Being the star of the supplemental draft is like acing summer school. It’s nice that you’re accomplishing something that doesn’t involve smoking a plant, but you’re still damaged goods. Thankfully, when you’re a troubled NFL player you’re not stripped of your freedom to shamelessly watch cartoons every morning while eating Kraft Dinner for breakfast and wearing clothing only when absolutely necessary.

Ahhh, nostalgia. Miss you, carefree summers.

Last year, the supplemental draft was all we had during a dry, dire summer. Don’t miss you, lockout.

This year, the primary object of affection among the eight players eligible for Thursday’s draft is Josh Gordon, who will work out for scouts tomorrow, and is insufferably nicknamed “Flash,” because every athlete named Gordon legally has to be given a moniker attached to a superhero created in 1934. The difference between Gordon and Terrelle Pryor—the marquee name in 2011′s supplemental draft—is that Gordon has the potential to contribute right away.

We’re a few months removed from the daily draft analysis and scrutiny of young men who will eventually become nobodies, so allow me to pause and emphasize a basic yet important point. Potential is piece of vague scouting language that’s always difficult to gauge, but it’s often been especially troublesome for two of the primary offensive positions: quarterback and wide receiver. JaMarcus Russell had great potential, and so did Charles Rogers and Troy Williamson. Being fast, tall, and athletic in college doesn’t necessarily mean that those same qualities will translate to success once you’re paid to play, and paid to produce.

But right now, with Gordon that’s all we have: great measurables (Gordon is 6’4” and he weighs 220 pounds), and some quality tape from his brief time being Robert Griffin III’s top target. Kind of like this tape…

He’s fast, so running far distances and catching footballs isn’t a problem. You may even say that he’s quite good at it.

His on-field brilliance has drool currently forming around certain NFL head offices, and has sources at Baylor claiming that Gordon was better than Kendall Wright, his former teammate who was drafted 20th overall this past spring. That same buzz also has PFT’s Evan Silva reporting that several teams have a third-round grade on Gordon, while Adam Schefter is thinking even higher, and named a handful of teams that are seriously considering making a push to secure Gordon’s services with a second-round pick (Browns, Dolphins, Panthers, Colts, Eagles, Cowboys and Redskins).

To review, if a team wants a player in the supplemental draft, they select him now, and they do it by forfeiting the corresponding pick in the 2013 draft. So if a team does indeed draft Gordon in the third round Thursday as Silva reports, then they’ll be sacrificing a third-round pick in the 2013 draft.

That’s still quite lofty territory at an unpredictable position for rookie production. To get an idea of the kind of value being attached to Gordon, Reuben Randle is expected to play a major role for the Giants right away and replace Mario Manningham, and he was nearly a third rounder, waiting until the final pick of the second round to exit the green room. Meanwhile, Emmanuel Sanders, Jordan Shipley, and Eric Decker were all late third-round picks in 2010, and they have a combined 1,996 receiving yards through two seasons despite limited roles and battles with injuries.

The caveat is always that the player in question is available in July because he’s flawed, and usually that flaw is of the red-flag variety. In a league where alcohol and drug-related idiocy seems rampant this offseason, you’d think that teams would be a little hesitant due to Gordon’s marijuana arrest and subsequent suspension and transfer from Baylor to Utah, where he didn’t play a game because of NCAA transfer rules, and he’s since decided to take his talents to the NFL because he needs to get paid.

And if you thought that, you’d be wrong. If the Detroit Lions have taught us anything this offseason, it’s that character still lives deep in the shadow of production. As along as you produce from September to January (and maybe even February) and can stay alive from March until training camp in August, you’re worthy of NFL employment.

At this point, it seems there’s little doubt that a team will buy high on Gordon Thursday, caring little about the fact that he hasn’t played in two years, and salivating over his 42 catches for 714 yards and seven touchdowns during the last time he played a full season of competitive football (2009). Quickly, here’s the justification for a few of the favorites, which mostly reads like a list of shameless desperation.

Miami Dolphins: Brandon Marshall isn’t walking through that door, and when a franchise is grooming a rookie top 10 pick at quarterback and Brian Hartline is the only option at wide receiver who’s guaranteed a roster spot, that’s a serious pain train already in motion.

Washington Redskins: The Baylor connection between Gordon and RG3 will make this possibility linger, but the Redskins already spent on young-ish wideouts during free agency, and now in no particular order have Josh Morgan, Pierre Garcon, and Leonard Hankerson to play behind Santana Moss.

Carolina Panthers: Youth and speed are needed here, and Gordon’s 40 yard-dash time is in the 4.4s. Steve Smith experienced a quick rejuvenation when Cam Newton came aboard, but at 33 years old those legs are getting creaky, and it’s difficult to say how much longer the current Steve Smith will exist.

Cleveland Browns: Some Browns scribes think Gordon is too raw, but the Browns are left supporting a rookie quarterback who was a first-round reach with Mohammad Massquoi, who’s been consistently unimpressive even after three years in the league.

Dallas Cowboys: Miles Austin and Dez Bryant clearly still sit atop the depth chart, but a lanky speed option to replace the departed Laurent Robinson would be an asset.

Pic via Draftbreakdown.com

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