Over the past week it quickly became evident that Chuck Norris, Batman, Spiderman, and perhaps even Aqua Man wear Josh Gordon pajamas.
In what was almost surely the result of the date on the calendar and the slow period of July, we were subjected to a gluttony of hype surrounding the now former Baylor wide receiver who was available in today’s supplemental draft. Gordon has been called the best prospect to enter the supplemental draft in 15 years, and he was widely projected to be selected in the second or third round. But there was also a heaping bucket of ice water thrown at Gordon (figuratively, we hope) when Albert Breer spoke to a scout yesterday who said that had he been available to be drafted in April, the 21-year-old would have waited until somewhere between rounds five and seven.
So it felt like April in July with the hearsay and speculation, and rumors based on more hearsay that’s based on speculation and rumors (that’s right, try walking straight now).
This afternoon we finally received our answer on Gordon’s value, with the Cleveland Browns, one of the most wide receiver-needy teams, sacrificing a second-round pick in next spring’s draft to buy high on his speed and athleticism.
Out of all the likely destinations for Gordon, the Browns had the earliest pick in the second round, and their motivation for taking a risk on his character (Baylor suspended him for the entire 2011 season after a marijuana arrest) is abundantly clear. The Browns simply have no downfield threat, and no one to keep an eighth man out of the box and make defenses respect the deep pass. Since they drafted a running back (Trent Richardson) with a top five pick and plan to make him a focal point of the offense in a passing-dominated league, forcing defenses to be mindful of the downfield bomb became an even greater need.
Without Gordon, both Richardson and Brandon Weeden–also a first-round pick–could have potentially been wasted, with Richardson routinely stuffed, and Weeden throwing to a group of receivers that combined for only 20 catches of 20 yards or more last year. To illustrate the Browns’ woefully below average WR depth chart using a comparison within their own division, Mike Wallace had 18 catches of 20 yards or more.
Some of that’s on Colt McCoy and his arm that resembles a pasta dish of some kind, but there was still very little separation. Greg Little, Cleveland’s leading receiver, had only 709 yards last year. Little combined with Mohamed Massaquoi and Josh Cribbs to give the Browns’ top three receivers only 1,611 yards. The stunning perspective? Calvin Johnson led the league with 1,681. Yes, more than all three of the Browns’ top receivers.
Predicting whether or not Gordon will live up to his potential and be an immediate presence is impossible right now, just as it is with any wide receiver at a position where prospects selected beyond the first round often take at least one year to develop. We can only judge him by his physical tools, and on tape he looks like he’s exactly the tonic to cure what ails the Browns offense.
During his workout earlier this week the 6’3″ Gordon ran a 4.52 in the 40-yard dash, and when he last played competitive football two years ago at Baylor, he had 42 receptions for 714 yards and seven touchdowns. He can run, and he can run fast, and it seems like he also knows how to catch a football while running fast.
Right now, those are the only requirements to be a Browns wide receiver. Good luck, Josh. Cleveland’s a fun town.