News & Analysis

Fantasy football impact of Josh Gordon's reinstatement

Dec 2, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon (10) walks off the field after defeating Minnesota Vikings at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Almost two weeks after word came out that he was applying for reinstatement, word came down Friday afternoon that New England Patriots WR Josh Gordon was successful and will be reinstated, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Gordon’s return should help bolster a New England passing attack that had plenty of depth but no sure things behind No. 1 receiver Julian Edelman and also had to make up for the offseason retirement of TE Rob Gronkowski.

Gordon was the No. 28 PPR receiver in the 11 games he played with the Patriots last year, putting up 720 yards and 3 touchdowns on 40 receptions (64 targets). That’s a 1,000-yard pace (1,047.3) over a full 16 games. Gordon also offers a skill set that is not prevalent in the Patriots offense as a deep-ball offense; his average depth of target in 2018 was 14.4 yards, more than two yards deeper than the next-deepest Patriot (Phillip Dorsett’s 12.1 yards). He led the Patriots receivers in 2018 in receiving grade, yards per reception, yards after the catch per reception, and deep receptions.

Gordon will be apparently eligible to play from the start of the season, with no more suspension to serve. He reportedly spent some time this offseason working out with Tom Brady, which can only help. There is no player in the league riskier than Gordon for potentially missing time for some off-field reason in the future, but as long as he’s eligible to play, he carries borderline-WR1 upside (he’s topped 2.00 yards per route in each of his last four active seasons).

Still, it’s wise to approach Gordon with cautious optimism in fantasy drafts as opposed to full-throated enthusiasm. I obviously lifted him in my rankings after the news came down, but only to the No. 34 WR, a borderline WR3. This is in part because of Gordon’s inherent risks and in part because the Patriots still do have a crowded group of pass-catchers.

Gordon’s return shouldn’t have a significant impact on Edelman or James White’s target loads; both saw plenty of targets while he was around last year. But the next step of receivers on the team — guys like N’Keal Harry, Maurice Harris, Demaryius Thomas, Jakobi Meyers, and Dorsett — will see their ceilings capped, and will in turn cap Gordon’s ceiling. Surely more than one of the guys the team has in camp will not make the roster, but enough will, and enough will contribute, that it’s hard to buy all the way in on any of them barring more information.

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