Gordon of course led the NFL in receiving yardage last season, catching 87 balls for 1,646 yards and nine TDs over just 14 games. He actually missed the first two weeks of the 2013 season due to suspension, then erupted in his return to action against Minnesota. Gordon saw a ridiculous 19 targets in his debut last year, hauling in 10 for 146 yards -- with a long highlight TD included.
Basically, as soon as Gordon hit the field last September, it was apparent that he was going to be a fantasy monster. He finished with the sixth-highest per-game receiving average in pro football history, gaining 117.6 yards in a standard week. Jerry Rice never topped that per-game average in any season, nor did Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison or Terrell Owens.
So it's not enough to say that Gordon was great in 2013. He was historically great.
We should note that the Browns were the most pass-heavy team in the NFL last season -- more pass-heavy than the Broncos, in fact. Cleveland averaged 42.6 attempts per game. (Because when you've got Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell behind center, you fire at will. Duh.) This year, under head coach Mike Pettine and OC Kyle Shanahan, the Browns are the second-most run-heavy team in the league, averaging 32.4 totes per week, with a modest 32.6 pass attempts.
Clearly, the team context is very different in 2014. But the addition of Gordon should mean big things for the entire offense. Without question, the statistical outlook for quarterback Brian Hoyer improves, and Cleveland's running game could get a boost as well. He's a receiver of uncommon talent, a guy who changes game plans.
"[I'm] very intrigued because playing on the defensive side of the ball, you know how much one guy at the X receiver, you understand what that does to a defense,'' [Whitner] said. "You can't allow a corner to go one-on-one against [Gordon]. You have to take the extra guy out of the box. So I know our offensive line and our running backs will be happy to pull that extra guy out of the box. Even if he's not getting the football and being a decoy, you still have to respect that. So he'll be a great weapon for us."
Gordon will face Atlanta in Week 12, and the Falcons happen to rank dead last in the league at defending the pass. The team allows 281.2 passing yards per week, and ranks next-to-last in the NFL in sacks (13.0). So the matchups don't get much better. On my board, Gordon will rate as a WR1, even though he's making his first on-field regular season appearance of 2014.
If you asked me to forecast Gordon's rest-of-season performance, I'd be similarly bullish. His upcoming schedule isn't too intimidating: at Atlanta, at Buffalo, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, at Carolina, at Baltimore. Over those six games, put me down for 33 catches, 548 receiving yards and five TDs. I'm assuming one dud performance, and at least one top-of-the-ranks explosion.
Here's how the rest of the Yahoo fantasy team projected Gordon, when asked for a knee-jerk forecast:
Evans – 34 receptions, 576 yards, 5 TDs
Del Don – 30 receptions, 450 yards, 3 TDs
Pianowski – 28 receptions, 420 yards, 3.5 TDs
Funston – 30 receptions, 510 yards, 3 TDs
So even the most conservative prediction calls for 70 yards per week and at least three TDs. That will do nicely. If you think we're being too aggressive or too sheepish, gamers, let's hear your forecast in comments.
(Closest without going over wins one of Brad's game-used wigs, so you definitely want in on this contest.)