Josh Gordon is a freak. The Cleveland Browns wideout missed the first two games of the 2013 season while serving a suspension for violating the NFL‘s substance abuse policy and still cruised to the league’s receiving title relatively easily. Fantasy owners who were scared off by Gordon’s two-game adjournment regrettably let him slide to an ADP of 122 in ESPN.com leagues.
Undoubtedly the steal of the draft, Gordon exceeded even the wildest expectations in 2013. He registered 1,646 yards through the air on only 87 receptions, finishing first among receivers with 40 catches or more at 18.9 YPC.
Gordon did all this in spite of suffering through an unfortunate series of quarterbacks under center for the Browns. He saw passes from the likes of Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell throughout Cleveland’s 2013 campaign. Additionally, with Campbell starting the most games of the three with only eight, Gordon was unable to ever truly get comfortable with any of them.
Consider the fact that Cleveland had neither a reliable running back or capable no. 2 receiver to loosen coverage, and Gordon’s accomplishments become even more impressive. If the kid can manage to keep himself out of trouble, he’s set to be the league’s top wideout in 2014.
Now, don’t gather the lynch mob just yet. Calvin Johnson, commonly considered the best receiver in the game, ended his 2013 effort with 84 receptions for 1,492 yards, both less than what Gordon registered. Johnson did have the edge in TDs, recording 12 to Gordon’s nine, but the Detroit Lions also averaged nearly six more points per game than Cleveland.
Gordon led the league with 30 receptions of 20 yards or more compared to Megatron’s 22. Johnson showed he’s human by being held under the 50-yard mark five times, while Gordon only failed to reach that number twice. The list of categories that Gordon outperformed Johnson in goes on and on.
Johnson even had what Gordon lacked — another offensive playmaker in Reggie Bush and (when healthy) a capable no. 2 wideout in Nate Burleson. Aside from a nagging knee injury that reportedly limited Johnson at times in 2013, he was in a situation that was highly conducive to his success.
Considering these facts, I believe Megatron’s reign as the league’s undisputed top wideout has come to an abrupt halt. Johnson will enter his eighth season in 2014 while Gordon will embark on the magical third season for receivers. Things will only get better for the second-year player as he’s only 22-years-old and still four years away from his prime.
From Weeks 11-14, Gordon put up numbers the likes of which the NFL had never seen. He averaged a ridiculous 194 yards receiving during this four-game stretch, scoring five touchdowns as well. Furthermore, he became the first receiver in league history to surpass the 200-yard mark in consecutive games.
Gordon embarrassed defenses even as teams routinely assigned their best coverage to him. Frequently double-covered, Gordon still easily gained separation from defenders and burned opposing safeties for long touchdowns. His 4.3 speed paired with his jump ball abilities present a major threat to NFL secondaries for the foreseeable future.
Prior to 2013, Megatron was irrefutably the league’s best wideout, with the Dallas Cowboys‘ Dez Bryant and Cincinnati Bengals‘ A.J. Green only remotely involved in the conversation. However, Gordon has steamrolled his way into the debate after the numbers he logged this year.
Assuming Cleveland takes care of their quarterback issues through either free agency or the draft, Gordon will have a new and improved arm slinging passes his way in 2014. Upgrade at running back as well, and suddenly you have a somewhat-respectable Browns offense that can create more opportunities for Gordon.
Though I don’t condone drafting receivers in round one, Gordon would be the way to go if you must. His circumstances will only continue to improve while Johnson has already reached his peak. The dude is matchup-proof and should be firmly placed in your WR1 slot for all of 2014.