Fantasy Football: Breaking Down the Impact of New England's Trade for Josh Gordon
After an off-season of overhaul at the wide receiver position for the New England Patriots, they continued shaking things up at the position in-season as well. With their 28th roster move of the league year, they continued to address the position, trading with the Cleveland Browns for wide receiver Josh Gordon. The question is, what is his impact on both his new teammates, and the ones he left behind.
There is no question that Gordon is a top receiving talent. In his last full season, 2013, Gordon had 87 receptions for 1,646 yards and 9 touchdowns. Let’s be frank here, those are out of this world numbers. The problem is that, not only has he not played a full season since 2013, but he has been in and out of the league, dealing with suspensions. This past season, Gordon seems to have taken all the right steps to working his way back into the NFL.
Now, Gordon lands on a team where he has a future Hall of Famer at both coach and quarterback. If anyone can help Gordon unlock his potential, it’s all-time great, Bill Belichick. In 2007, the Patriots got another embattled receiver, who also made people doubt his commitment and drive to be in the NFL. Randy Moss ended up having some of his most historic seasons in New England, helping the Patriots go 16-0 in the regular season. Not since Moss have Tom Brady and Belichick had a top receiver talent like Gordon.
Gordon on the Patriots
Gordon’s role on the Patriots shapes up to be not too dissimilar from Brandin Cooks’ role in 2017. Cooks' last season in New England saw him play 19 games (including playoffs), grabbing 75 receptions for 1,237 yards and 7 touchdowns. On a per game basis that is 12.7 PPR fantasy points per game.
However, not including the time that it will take Gordon to get up to speed with the new offense, He will be likely be a boom-bust candidate, with WR1 upside, but a much lower floor. That is essentially what Cooks was with the Patriots last season.
The Patriots Receiving Corps
The only Patriot who figures to have his role and his targets unchanged by Gordon's arrival is Rob Gronkowski. The tight end is not only the best in the league, but is also largely targeted over the middle of the field and in the end zone. The bodes well, as Gordon is a perimeter receiver with burning speed and great route running. In fact, not only may Gronkowski not see a drop in targets, the quality may even improve if Gordon's presence (and the impending return of Julian Edelman in the slot) forces defenses to divide their attention.
On the other side, both Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett, Brady’s top two receivers through the first two games, will see a drop in targets. Dorsett figures to become a situational receiver, while Hogan will likely line up on the outside, opposite from Gordon. Hogan will likely become even more boom-or-bust than he already is. Fantasy owners saw over the first two weeks what kind of season Hogan might have. Week 1 he had 1 catch for 11 yards, then in Week 2 he went off for 2 touchdowns against Jacksonville. This will only get more exaggerated with Gordon in town and Edelman returning from suspension.
Edelman, in his return will likely have to ease back into his role as the slot receiver. This figures to give fewer receiving targets to the running backs, James White, Sony Michel, and Rex Burkhead. Thanks to years of work with Tom Brady, Edelman's volume should be safe despite his absence.
The Browns Receiving Corps
If there is one certain takeaway from this trade, it is that the real winner here is the Browns receiving corps. Without the looming shadow of Gordon’s return to Cleveland, the Browns receivers are in line for a largely increased and more defined role.
Jarvis Landry looks to finally break out from the slot receiver mold and be able to line up on the outside more often. he becomes the clear-cut number-one option on a team that looks like they will be playing from behind again this season. Landry, with Gordon in the lineup in week 1 saw a snap share of 69 of 89 snaps and was targets five time on passes of 15 yards or more. Quite the change from his days in Miami, and something that should hold up with Gordon gone.
The "next man up" approach is a fact of life in the salary cap era of the NFL. That hold especially true with Gordon's heir apparent, Antonio Callaway. Callaway's metrics and the presence of off-field issues drew plenty of parallels between him and Josh Gordon throughout the draft process. Regardless of his off-field issues and low draft spot (105th overall), Callaway has posted WR2 numbers so far.
In Gordon’s absence in Week 2, he took full advantage, playing 81% of offensive snaps and catching 3 passes for 81 yards and 1 touchdown. Callaway provides fantasy upside now as he takes the outside role and figures to be a borderline WR3.
This leaves David Njoku, who showed his huge upside as a large athletic tight end in the preseason. If Njoku can translate this to the regular season, he has the potential to finish as a top 10 tight end on the year. Outside of Callaway, he is the Browns main red zone target and figures to play this role as a safety blanket for Tyrod Taylor.