Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports



Josh Gordon is a name forgotten by most NFL fans, but one that has almost certainly come up in nearly every front office in the NFL at some point this offseason, even if only to dismiss the possibility of signing him. To dismiss him though, you must first acknowledge him. He is still under contract with the Cleveland Browns, but reports have indicated that they are done with him, and you would have to believe that he could be acquired for a relatively low draft pick, or that the Browns will cut him and he could be signed for a minimal salary.

There is a very small group of NFL receivers who are so dominant in all aspects of the game that they can almost single-handedly change the fortunes of a franchise. Attaining one of these receivers usually boils down to the good fortune of drafting him, because it is very rare that he will hit the open market as a free agent. The problem with that is a large percentage of college wide receivers who appear to have that potential do not pan out. Other times, a more lightly regarded draft pick will emerge to join that elite class. As with every other position, drafting an elite wide receiver is not an exact science.

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Most fans can rattle off the names of the receivers in this group with relative ease: Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown, and A.J. Green appear on everyone's list. DeAndre Hopkins and Dez Bryant appear on most lists. From there, others like Brandon Marshall, Demaryius Thomas and a couple of others enter and exit that list depending on what type of season they had and who's doing the judging.

The bottom line is that there are not nearly enough receivers in this group to go around. Not team will have one, but every team wants one. It's easy to forget that when he's on the field, Josh Gordon is one of these receivers.

The last time Josh Gordon appeared on a football field for an extended amount of time was during the 2013-2014 season. Quite simply, he put together one of the most amazing seasons in NFL history. Appearing in only 14 games, he still managed to catch 87 passes for a staggering 1,646 yards, which is good for an 18.9 yards-per-reception average. During the course of that season, he set an NFL record for the most receiving yards over a four-game span: 774. That production over the course of a 16-game season would have given Gordon a total of 3,096 yards. Of course that will never happen over an entire season, but those numbers are cartoonish.

The bad news? Gordon has been unable to get out of his own way, which is why he hasn't consistently appeared on an NFL field for the past three seasons. In the summer following the 2013-14 season, he was arrested for driving while impaired. Since then, there has been a series of suspensions and setbacks that have prevented Gordon from returning to the field. In the latest twist, Gordon voluntarily left the Browns in September of 2016 to check into a rehabilitation facility when he was only a week away from completing his latest four game suspension and returning to the field.

The 49ers' front office has ushered in a new era and is currently riding a wave of positivity. If it were to consider a move such as adding Gordon to the fold, it would certainly be done after all due diligence has been completed. After all, Gordon has only been arrested once for the aforementioned DWI. In every other case, Gordon has been his own worst enemy. He's done more damage to himself than anyone else. He hurt his teammates by not being available, but he's never assaulted anyone, and no public reports have emerged to indicate that he was ever a disruptive force in the locker room, and oh yeah: he's only 25 years old.

While currently still on the commissioner's exempt list, he will certainly be cleared at some point and be in training camp with some team this season. For Lynch, Shanahan and the 49ers' current rebuilding project, is the risk of acquiring Josh Gordon worth the reward of possibly having a top-five caliber wide receiver on the 49ers roster in 2017?