs. Josh Gordon was a bargain that vaulted up fantasy owners that drafted him in the later rounds. This year, he was either essentially free, or available at a discounted rate via trade. Just like last season, he’ll be a saving force for the people lucky enough to have him.
It’s too late to acquire Josh Gordon in season-long leagues. However, last week was a nice reminder of what he brings in daily leagues. He’ll never be as cheap as his Week 12 price tag again, but the game against the Falcons basically showed what his floor could look like. Even when his quarterback was struggling, and he wasn’t playing completely in-sync, Gordon still had an awesome day.
No matter what, Josh Gordon is a top-end WR1 the rest of the way. He’s already proved to us that he is quarterback proof, so Hoyer or a switch to Johnny Manziel cannot torpedo his value. Gordon is in just as good of an offense as last year to sustain target priority. Kyle Shanahan loves to pepper Gordon’s type of receiver with passes. Being targeted on 46.9% of his routes is very impressive, and a trend that will continue.
If you have Josh Gordon on your roster, Reception Perception tips its hat to you. Should you play him in the playoffs, all the data indicates you should be very afraid of your opponent.