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Fantasy War of Words: Odell Beckham Jr. (2020 Fantasy Football)

May 28, 2020

Welcome to our Fantasy War of Words series, in which two of our analysts go head-to-head via email to defend their rankings position on a notable player ahead of the 2020 fantasy football season. In this edition, Dan Harris and Bobby Sylvester tangle over their respective rankings of Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

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Bobby Sylvester: So apparently, I’m supposed to fight you, Dan Harris, because your ranking of Odell Beckham Jr. is “absurd”. I have him ranked as my No. 7 fantasy wide receiver this season just ahead of Mike Evans, Amari Cooper and Kenny Golladay. Seeing as though I’m tempted to move him up higher, I can only imagine you have him ranked No. 3 or 4 and I’m too low? (folks, this is sarcasm, don’t worry.)

Dan Harris: Hardy har har, my friend. That is quite the bullish ranking, though, to be fair, you’re closer to Beckham’s expert consensus ranking (11th) than I am, as I have him 16th in 1/2 PPR. Beckham has finished as the WR83, WR16, and WR26 over the last three seasons. And yes, you can blame injury or coaching staff all you want, but to quote Rosie Perez in White Men Can’t Jump, certain things just are the way they are, and nothing’s gonna get rid of the Stucci brothers except seven thousand more dollars. That last part of the quote isn’t relevant, but still. Beckham has shown nothing in recent years to suggest that he will produce as a WR1, let alone a strong one. As one of the highest rankers of Beckham this year, defend yourself.

BS: I say there is information that suggests he will produce as a WR1. Let’s start with the fact that over those last three seasons, he has more yards per target than Davante Adams and is just behind DeAndre Hopkins. Those two had Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson throwing them the ball. Beckham had Eli then a helpless version of Baker Mayfield stuck behind the worst pass-blocking offensive line in football. Now that the offensive line is fixed, Mayfield, the all-time rookie TD-leader, should also be fixed. So when you say he hasn’t produced, I say he has produced efficiency-wise despite bad situations and a rough run with injuries.

Yards Per Target, 2017-19 (min. 250 targets)

22 DeAndre Hopkins 8.45
25 Odell Beckham Jr. 8.02
29 Davante Adams 7.91

: Look, I’m not arguing against Beckham’s talent, I’m arguing against his fantasy value as a WR1. All the points you made about the Browns’ issues last year are true, but that didn’t stop Jarvis Landry from outproducing Beckham last year in targets, receptions, and touchdowns. And although the offensive line is going to be far better, you know who really benefits from that? Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. That’s because Kevin Stefanski loves to run the ball, as we saw in Minnesota last year, when the Vikings ran the ball 48 percent of the time, fourth most in the league. And although neither Chubb nor Hunt has quite Dalvin Cook‘s talent, you can expect the Browns to try to lean heavily on the run, and not Beckham, first, limiting his upside. You disagree?

BS: Odell Beckham Jr. is 27 years old this season. The average age of the top-25 wide receiver fantasy football seasons of all time: 27.7. In fact, only two (Jerry Rice and Isaac Bruce) were under 26 years old. To put it plainly, Odell is directly in the middle of a wide receiver’s prime years. He has a first overall pick quarterback in his third season and Beckham, himself, has one of the most efficient wide receiver starts in NFL history. These are the most fantasy points per game through their 27th birthday: Michael Thomas 19.1, Julio Jones 19.0, Odell Beckham Jr. 18.9, Randy Moss 18.9, Jerry Rice 18.9 then a huge drop-off all the way down to 17.5 where Calvin Johnson, Antonio Brown, Larry Fitzgerald and DeAndre Hopkins all belong.

Basically, this is what I’m saying: forget Landry outperforming Beckham in an injury-plagued year. Beckham’s upside is the No. 1 fantasy wideout just like it was for DeAndre Hopkins the year after he finished WR No. 38 in 2016 despite playing all 16 games. Hopkins was then drafted around WR12 and proceeded to be the No. 1 overall wideout the following season. I’ll take a potential league-winner in the 3rd every single time and that’s what Beckham is.

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DH: Again, I’m not impugning Beckham’s talent, but if you want to talk about fantasy points per game through their age-27 season, we might as well talk about how many games you’re actually getting. Games missed through their age-27 season:

Michael Thomas: 1
DeAndre Hopkins: 2
Calvin Johnson: 3
Antonio Brown: 3
Randy Moss: 3
Jerry Rice: 4
Larry Fitzgerald: 4
Odell Beckham Jr.: 21 (and played all 16 games through a core injury last year)

Yes, Julio Jones missed 17 games early in his career, but Beckham is just 5-foot-11 and 198 pounds, hardly the frame that screams overcoming injury concerns. Counting on a full season, which you’ll almost certainly need for him to justify your ranking, would be overly-optimistic. And even if he does, you know what Beckham isn’t going to see like he used to? Targets! Beckham has averaged over 10 targets per game in his career. Stefon Diggs averaged 6.2 targets per game last year and Adam Thielen averaged 4.8 per game in Kevin Stefanski’s offense. Talent aside, health concerns aside, how is Beckham going to produce as a strong WR1 in this system?

Total Targets Leaders, 2014-19

1 Julio Jones 92 970 10.5
2 DeAndre Hopkins 94 957 10.2
3 Antonio Brown 77 867 11.3
4 Jarvis Landry 96 857 8.9
5 Mike Evans 90 835 9.3
6 Demaryius Thomas 90 792 8.8
7 Larry Fitzgerald 94 780 8.3
8 Odell Beckham Jr. 75 755 10.1


BS: Deshaun Watson threw the ball fewer than 500 times last year and DeAndre Hopkins, who dare I say, is an inferior talent when both are healthy, still saw 150 targets. Thielen and Diggs are great but neither is on Odell’s level or even the level before it. Besides last season when Beckham was playing hurt, as you mentioned, he sees 10.5 targets per game so it seems the injury made last year a fluke. As for all the games he missed, that’s a great point. That is, of course, why he comes at such a discount, though. We can snag him at the 3rd/4th round turn! So I suppose the question is, why would you rather have Courtland Sutton (+2 ADP!), D.J. Moore (+3), Melvin Gordon (+4), Chris Carson (+5) or Cooper Kupp (+6)? This is a supreme value in my opinion, but perhaps there is someone you like a bit more in this range of the draft?

DH: The reason that Diggs and Thielen (who admittedly left early some games) saw such few targets per game isn’t because of their talent, my friend. It’s because that’s how Stefanski’s offense is going to work. They’re going to be a run-heavy team and when they do throw, Beckham is not going to see the 24.9 percent target share he saw last year. That’s because not only does he need to share targets with Jarvis Landry, but also Kareem Hunt for a full year, Austin Hooper, and David Njoku, since you know Stefanski likes two-tight end sets. The targets are just not going to be there for Beckham, and neither will the touchdowns, as he hasn’t topped seven touchdowns since 2016 and probably won’t be the primary option in the red zone. Beckham’s a great player and I’d be completely fine with him as a WR2. As a WR1? It’s a hard pass for me.

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