Jesse Pantuosco

Bump and Run

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Gordon’s Stock Rises

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


The Browns and Steelers may be close geographically but that’s where the similarities end. Two recent suspensions help to illustrate the stark contrasts between the two franchises. Le’Veon Bell’s four-game ban, the result of multiple missed drug tests, has Steelers fans ripping their hair out. On the flip side, Clevelanders are thrilled about Josh Gordon’s four-game suspension—they’re just happy he’s playing at all.

 

Both players have a history of off-field incidents. Bell served a two-game suspension last season after his arrest for marijuana possession a year earlier. Gordon’s past is a bit more checkered. Back in college, a failed drug test forced Gordon to transfer from Baylor and eventually declare for the Supplemental Draft. Since joining the Browns in 2012, Gordon has been suspended four times for a total of 32 games including all of last season.

 

Gordon’s bid for reinstatement seemed shaky at best following another slip-up this offseason (not to mention his budding friendship with known partier Johnny Manziel). But by the grace of commissioner Roger Goodell, he’s been given a second (really his fifth) chance. The reinstatement represents a rare peace offering from Goodell, who hasn’t been as forgiving to other repeat offenders of the league’s substance abuse policy. Troubled Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon is still awaiting his reinstatement and probably won’t get it.

 

The Browns were prepared to be without Gordon this year, which explains why they drafted five (depending on how you classify tight end/receiver hybrid Seth DeValve) wide receivers. But even with all those pieces, Gordon is still the go-to target and a potential steal in fantasy leagues. Gordon led the NFL in receiving yards in 2013, a monster achievement considering the lackluster quarterback play of Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden that year. That was three years ago but Gordon is still just 25 and should be well rested after playing just five games over his last two seasons.

 

Editor's Note: For updated rankings, projections, player profiles, positional tiers, mock drafts, sleepers and busts, exclusive columns and plenty more, check out our Draft Guide!

 

It’s anyone’s guess what Robert Griffin III has left in the tank (our own RotoPat just compared him to Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite) but Gordon will at least benefit from a steady workload. The Browns are going to be playing from behind on a frequent basis this year and that’s usually when Gordon does most of his magic. Gordon dominated garbage time during his breakout 2013 season, gobbling up 979 second-half yards compared to 667 yards in the first half. Six of his nine touchdowns that year came after halftime.

 

ADPs at consensus sites like FantasyPros haven’t reflected the change yet—Gordon is still ranked as the No. 54 wide receiver behind players like Kamar Aiken and Michael Thomas. But when Gordon is through climbing the ranks, he should settle somewhere in the WR3 range. Gordon has a WR1 ceiling but we have to factor in his four-game suspension and the fact that he hasn’t caught a pass since 2014. The good news is that he’ll have training camp to dust off the cobwebs and he also has a rapport with Griffin III, who quarterbacked Baylor when the two were college teammates in 2010.

 

Assuming Gordon walks the straight and narrow, his presence will undoubtedly have a domino effect on Cleveland’s other receivers. Corey Coleman was slated to open his rookie campaign as the Browns’ No. 1 wideout but obviously that will change when Gordon returns in Week 5. Tight end Gary Barnidge, the Browns’ leading receiver from last season, might also see a reduced role with Gordon hogging most of the targets. However, with Gordon lining up against top corners each week, Barnidge and Coleman should have more room to freelance and could function as important check-down receivers for RG3. Gordon’s return will knock them down a few pegs but Coleman and Barnidge will still be plenty involved in Cleveland’s passing game.

 

While Gordon’s return is a cause for celebration in Cleveland, Bell’s continued absence is a tough pill to swallow for Pittsburgh. The Steelers are already shorthanded with Martavis Bryant facing a yearlong suspension and now the team will have to search for more answers with Bell on the shelf for four weeks. Bell seems confident he’ll win his appeal but that remains unlikely unless he had a valid excuse for missing his drug tests. Of course, there’s a good chance we’ll see the ban reduced on appeal, which is what happened last year when Bell’s four-game suspension shrunk to two games.

 

The suspension and Bell’s recovery from knee surgery complicate his fantasy value this year, but he’s still an enticing player with a rare combination of speed, power and soft hands. Bell has averaged 4.8 yards per carry over his last two seasons while hauling in 107 catches for 990 yards during that span. He’s a true three-down back and will continue to pace Pittsburgh’s offense along with football’s best receiver Antonio Brown and likely Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger. Even if the full four-game punishment stands, Bell remains a top-eight running back in all formats. Fantasy owners shouldn’t think twice about drafting him in the second round.

 

Bell’s suspension obviously elevates DeAngelo Williams, who returned to fantasy relevance with a renaissance year in 2015. Despite taking a backseat to Bell for a good chunk of the season, Williams still managed over 900 rushing yards last year while leading the league with 11 touchdowns. He totaled 4.5 yards per carry, his highest average since 2011, and was also an asset in the passing game with 40 catches for 367 yards.

 

While it’s probably unrealistic to expect the 33-year-old to maintain that level of production, Williams should see enough volume to warrant RB2 status during Bell’s absence. In the nine games he started last year (not including Week 17 when he got hurt), Williams averaged 22.9 touches with a high-water mark of 31 against the Colts in Week 13. He’s a must-have handcuff for Bell owners and will probably go as a top-30 running back in most leagues.

 

Quick Hits: Several Patriots will begin the year on the active/PUP list including Danny Amendola (ankle, knee), Julian Edelman (foot) and Dion Lewis (knee). LeGarrette Blount, who missed the last three games of 2015 (five if you include the playoffs) with a hip injury, was able to avoid the PUP list and shouldn’t have any restrictions at training camp … Antonio Cromartie hasn’t generated much interest since getting cut by the Jets this offseason but the 32-year-old has no plans to hang it up. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that lingering hip concerns could force Cromartie into an early retirement but apparently he doesn’t agree with that assessment … J.J. Watt will begin training camp on the Texans’ active/PUP list. He underwent back surgery last week and could miss the first month of the season. Watt hasn’t missed a game since entering the league in 2011 … Melvin Gordon has spent the offseason working out with former MVP and last year’s leading rusher, Adrian Peterson. Gordon averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and didn’t score a touchdown during his rookie year … Jordy Nelson and Jared Cook are opening camp on the Packers’ active/PUP list. Nelson is coming off a torn ACL while Cook is still recovering from offseason foot surgery … Greg Jennings announced his retirement on Monday. The 10-year veteran appeared in two Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl with Green Bay in 2010 … Darnell Dockett is calling it quits after 10 NFL seasons. The 35-year-old signed a one-day contract so he could retire as a Cardinal … After hinting at it for months, Anthony Davis has officially applied for reinstatement. The former first-round pick retired last year after spending his first five seasons with San Francisco … Stephon Gilmore plans to report to training camp this week. The contract-year cornerback sat out OTAs but returned for the team’s mandatory minicamp last month … Junior Galette will sit out the entire 2016 campaign with a torn right Achilles. A torn left Achilles cost him all of last season … Ryan Fitzpatrick hung out with Jets receiver Brandon Marshall Monday in Chicago. The free agent quarterback has fielded multiple offers from the Jets including a three-year, $24 million contract with $12 million guaranteed for the first year … The Jaguars worked out Greg Hardy earlier this month but GM Dave Caldwell said the team has no plans to sign him. Because of his off-field baggage, teams have mostly avoided Hardy this offseason … The NFL has cleared Peyton Manning of any wrongdoing in connection with PED accusations made by Al-Jazeera several months ago. James Harrison, Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers were also named in the report and the NFL is hoping to meet with each player individually during training camp ... The NFL is investigating a Periscope video of a man claiming to be Aldon Smith who appears to be smoking marijuana. Smith, who is already serving a yearlong suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, insists he’s not in the video … Jalen Ramsey holds the highest rating of any rookie in this year’s Madden. He’s followed by Ezekiel Elliott, Ronnie Stanley and Roberto Aguayo … Ever wonder what goes on at Everbank Field when the Jaguars aren’t playing? Well Monday it was home to 15,000 Pokemon Go players. The line, which began three and a half hours before the event started, stretched through multiple parking lots and even wound around a baseball stadium on the other side of the complex. Gotta’ catch ‘em all.



Jesse Pantuosco is a football and baseball writer for Rotoworld. He has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JessePantuosco.
Email :Jesse Pantuosco



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