From the moment NFL reporter Ian Rapoport tweeted that the Patriots were “headed” towards trading for wide receiver Josh Gordon, the fantasy football speculation erupted.
The idea of Gordon – one of the game’s most talented receivers – in the same offense with Tom Brady was instantly seen as a potential game-changer.
With the trade between the Patriots and Browns for Gordon now confirmed, it’s time to take stock of what advice fantasy experts have given so far on the his possible role in a Brady-led passing attack.
ESPN fantasy analyst Matthew Berry advised caution, and potentially looking for a trade if another fantasy player is willing to “pay a premium” for Gordon:
Josh Gordon to the Patriots has a chance to be huge for fantasy players, Gordon obviously as talented as any receiver in the NFL, and now he gets Tom Brady. But there’s also a lot of risk here, right? He already wore out his welcome in Cleveland, [and] Bill Belichick runs a pretty tight ship in New England.
Look, the Patriots only gave up a conditional fifth round pick for Gordon. They didn’t give up a lot, but they did take a flyer based on his massive upside. In fantasy, I suggest you take a similar approach. Don’t give up any key pieces on your team. But if you have Gordon, see what you can get for him. Someone out there might be imagining Randy Moss in 2007, and will pay a premium.
Fellow ESPN colleague Field Yates offered a disclaimer about Gordon – that at best, he will likely need time to have an impact with the Patriots – but offered an optimistic appraisal of his upside.
Carson Wentz returns and Josh Gordon is now a Patriot. What's the fantasy implications of each move? pic.twitter.com/2diGKGQMMz
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 18, 2018
“If Josh Gordon reaches something close to his apex, the ceiling in this offense is to be a top-10 wide receiver for fantasy football every single week,” said Yates. “He’s unique, he’s different.”
CBS Sports’ Heath Cummings noted that the rising tide of Gordon successfully acclimating to the Patriots’ offense could raise Brady’s fantasy projection as well:
If this works out, it is a huge boon for Tom Brady, who is dealing with the worst receiving corps of his career. A focused Gordon would make this offense virtually unstoppable. If Gordon does everything he’s supposed to do, he’ll dominate targets with Rob Gronkowski, James White and (soon) Julian Edelman. This will put Brady back in the conversation as the No. 1 quarterback in Fantasy.
One lingering question about Gordon was the condition of his hamstring, though Adam Schefter reported on Monday that Gordon is healthy enough to play immediately should the Patriots decide to include him on the active roster:
New Patriots WR Josh Gordon is healthy enough from his strained hamstring to play Sunday vs. the Lions, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 17, 2018
The pressing question for Gordon will be how he how he manages in New England given his history with substance abuse.
As Sports Illustrated’s Michael Beller wrote, this is a difficult issue that fantasy players should nonetheless confront rationally:
On a purely human level, we all want to see Gordon succeed. Our jobs here require us to be realistic, however, and the fact of the matter is that now is the time to trade Gordon if you can. There’s a great chance that his value will never be higher than it is right now, with irrational exuberance running in overdrive.
As Beller pointed out, the other issue Gordon is facing is simply learning a new playbook.
“You know what’s really hard to do? Learn an entirely new playbook as a receiver in the middle of the season,” wrote Beller. “Go back and look at how some wide receivers traded during the regular season have performed in their new homes. It isn’t pretty. In fact, Moss himself was traded twice in 2010, and flopped in both Tennessee and Minnesota.”
In Gordon’s best-case scenario, succeeding with Brady and the Patriots means less volume for some of the existing members of the offense. This primarily affects Chris Hogan, and could potentially have an impact on Julian Edelman’s numbers when he returns from suspension.