Posted July 12, 2012

Receiver-starved Browns gamble on Josh Gordon in Supplemental Draft

Cleveland Browns

Josh Gordon caught seven touchdowns for Baylor in 2010, the last time he played football. (Steven Leija/Southcreek Global/ZUMAPRESS.com)

Every so often, the NFL’s Supplemental Draft produces a diamond in the rough. The Cleveland Browns are banking on Josh Gordon fitting that bill.

Cleveland sacrificed a 2013 second-round draft pick to select Gordon in Round 2 in Thursday’s Supplemental Draft. The team adds the former Baylor receiver to its current rookie class, which includes QB Brandon Weeden and RB Trent Richardson.

The Browns wound up with the second pick in each Supplemental Draft round, following a lottery. That put Cleveland behind only Buffalo in the pecking order, and ahead of teams like Miami (No. 4 slot), St. Louis (No. 5), Minnesota (No. 6) and Washington (No. 7) — all of which were believed to have interest in Gordon.

The second-round pick is the highest coughed up in the supplemental draft since Houston took running back Tony Hollings in the same round in 2003; last year, QB Terrelle Pryor was selected in the third round by Oakland.

Gordon measured in at 6-foot-3 and 224 pounds at a workout for NFL teams earlier this week. He also chalked up a 36-inch vertical and broad jump of just over 10 feet at that event, while his 4.52 40 time was lower than anticipated. Still, he has excellent speed for his size and showed off outstanding hands throughout a 42-catch sophomore season at Baylor.

Of course, that was in 2010.

Gordon has not played a competitive down of football since the Texas Bowl on Dec. 29, 2010, and he comes with the dreaded “character issues” label attached to him. Back in October 2010, Gordon and a then-Baylor teammate were arrested after falling asleep in a Taco Bell drive-thru. Police found marijuana in the car the two were in, though Gordon was not driving. Less than a year later, Gordon was suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules; he later revealed that he had failed a drug test.

Gordon transferred to Utah, then changed his mind and entered the Supplemental Draft — but too late for the 2011 version, forcing him to sit out the entire year.

The Browns were still willing to roll the dice. It’s not difficult to see why given Cleveland’s current depth chart at wide receiver. Greg Little and Mohamed Massaquoi would likely be the starters if the season opened today, with Joshua Cribbs and 2012 fourth-rounder Travis Benjamin seeing action as well.

In other words, the door is wide open for Gordon to step in and compete for playing time.

SI’s Tony Pauline reported during Gordon’s workout that the ex-Baylor receiver had passed an unannounced drug test in recent days and that his Wonderlic score was comparable to what NFL teams want from quarterback prospects. Between those facts and Gordon’s high upside, Cleveland felt he was worth the gamble.

And it is a gamble. Cleveland picked fifth in this year’s second round at No. 37 overall. Unless the Browns take a surprising leap forward in 2012, it would not be surprising to see them wind up at a similar spot next April. So, they will expect Gordon to perform like a high second-rounder — in other words, if he can’t get on the field right away, it will be a letdown.

Just for comparison’s sake, five receivers were taken in the second round of the 2012 draft: Brian Quick, Stephen Hill, Alshon Jeffery, Ryan Broyles and Reuben Randle. All but Broyles, who is coming back from a significant knee injury, could be in their team’s plans in Week 1.

The Browns’ one and only Supplemental Draft pick prior to this one was Bernie Kosar in 1985. He posted 53 wins in Cleveland and helped the franchise advance to three AFC championship games.

It would be foolish to expect the same type of impact from Gordon, especially before he plays a down in the NFL. The Browns clearly set a high bar for the receiver, though, and will cross their fingers that his production measures up to his obvious skill.

This was a gutsy — some might say desperate — move for a Browns team in dire need of some positive momentum. Was Gordon worth a second-round pick? Time will tell.

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