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Position Battle: Josh Gordon Vs Torrey Smith

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Josh Gordon became the Browns' deep threat in 2012. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Josh Gordon became the Browns' deep threat in 2012. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

It’s time to take a look at two deep threats from the AFC North. Now that Mike Wallace has taken his talents to South Beach, Josh Gordon and Torrey Smith will battle to be king of the deep ball in the division.

Gordon was not expected to contribute in his rookie year after being a surprising second-round pick in the 2012 Supplemental Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He was suspended for the entire 2011 season by Baylor for failing a marijuana test. Gordon transferred to Utah and sat out a year in preparation for coming back in 2012, but instead he decided to try his luck in the NFL.

The decision worked out. It’s hard to imagine that the Browns would have been able to select a WR as good as Gordon early in this year’s second round. Gordon showed his deep-threat chops with fellow rookie Brandon Weeden, only seven and a half years older than Gordon.

Gordon started 13 games and finished the year with a 50/805/5 stat line, averaging 16.1 yards a catch. Considering that Gordon had 44 total college receptions in an abbreviated career, that’s pretty astounding.

The Browns shook up their coaching staff in the offseason, hiring former offensive coordinator Rod Chudzinski. Chud did all right with a guy named Cam Newton in Carolina. In Josh Gordon, he has the kind of young, prototypical wideout that he lacked in Charlotte. Gordon’s going to be the number one threat and should continue to develop with Brandon Weeden in 2013.

While Gordon turned into a team’s top receiving threat during his rookie year, Torrey Smith has not been the Ravens’ top receiver in his two seasons. He finished fourth on the team in receptions in 2012, but could move up to number one in his third year. The Ravens traded Anquan Boldin to the 49ers during the offseason, and it’s time for Smith to be more than a deep threat and round out his game.

Smith has been consistent in his NFL career, with 50 catches his rookie year and 49 last year. Despite a drop by one catch, he had an additional touchdown and his yards per catch jumped to 17.4, fourth-best in the NFL. One thing the Baltimore Ravens do better than almost every franchise in the league is elevate players to bigger roles when they are ready. If Smith's going to be the team's number one wide receiver, General Manager Ozzie Newsome must believe in him, as the team hasn't really addressed the position in the offseason.

For both of these receivers, the fantasy ceiling would be Vincent Jackson’s 2012 season. Not only did Jackson set a season-high in catches (72) and yards per reception (19.2), he did it on a new team. Smith and Gordon represent players who don’t necessarily fit in with today’s new PPR fantasy paradigm. Torrey Smith put the fantasy world on notice with a 5/152/3 line in his first NFL start against the St. Louis Rams. He followed that with a 1/1/0 game the next week. Receivers who have the capabilty to take each catch to the end zone are exciting, but can be inconsistent.

If you want to choose the better offense and better QB, you go with Smith. He’s a good bet to see his first 1,000-yard season, and Flacco loves the deep ball. If you want the upside, go with Gordon, who has the size and speed that gets a guy drafted in the second round, despite off-field concerns. His second-half split puts him on pace for a 66-catch sophomore season, which would net him well over 1,000 yards as well. If he can get up to eight touchdowns, he’ll be a Top 15 fantasy receiver in any format in 2013.