Will Odell Beckham Jr. be Fantasy Football’s Top WR in 2019?

Will Odell Beckham Jr. be Fantasy Football’s Top WR in 2019? article feature image
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Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (13) runs a drill during minicamp.

  • Odell Beckham Jr. will be suiting up for a much improved Cleveland Browns team in the 2019 season.
  • Ian Hartitz analyzes what to expect from the Browns' new receiver and how he ranks among fantasy football WR.

We’re in the thick of the NFL offseason and it’s officially time to start fantasy football prep. I’ll be answering the biggest questions heading into the 2019 season; this is part of that series.


The Browns shook up the NFL landscape when they sent a 2019 first-round pick, 2019 third-round pick and safety Jabrill Peppers to the Giants for stud wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr..

The New York media managed to find fault with most of OBJ’s sideline antics over the years, but there’s no denying he’s one of the best talents in the game as far as on-field play is concerned.

Imagine trading away Odell Beckham Jr. pic.twitter.com/X7bbXNvXhX

— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) March 13, 2019

What follows is a breakdown on where Beckham stacks up alongside the league’s other top receivers and what to expect from his fantasy football production in 2019.

OBJ is among the most-productive WRs the game has seen

The Browns have their first true No. 1 outside receiver since prime Josh Gordon.

Beckham has played in just 59-of-80 (74%)potential games since entering the league in 2014, but he’s still established himself as one of the best to play the position through his first five seasons: OBJ’s average of 92.8 receiving yards per game trails only Julio Jones (96.7) among all wide receivers in NFL history.

Some (including myself) even believe that OBJ is the NFL’s best active receiver.

Four players have 40+ receiving TDs since 2014 …

AB: 59 TDs in 76 games
Nuk: 45 TDs in 79 games
OBJ: 44 TDs in 59 games 👀
Evans: 40 TDs in 77 games

🗣 Odell Beckham Jr. is the best wide receiver alive

— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) February 23, 2019

Beckham has ranked among the league’s top-five fantasy options whenever he’s been healthy enough to suit up.

Here are his season-by-season averages in PPR scoring and overall per-game rankings among all fantasy players:

  • 2014: 24.58 PPR per game (1st)
  • 2015: 21.29 (3rd)
  • 2016: 18.54 (6th)
  • 2017: 18.5 (3rd)
  • 2018: 19.2 (8th)

Only Antonio Brown (22.58) has averaged more PPR points per game than OBJ (20.6) since 2014.

There might not be a more dangerous player in the entire league with the ball in their hands in open space.

The greatest punt return ever that didn't count pic.twitter.com/jCIjDKslpi

— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) March 10, 2019

OBJ will undoubtedly be ecstatic about getting to play with former LSU teammate/longtime BFF Jarvis Landry again, but the really great news is his upgrade at the quarterback position: Baker Mayfield finished 2018 with significantly better numbers than Eli Manning in touchdown rate (5.6% vs. 3.6%), yards per attempt (7.7 vs. 7.5) and ESPN’s Total QBR (55.7 vs. 51.2).

Beckham elevated Manning during their time together, not the other way around. Overall, the Giants averaged 22.6 points per game with Manning posting 7.1 yards per attempt with OBJ vs. 18.6 PPG and a 6.4 yards per attempt rate without.

Beckham wasn’t shy about noting the drastic change in arm talent from his new quarterback.

#Browns OBJ on Baker: “He’s got an arm. I have to get adjusted to the speed” pic.twitter.com/yvuAeHFmmi

— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) June 5, 2019

Injury luck has helped keep OBJ from reaching his ceiling over the past two seasons. There’s just one other ‘problem’ in projecting OBJ as a top-five fantasy football receiver in 2019.

The Browns haven’t made a habit of feeding a single player

Mayfield put together about as good of a rookie season as we’ve seen for a quarterback over the better part of the past two decades.

Here’s how he ranked among 50 quarterbacks with eight-plus starts since 2000:

  • Touchdowns: 27 (first among 50 rookie QBs with 8+ starts since 2000)
  • TD rate: 5.6% (third)
  • Yards per attempt: 7.7 (eighth)
  • Adjusted yards per attempt: 7.5 (seventh)
  • Yards per game: 284.6 (first)
  • Completion rate: 63.8% (eighth)
  • QB rating: 93.7 (fifth)

Mayfield can make pretty much any throw on the football field — and he knows it.

The Browns’ decision to remove the interim title from head coach Freddie Kitchens was thanks in large part to his ability to turn around Mayfield’s rookie season:

  • Weeks 1-8: 58% completion rate, 6.6 yards per attempt, 3.5% TD rate
  • Weeks 9-17: 68% completion rate, 8.6 yards per attempt, 7.2% TD rate

The only ‘problem’ that arose during Mayfield’s hot second-half stretch was his reluctance to feed anyone in the offense a heavy target share.

Baker Mayfield didn't target a Browns player more than 9 times in a game after Freddie Kitchens took over in Week 9 last season.

Odell Beckham Jr. targets in 12 games during 2018:
15
9
10
11
14
10
11
11
11
4
9
9

— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) May 11, 2019

Beckham finished No. 4, No. 7, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 5 in targets per game from 2014-2018, respectively. The Browns didn’t do this blockbuster trade to not feature OBJ as their No. 1 pass-game target, but it wouldn’t be surprising if that role is a bit closer to the 120-130 target range than the 150-plus looks that Beckham is used to seeing.

The good news for future OBJ fantasy football investors is that his boost in efficiency should be more than enough to make up for a potential regression in target share.

There’s no way OBJ should be drafted outside of the top-five WRs

Beckham’s 77-1,052-6 campaign came in just 12 games in 2018, yet was considered somewhat of a disappointment by his lofty standards.

A quick look at the film reveals that quite a bit of production was left on the field thanks to OBJ’s previous noodle-armed quarterback.

Best of Eli Manning incomplete passes to Odell Beckham Jr. in 2018 pic.twitter.com/uKZocmTBlO

— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) June 20, 2019

As much as I would love to anoint him the best wide receiver in the game as the best fantasy football receiver entering the 2019 season, I’m hesitant to do so because of OBJ’s target concerns in an offense that also boasts Landry, blossoming tight end David Njoku as well as numerous capable receiving running backs.

With all due respect to Juju Smith-Schuster, Antonio Brown and Mike Evans, the following players are locked in as my top-three fantasy football wide receivers for next season after each averaging double-digit targets per game in 2018:

  • DeAndre Hopkins, who racked up an absurd 163 targets in 2018 and led the league with 15 targets inside the 10-yard line. Hopkins is the league’s premiere contested-catch artist and joins AB as well as our next receiver as the only players with multiple seasons with double-digit touchdowns since 2016.
  • Davante Adams, who has a league-high 28 red-zone touchdowns since 2016 and also ranks among the top-five most-efficient players near scoring position. Adams has fantasy’s highest floor as the No. 1 pass-game option for Aaron Rodgers in an offense that again doesn’t boast many other weapons.
  • Julio Jones, who has led the league in yards per route run for four consecutive seasons (Pro Football Focus). This consistent ability to pick up yards has unsurprisingly made Jones a daily fantasy darling despite typically high price tags. Per our FantasyLabs Trends Tool, Jones joins AB and OBJ as the only wide receivers averaging at least 20 DraftKings points per game since 2014.

And then we have Beckham, who is currently the PPR WR5 in average draft position. Nuk, Adams, and Jones are returning as proven high-volume No. 1 pass-game ballers, while OBJ has a bit of an injury history at this point and faces some target share concerns.

Still, I’m inclined to take Beckham ahead of Michael Thomas, who is currently the PPR WR3. The connection between Thomas and Brees is incredibly strong, but OBJ has demonstrated a bit more upside as a downfield threat to this point and I’m a bit worried about the potential for Brees to drop off at some point in the near future.

Peyton Manning in 2014 (38)
Weeks 1-12 (11 games): 68% cmp, 8.1 Y/A, 34 TD-9 INT
Weeks 13-playoffs (6 games): 60% cmp, 6.9 Y/A, 6 TD-6 INT

Drew Brees in 2018 (39)
Weeks 1-12 (11 games): 76% cmp, 8.8 Y/A, 29 TD-2 INT
Weeks 13-playoffs (6 games): 69% cmp, 6.7 Y/A, 7 TD-5 INT

— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) May 22, 2019

OBJ is my WR4 and capable of finishing as the overall WR1 in one of the league’s most explosive offenses. If Mayfield is as good as everyone thinks he is, just imagine what one of the most-talented receivers ever will look like as his No. 1 receiver.

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