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Jets Breakdown: Would Josh Gordon Be Worth It?

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As teams around the NFL get closer to training camp and the start of the 2020 NFL season, the New York Jets are in an interesting spot. They recently cut cornerback Trumaine Johnson and now has nearly $30 million in cap space, which is amongst the most in the league. With that said, they still have holes to fill.

Problematic areas on their roster include pass-rush, outside cornerback, as well as a weak core at wide receiver. With the departure of Robby Anderson in March, the group of weapons Sam Darnold has might be the worst he has ever had. The Jets did some tremendous work to re-invent their offensive line, but a lack of weapons could spoil Joe Douglas’s terrific offseason heroics.

New York Jets
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To avoid such a negative outcome, Douglas could prioritize signing a free-agent receiver in the first place. Should he elect to do so, the top option becomes former Seahawks, Patriots, and Browns pass-catcher Josh Gordon. Gordon’s up-and-down career has been interesting. Similarly, his success could be considered very questionable despite a season when he was one of the best at his position.

Crunching the Numbers

Teams and front offices around the league are still, despite everything he’s gone through, looking at Gordon as a receiver that can ultimately be consistent every week. The former Browns second-round pick is still considered a great pass-catcher by many experts around the league. However, the most simple stat box would, rightfully, pose the following question: Why?

Almost all of the positivity surrounding Gordon steams from his performance in 2013 for the Cleveland Browns. During that season, led the league in receiving yards with 1,646 and averaged more than 117 yards per game. Just four players have recorded more yards in a year than Gordon since 2010 – Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, Calvin Johnson (twice each), and Michael Thomas last year.

His second year in the league was, on the first look, astonishing. His success quickly backfired, and he didn’t stick around in Cleveland, or anywhere. Off-field issues indeed deprived him of the chance to return to top form in 2015 and 2016. However, his numbers, summed up, from the following four years nearly equaled his numbers from 2013. Believe it or not, there are other reasons, different from suspensions, which are entirely on-field. As strange as it might sound (or not so much), Gordon has been very inconsistent throughout his career, even in 2013.

Breaking Down 2013

Over 1,600 in total yardage during the 2013 campaign wasn’t the lone eye-opening figure on Gordon’s stat-sheet. He did that with 87 receptions. Significant yardage/small workload would indicate a big average; this was exactly the case (18.9, league-high among players with 85-plus catches). Many people outside of the industry would take that the big average for a figure that resembles a player’s success. It isn’t – it’s instead an indicator of how he’s utilized within the offense’s system. A receiver with a yards per catch average of 18.9 would be, in most cases, a long-threat weapon.

The 2-14 Browns had Gordon as the runaway top target for three different quarterbacks who started games. From 681 total passing attempts, the Browns targeted Gordon on 159 (23.3 percent). This only makes his inconsistency problems more apparent. His 87 receptions aren’t the typical workload for a career-best campaign by a great NFL receiver.

On the one hand, the mere workload only goes to discredit his league-leading accomplishments. On the other hand, he wasn’t consistent even in a small-workload situation, catching just 54.7 percent of targets, worst among receivers with at least 85 receptions.

Here are a few more examples of this trend, from 2013 and throughout his career:

  • There’ve been 131 receivers with at least 85 receptions since the start of the 2010 NFL season. Josh Gordon has the third-lowest catch percentage (54.7), behind only Reggie Wayne (2012) and Larry Fitzgerald (2010).
  • In 2013, Gordon had the highest yards-per-catch average and the lowest catch percentage.
  • Amongst the 13 pass-catchers with most receiving yards in 2013, Gordon had the third-worst catch percentage and the third-fewest receptions.
  • Since the start of the 2017 season, amongst receivers with more than 33 catches and fewer than 87 catches, Gordon is first in total yards and 84th in catch percentage. This time, the figure (53.8) is worse than the 87 receptions during 2013.

Even with clear inconsistencies in 2013, this might not have been a problem if he had kept that level in more than one campaign after that. On the contrary, he now has an extremely low ceiling, having performed worse after his resurgence into the league. This could have some positives but he’s just crying for a full year to expose him and put his presence in the league in jeopardy.

Would Signing Him Be Worth It?

Despite the problems taking a chance on Gordon more than makes sense for Douglas and company at the moment. There are more than one or two reasons. Firstly, the Jets need a receiver badly now that the core is shallow. Secondly, he’s the best option to fill that hole in the current market. Thirdly, his on and off-field woes make him a cheap acquisition. Lastly, the fact that he’s 29 years old and has played six seasons makes for a positive prediction-centered turnout. According to fundamentals of how to evaluate future values in a sports context, there’s a significantly low chance he’s passed his prime.

As previously noted, the Jets have a lot of questions regarding their roster. They do, however, still have time, resources, and options to improve. Joe Douglas and the Jets now face the challenge of having to prioritize, but an extra wide receiver is undoubtedly near the top of the list. As of right now, Jamison Crowder is the only consistent target, while Mims and Perriman still have a lot to prove. Adding one more wildcard could be just what the Jets need.


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Teodor Tsenov is a writer in the NFL Department of Overtime Heroics. Teodor joined the media in March 2020, previously writing for Franchise Sports UK. Also a second-year International Sport Management student at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in Den Haag, the Netherlands. Originally from Sofia, Bulgaria.