Neither Josh Gordon of the Browns nor the Bears Alshon Jeffery merited serious draft buzz this past summer, yet those who took a risk on them received a heaping helping of Fantasy production.
Despite missing two games due to suspension along with being saddled with mediocre (at best) quarterbacks, Gordon exploded into an elite wideout, topping all receivers with 227.4 Fantasy points en route to an 86-catch, 1,646 yard campaign with nine touchdowns. Jeffery lived up to his sleeper status, as he thrived in Chicago’s new up-tempo attack and became a must-start performer while finishing eighth among receivers with 194.6 Fantasy points.
So the question begs: Was the 2013 season a watershed year for Gordon and Jeffery or can either of them be considered solid holdovers in Keeper/Dynasty leagues, especially those in which only three or four players can be kept? It’s a question Chris Mitchell and Brandon C. Williams debate in this week’s Point/Counterpoint.
Point – Gordon/Thomas/Jeffery: Keep Em
By Chris Mitchell
The story of 2013 is best told with two corresponding narratives – the disastrous seasons of first-round running backs and the Fantasy dominance at wide receiver; both are important when deciding whom to keep in Dynasty leagues.
Instead of replacing a disappointing running back with undeserving keepers like Reggie Bush or the injury-prone DeMarco Murray, it’s time to elevate a few of the elite breakout wide receivers like Alshon Jeffery, Josh Gordon and Demaryius Thomas. Gordon and Thomas were first and second, respectively, in standard league scoring, while Jeffery was eighth. Gordon and Thomas were two of only four wideouts to score over 200 points (and Gordon did it in only 14 games).
There is a common misconception that wide receiver is a deep position in Fantasy football. You can find viable wide receivers deeper in drafts and on the waiver wire, but there’s a difference between viable, reliable and elite. Deep implies quality and reliability; yet, that’s not the case. Only 17 wide receivers averaged at least 10 Fantasy points per game in standard 14-week Fantasy seasons, and when you look more closely at that list you see names like Andre Johnson, Anquan Boldin, Julian Edelman and Torrey Smith. Jeffery, arguably the riskiest of the three breakout WRs, scored in double-digits eight times and six or more Fantasy points (FP) 11 times in standard (non-PPR) leagues. Thomas had 13 weeks of at least seven FP. Gordon scored less than seven FP only twice, and scored at least 22 FP four times.
All three are reliable producers that can also win a given week with a monster performance. I understand the argument that the running back position is getting thin. There is more urgency to obtain running backs earlier; but winning Fantasy football is about getting value. Owners should not be keeping significantly inferior Fantasy producers purely because the position is thin. That is my argument against a position scarcity strategy in Fantasy baseball, and it holds true in the RB vs. WR debate. Elite wide receivers are an extremely thin group, with only a handful in that exclusive club, which includes Gordon, Thomas and Jeffery.
Counterpoint – Gordon/Thomas/Jeffery: Toss em back
By Brandon C. Williams
For as much as we moaned and groaned about running backs in 2013, they are still too valuable not to hold on to in keeper/dynasty leagues. If your league has, say, four keeper slots, chances are you’ll hold on to your running backs, and if you had a quarterback who produced for you, he’s staying as well.
Look, let’s come clean here – I like Josh Gordon and Alshon Jeffery. I don’t think 2013 was a fluke season for them. Yet, I’m not going to clear a keeper spot for them. Considering the fact that 23 wide receivers eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark, and five others came within 81 yards of that plateau; the numbers tell me I’m going to find a wide receiver without holding onto one.
The list of 28 receivers mentioned above doesn’t include the likes of Julio Jones, Roddy White, Wes Welker, Stevie Johnson, Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Bowe, each of whom are former 1,000-yard receivers who were plagued with injuries this past season and are capable of returning to form in 2014. All told, you’re looking at 34 receivers capable of being among the top two receivers.
There is another reason to shy away from Gordon and Jeffery. Gordon missed two games because of a league suspension, and he is at risk for further punishment from Roger Goodell. As the Browns’ only real offensive threat, you had better believe that defensive coordinators will look for ways to contain him, especially if Cleveland’s quarterback situation makes Browns fans long for Paul McDonald. As for Jeffery, much of his success came when Jay Cutler was injured and Josh McCown treated him as a WR1 for much of the stretch. Cutler will always look at Brandon Marshall primarily, and with RB Matt Forte taking targets as well, the threat of reduced targets for Jeffery could alter his Fantasy value. If your name isn’t Calvin Johnson, DeMaryius Thomas, Antonio Brown or Brandon Marshall, keeping a wideout is something of a fool’s errand. Holding on to Gordon or Jeffery is like taking sand to the beach.