Some players are controversial and merit considerable debate. Others, like Odell Beckham, are not. You don't need me to convince you that Odell Beckham is a stellar, supremely talented receiver that should be at or near the top of everyone's fantasy rankings. The only real debate with Beckham is exactly how high in the first round he should be selected.
A Historic Start
We live in a world where everyone clamors to get your attention. As a result, we're all prone to overusing terms like "great", "genius" and "phenomenal." Yet, in describing Odell Beckham's first two seasons, it's most certainly not hyperbolic to call his accomplishments "stellar", "historic" and "jaw-dropping."
All-Time Leaders -- Receiving -- First Two NFL Seasons
#1 All-Time in Receptions, First Two Seasons
#1 All-Time in Receiving Yards, First Two Seasons
#3 All-Time in Receiving Touchdowns, First Two Seasons
Somehow, these numbers UNDERSTATE his achievements
While these numbers show Beckham to be one of the best young receivers in NFL history, they don't quite illustrate how he has been THE BEST. Remember that he missed a few games at the start of his rookie season (hamstring) which works against him counting stats. Let's adjust the NFL record books for PER GAME output and see how that looks:
Top 20 All-Time Receptions per Game (First Two Seasons)
Top 20 All-Time Receiving Yards per Game (First Two Seasons)
Top 20 All-Time Receiving TDs per Game (First Two Seasons)
Splitting Hairs: Beckham vs. Julio Jones vs. Antonio Brown
Early fantasy drafts have Brown, Beckham and Jones going 1-2-3, although the order is not always the same. Antonio Brown is most often taken 1st, but Jones and Beckham have been splitting time as the 2nd overall pick. Far be it for me to argue against Jones or Brown -- both are worthy of their elite draft statuses. The only question I have is whether a credible case can be made for selecting Beckham over them both?
- Beckham is the youngest -- Beckham has only played two years in the league and is 23 years old. Brown is 28 years old and has played six seasons. Jones is 27 years old and has played five seasons. All three are still well within optimal age ranges but Beckham is the only one of the trio that has natural career progression on his side. It's unusual for a player to get significantly better in their 6th or 7th seasons. They can SUSTAIN past production, but further growth is unlikely. On the other hand, seeing further growth in Year Three is not only possible, it happens all the time.
- Beckham is capable of doing more on his own -- There's no better receiver at dominating after the catch. This is one area where Beckham routs Jones and Brown (and everyone else)
- Beckham has less regression risk -- One of the reasons all three receivers are atop the fantasy rankings is their usage rates. They are THE focal points of their team's offenses. But, there is an upper bound to any one player's role in a given offense. With that in mind, it seems that Beckham has the least chance of regressing based on last year's roles.
% of Team's 2015 Total Targets
|First||Last||Tgts||% of Total|
% of Team's 2015 Total SNAPs
|First||Last||Snaps||% of Total|
SNAPS PER TARGET (2015)
- Beckham was targeted 0.15 times per snap, significantly less than either Brown or Jones
- He was targeted 25% of Eli Manning's pass attempts versus 33% for both Brown and Jones
- Beckham is off to the best start in NFL history -- he's a complete package that's proven to be dominant against any defensive scheme or personnel grouping
- Ben McAdoo's ascension assures the Giants will further push the envelope on the aggressive, vertical passing attack that has defined the team over the last two seasons
- The ground game looks suspect, assuring a heavy pass/run balance
- Eli Manning is coming off a career year and has uncanny rapport with Beckham
- Beckham is only 23 years old and is earlier in his natural career arc than rivals Julio Jones and Antonio Brown
- The additions of Sterling Shepard and (possibly a returning) Victor Cruz assure opposing defenses can't focus on Beckham in the manner they've become accustomed
- It's possible the healthy return of Victor Cruz and emergence of Shepard could reduce Beckham's workload
- The offensive line must improve in order to keep Eli Manning healthy
- Beckham has a history of soft tissue injuries (nothing major yet, but enough to keep him from practicing and an occasional game
Other People's Thoughts
The best ever is pretty hard to maintain, especially over 16 consecutive games. While it’s still very early in his career, odds are Beckham’s 2015 season is more predictive of the future than 2014. A touchdown rate of over nine percent is just hard to replicate.
Plus, Beckham has had nagging hamstring injuries his entire career. It’s what caused him to drop slightly in dynasty rookie drafts and it’s what’s caused him to miss the first four games of 2014. While past injuries aren’t necessarily predictive of future ones, hamstring injuries can be hard to shake. And when we’re talking about the best of the best, any missed games can be a huge negative.
While Beckham’s ceiling is as high as anyone’s, he averaged two points per game less than Jones and Brown last season, and missed a game.
Odell Beckham is a nightmare for opposing defensive backs. He possesses an ideal combination of shiftiness underneath and explosion deep. The downfield threat he poses ensures a large cushion, putting extra strain on defensive backs to tackle in the open field. Few are capable of bringing Beckham down in space; he broke 13 tackles on just 96 receptions last season, highlighting the difficulty of their predicament. Beckham also scored 13 touchdowns, six of which came on deep targets. Only three receivers could better that total. No receiver has even come close to Beckham’s +44.8 cumulative receiving grade in their first two NFL seasons (since PFF began grading games in 2007). He may only just be getting started.