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Player Spotlight: Odell Beckham Jr.

A detailed examination of Odell Beckham's fantasy prospects for 2016

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

RankFirstLastYearsGmsRecsYardsTDs
1 Odell Beckham Jr 2014--2015 27 187 2,755 25
2 Randy Moss 1998--1999 32 149 2,726 28
3 Bill Groman 1960--1961 28 122 2,648 29
4 Jerry Rice 1985--1986 32 135 2,497 18
5 Charlie Hennigan 1960--1961 25 126 2,468 18
6 Josh Gordon 2012--2013 30 137 2,451 14
7 Torry Holt 1999--2000 32 134 2,423 12
8 A.J. Green 2011--2012 31 162 2,407 18
9 Mike Evans 2014--2015 30 142 2,257 15
10 Marques Colston 2006--2007 30 168 2,240 19
11 Bob Hayes 1965--1966 27 110 2,235 25
12 Sterling Sharpe 1988--1989 32 145 2,214 13
13 Gary Clark 1985--1986 31 146 2,191 12
14 Larry Fitzgerald 2004--2005 32 161 2,189 18
15 Julio Jones 2011--2012 29 133 2,157 18
16 Andre Johnson 2003--2004 32 145 2,118 10
17 John Jefferson 1978--1979 29 117 2,091 23
18 Calvin Johnson 2007--2008 31 126 2,087 16
19 DeSean Jackson 2008--2009 31 125 2,079 11
20 Isaac Bruce 1994--1995 28 140 2,053 16

Beckham ranks:

#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)

RankFirstLastYearsGmsRec/Gm
1 Odell Beckham Jr 2014--2015 27 6.9
2 Jarvis Landry 2014--2015 32 6.1
3 Anquan Boldin 2003--2004 26 6.0
4 Marques Colston 2006--2007 30 5.6
5 Brandin Cooks 2014--2015 26 5.3
6 A.J. Green 2011--2012 31 5.2
7 Keenan Allen 2013--2014 29 5.1
8 Kendall Wright 2012--2013 31 5.1
9 Charlie Hennigan 1960--1961 25 5.0
10 Larry Fitzgerald 2004--2005 32 5.0
11 Isaac Bruce 1994--1995 28 5.0
12 Allen Robinson 2014--2015 26 4.9
13 Dwayne Bowe 2007--2008 32 4.9
14 Terry Glenn 1996--1997 24 4.9
15 Jordan Matthews 2014--2015 32 4.8
16 Mike Evans 2014--2015 30 4.7
17 Gary Clark 1985--1986 31 4.7
18 Wayne Chrebet 1995--1996 32 4.7
19 Hakeem Nicks 2009--2010 27 4.7
20 Randy Moss 1998--1999 32 4.7

Top 20 All-Time Receiving Yards per Game (First Two Seasons)

RankFirstLastYearsGmsYds/Gm
1 Odell Beckham Jr 2014--2015 27 102.0
2 Charlie Hennigan 1960--1961 25 98.7
3 Bill Groman 1960--1961 28 94.6
4 Randy Moss 1998--1999 32 85.2
5 Bob Hayes 1965--1966 27 82.8
6 Josh Gordon 2012--2013 30 81.7
7 Victor Cruz 2010--2011 19 80.8
8 Charlie Brown 1982--1983 24 79.8
9 Jerry Rice 1985--1986 32 78.0
10 A.J. Green 2011--2012 31 77.6
11 Anquan Boldin 2003--2004 26 76.9
12 Torry Holt 1999--2000 32 75.7
13 Mike Evans 2014--2015 30 75.2
14 Allen Robinson 2014--2015 26 74.9
15 Marques Colston 2006--2007 30 74.7
16 Julio Jones 2011--2012 29 74.4
17 Ernest Givins 1986--1987 27 73.9
18 Isaac Bruce 1994--1995 28 73.3
19 John Jefferson 1978--1979 29 72.1
20 Gary Clark 1985--1986 31 70.7

Top 20 All-Time Receiving TDs per Game (First Two Seasons)

RankFirstLastYearsGmsTD/Gm
1 Bill Groman 1960--1961 28 1.04
2 Odell Beckham Jr 2014--2015 27 0.93
3 Bob Hayes 1965--1966 27 0.93
4 Randy Moss 1998--1999 32 0.88
5 John Jefferson 1978--1979 29 0.79
6 Charlie Hennigan 1960--1961 25 0.72
7 Louis Lipps 1984--1985 30 0.70
8 Sammy White 1976--1977 28 0.68
9 Charlie Brown 1982--1983 24 0.67
10 Mark Clayton 1983--1984 29 0.66
11 Marques Colston 2006--2007 30 0.63
12 Hakeem Nicks 2009--2010 27 0.63
13 Julio Jones 2011--2012 29 0.62
14 Allen Robinson 2014--2015 26 0.62
15 Roy Williams 2004--2005 27 0.59
16 A.J. Green 2011--2012 31 0.58
17 Isaac Bruce 1994--1995 28 0.57
18 Jerry Rice 1985--1986 32 0.56
19 Larry Fitzgerald 2004--2005 32 0.56
20 Mike Quick 1982--1983 25 0.56

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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)
  3. 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

FirstLastTgts% of Total
Antonio Brown 193 33.3%
Odell Beckham 154 25.2%
Julio Jones 203 32.9%

% of Team's 2015 Total SNAPs

FirstLastSnaps% of Total
Antonio Brown 1002 93.2%
Odell Beckham 999 89.8%
Julio Jones 932 81.8%

SNAPS PER TARGET (2015)

FirstLastTgt/Snap
Antonio Brown 0.19
Odell Beckham 0.15
Julio Jones 0.22

 

Observations

  • 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

Positives

  • 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

Negatives

  • 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

Projections

YEAR GRSHYDTDTARGRECYDTDFumL
2014 NYG 12 7 35 0 130 91 1305 12 1
2015 NYG 15 1 3 0 158 96 1450 13  
2016 PROJ-Dodds 15 2 10 0   100 1430 12 1
2016 PROJ-Henry 16 2 10 0   98 1440 12 0
2016 PROJ-Wood 16 0 0 0   100 1400 12 0
2016 PROJ-Tremblay 16 0 0 0   115 1679 13 1

Final Thoughts

Odell Beckham is going to be drafted in the top 3 of most leagues. If you're lucky enough to have the 1st or 2nd pick, you have a choice to make between Beckham, Julio Jones and Antonio Brown. I won't fault you for choosing Brown -- the most targeted receiver on the planet -- or Jones -- the most physically gifted receiver playing (now that Calvin Johnson has retired), but ultimately I think the best choice may be Beckham. History tells us we're far more likely to see further growth from a 23-year old entering his 3rd season than two older (27 and 28) vets. We also know that Beckham has done things in his first two years that have never been done before. The Giants offense is a far cry from the smash mouth NFC East beast that defined prior eras; it's now a wide open, aggressive passing offense that is running at a record pace. If you're fortunate enough to roster Beckham this season, enjoy the ride.

Other People's Thoughts

Jackson Safon maps out the case for and against Beckham as the #1 overall choice:

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.

PFF's John Breitenbach calls Beckham the #2 game breaker in the league:

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.