Josh Gordon started Sunday on the trade block. He ended it in the hearts and minds of fantasy owners. Fresh off his two-game suspension, Gordon manhandled the Vikings for 10 catches, 146 yards and a 47-yard touchdown. He was targeted 19 times by fill-in quarterback Brian Hoyer, the most looks for any receiver in a single game this season. In the process, he showed both why one team has already made a “quality offer” for his services, and why the Browns would be insane to accept it.
Until Sunday, Gordon had been almost more myth than man. A 6-foot-4, 220-pound picture of a wide receiver with 4.52 speed to boot, Gordon had drawn more offhanded comparisons to Andre Johnson than should have been thought possible. The third youngest player in the league as a rookie last season, he caught 50 passes for 805 yards and five touchdowns despite not having played competitive football in two years.
That’s where the myth really comes in, as it’s not what Gordon has done on the field in full view of the football-consuming public that has him on the block, but the things that have transpired beyond the eye of our increasingly-penetrating microscope. Why hadn’t Gordon played football in two years as a rookie? Because he got bounced from two different BCS schools for failing drug tests. Why was he suspended for the first two games of the season? Because he failed multiple drug tests as a rookie, putting himself one strike away from a one-year ban. Therein lies the yin and the yang of Gordon’s Odysseus-like rise to stardom. He can’t be covered on the field, but he’s had no cover off of it.
If Gordon is truly available, there are 31 other teams that could use him — particularly, say, the 49ers, Patriots, Ravens, Eagles and Panthers. But will anyone be willing to part with equal value? Not that there’s really equal value for a 22-year-old player with Gordon’s skill and on-field résumé, so say a first-round pick? It’s tough to say. All we know is that he’s a WR2 you bought at a WR3 price who could soon be a WR1. Gordon will be one of the lowest common denominators amongst fantasy champions this season.
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This time last month, people were building teams around Stevan Ridley, David Wilson and C.J. Spiller. Sunday, they were combining for 32 carries and 83 yards (2.59 YPC).
1. C.J. Spiller — Spiller’s day was by far the worst. In Act III of his unexpected timeshare with Fred Jackson, Spiller managed all of nine yards on 10 carries before departing with a mysterious “knee injury.” Now we know it was a thigh issue, and that Spiller plans to play in Week 4 against the Ravens. Spiller will enter his matchup with the league’s No. 4 run defense (74.7 yards per game, 3.4 yards per carry) averaging just 51 yards per game and 3.56 yards per tote.
2. David Wilson — There’s really not much left to say about the Giants’ misery, though you could start with the fact that Wilson’s 11-carry, 39-yard performance was a bright spot Sunday, and his best game of the year. Surely better days are ahead for the Giants’ gifted second-year back, but then again, they surely were in Weeks 1 and 2, as well. Wilson’s brutal schedule eases up after Week 4, but it could already be too late for fantasy owners by the time he gets going.
3. Stevan Ridley — As has become custom, Ridley’s situation is the most mysterious. Is there a committee in New England or isn’t there? Sunday’s usage suggests yes. Ridley was out-touched 14-12 by LeGarrette Blount, and watched Brandon Bolden immediately monopolize third-down touches upon his return from a knee injury. The talent still suggests otherwise, however. Namely, Ridley has a lot more of it than both his backfield teammates. Almost certainly, Bolden has earned himself a multi-week look as New England’s third-down back, but it strains belief Ridley will be splitting early-down work with Blount. Ridley owners are tired of hearing it, but staying the course remains the most prudent course of action.
1. Antonio Brown — The Steelers needed a bright spot Sunday. They got one in Brown, their fourth-year $43 million receiver who exploded for career highs in catches (nine), yards (196) and touchdowns (two) after combining for just 11/128/0 in Weeks 1-2. Obviously, the night will likely go down as Brown’s best of the season, but coming in a critical game against one of the league’s best defenses, it’s a preview of WR2 things to come.
2. Kenbrell Thompkins/Aaron Dobson — 10 days after setting the game of football back 10 years, Tom Brady’s rookie receivers combined for 10 catches, 93 yards and two touchdowns. They hauled in 10-of-17 targets one week after going an abysmal 5-of-17. It would be foolish to predict smooth sailing from here on out, but perhaps the Pats won’t be waiting for Brandon Lloyd to return their calls after all.
3. DeMarco Murray — Piling up 175 yards and a touchdown on only 26 carries, Murray had his best game since … the last time he faced the Rams (25/253/1 in 2011). Now averaging 95.3 yards per game and 4.93 yards per carry, Murray gets the Chargers’ 28th ranked run defense in Week 4.
1. If the reigning NFC Champions continue “starting” Kyle Williams, does it make a noise?
2. Maybe your best short-yardage back should just be, you know, your best back? (Looking at you, Chicago.)
3. Which one of Ben Roethlisberger’s turnovers has been your favorite?
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