Morning After: Gordon Goes Off

Patrick Daugherty
Nick Mensio highlights 12 players from the AFC North who may be salary-cap casualties this offseason

Cut Candidates: AFC North

Nick Mensio highlights 12 players from the AFC North who may be salary-cap casualties this offseason

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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Three Down

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.  

Three Up

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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Game Balls

Ahmad Bradshaw

How did Bradshaw respond to the arrival of Trent Richardson? By thoroughly out-playing him in the Colts’ statement win over the 49ers. Bradshaw tallied 95 yards and a score on just 19 carries, adding three catches for 16 yards. His sheer force of will was on display in the fourth quarter, where he launched himself through the air at the goal line in search of a touchdown. He failed, but notched his second score in as many weeks just moments later. It was a nice performance, but the reality remains: Richardson is going to carry the load going forward. That’s what happens when your price is a first-round pick. But if Sunday’s 39 overall rushes were any indication, the Colts are going to need two backs to hammer out OC Pep Hamilton’s power-run attack, and Bradshaw isn’t going to go quietly into the night.      

Ryan Tannehill

Widely viewed as a reach when the Dolphins made him the third quarterback off the board last year, Tannehill is now the No. 1 2012 first-round QB in one very important stat category: Win/loss record. Tannehill and the Dolphins are 3-0 after he guided them on a 13-play, 75-yard, 4:08 drive to steal away Sunday’s game from the Falcons. Tannehill converted three third downs through the air before floating a perfect scoring strike to TE Dion Sims from 2nd-and-goal at the one with 0:38 to play. It was a statement game from the second-year starter, though one he could dwarf with a win next Monday night in New Orleans.   

Santonio Holmes

The mercurial receiver faced a backup cornerback and did what he was supposed to do: Torch him relentlessly. Holmes’ 154 yards were the most of his career, and offer hope to rookie quarterback Geno Smith that his $7.5 million wideout might finally again be serious about contributing for the New York Jets. Holmes’ effort has come and gone in recent seasons, but he made it clear Sunday that he can still produce like a high-end wideout if he wants to. Holmes is back on the WR3 radar.

Stats of the Week

Josh Freeman has completed just 43 of his first 94 passes this season (45.7 percent). Tim Tebow is a career 47.9 percent passer.

Giovani Bernard’s yards per carry through three games: 5.0. BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ yards per carry through three games: 2.8.

No Steelers running back has eclipsed 40 yards rushing in a game.

Torrey Smith has posted at least 85 yards receiving in three straight games for the first time in his career.

Brian Hoyer’s three passing touchdowns Sunday were as many as Brandon Weeden had produced over his past six starts.

Tom Brady’s 5.5 yards per attempt is last amongst all quarterbacks with at least two starts.

Andrew Luck has more rushing yards and touchdowns than Cam Newton.

Cecil Shorts’ 40 targets are the most in football, though he has just 19 catches, 12 of which have come in the fourth quarter of blowout losses. He has three first-half receptions.

Christian Ponder has more rushing yards than David Wilson.

Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 rated corner through three weeks? Darrelle Revis.

Awards Section

Tweet of the Week, from @KennyBritt_18: Looks like the Titans pullin that Jared Cook card .. Looking like this the last year ill be sayin #TitanUp .. So lets make it a Great year

Least Valuable Player, Non-Freeman Division: What is Eli Manning even doing? The Giants’ “elite,” would-be franchise quarterback now has a 5:8 TD: INT ratio through his first three games, and is completing just 59.8 percent of his passes. His protection has been horrible, but his play has been flat inexcusable for a team with the second worst point differential (-61) in football after the Jaguars (-64).

The You Cannot Be Serious Award: Fantasy owners jumping off the Colin Kaepernick bandwagon because he struggled in Seattle in Week 2 and without any semblance of weapons in Week 3 … I can’t help you. Kaep is a prime buy-low target.  

The Carson Can You Hear Me? Award: Carson Palmer’s yards, completion percentage, yards per attempt, long pass, touchdowns and QB rating have all declined in two straight games.

Most Absurd Moment of Week 3: Yes, football is important, Rashad Johnson, but you might miss the top of your left middle finger when you’re 50.  

Fantasy All Pro Team

QB Cam Newton, RB DeMarco Murray, RB LeSean McCoy, WR Josh Gordon, WR Antonio Brown, WR Calvin Johnson, TE Jimmy Graham, TE Jordan Cameron

Early Waiver Look  

This is just my approximation of who might remain unowned in a large number of leagues. It is not an exhaustive effort, and the players are not listed in “add” order. For a full, much more thorough breakdown of the wire, be sure to check out Adam Levitan’s column on Tuesday.

QB: Geno Smith, Brian Hoyer

RB: Isaiah Pead, Brandon Bolden, Johnathan Franklin, Danny Woodhead  

WR: Santonio Holmes, Kendall Wright, Cordarrelle Patterson

TE: Heath Miller, Charles Clay, Jordan Reed, Jeff Cumberland

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