Odell Beckham Jr: Fantasy Football Outlook For The 2021 NFL Season With Browns
Through two seasons of the Odell Beckham Jr. experiment in Cleveland, things have not gone according to plan. He struggled through the first seven games of last season, averaging under 50 receiving yards per game, and once his season ended with a torn ACL, the Browns offense seemed to take off, as they averaged over 29 points in their final 8 games (including playoffs). Thus, there’s a growing, and widely accepted, notion that OBJ is bad for Cleveland, and Baker Mayfield performs better without the need to throw to his biggest star.
Does the narrative align with reality? It’s tough to say. Beckham still hasn’t had a season in which he played more than 10 games and ended with less than 1,000 receiving yards – so clearly, the talent’s not the issue.
So, what exactly is the issue? Let’s dive right into it, and see if Odell can find a return to form in 2021.
2020 Fantasy Statistics
Since Beckham played only 7 games in 2020, and the narrative surrounding him is the product of the last two seasons, I’ll be looking at both 2019 (the year he joined Cleveland) and 2020.
Through 23 games with the Browns, OBJ has amassed 97 catches on 176 targets, for 1,354 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns – good for a 55.1% catch percentage and 58.9 yards per game. The numbers aren’t bad per se, but they’re a far cry from his production with the Giants (16 game averages of 106 receptions, 1,484 yards, 12 TDs).
The most noteworthy piece from these past two seasons is the 55.1% catch rate. In comparison to Mayfield’s 60.9% completion percentage over the last two seasons, it’s clear that Beckham has not only been a bad connection with Baker in a vacuum, but he’s also been a very unreliable target in Cleveland relative to the Browns’ other weapons – he has a 62.2% complete rate to receiver not named Odell over that stretch.
The fantasy results have been just as disappointing as well, as Beckham scored less than 11 points in PPR scoring in 10 games out of the 23, and over 20 in only 3. He has been the arch-nemesis of the beloved high-floor player with the propensity to boom any given week – the boom or bust player whose booms are hardly worth the trouble.
This isn’t meant to be a poop on OBJ party (no joke intended), but he simply has not been anything more than a mid-tier WR3 over these last two seasons, and an honest fantasy player has to recognize that.
Now that we’ve acknowledged the risks that the last few years have posed, let’s dive in to see if there’s anything here that suggests a rebound in 2021.
2021 Fantasy Projections
Before moving on to the rest of this article, I’d highly recommend watching this video, by YouTube analyst Brett Kollmann on Odell Beckham. Kollmann outlines the struggles that Mayfield and Beckham had last year with film analysis, showing that their struggles weren’t really either of their faults, but more the product of an incredibly weird 2020.
Beckham, as the X receiver in Kevin Stefanski’s offense, was open for huge paydays downfield last year, but Baker simply hadn’t built the confidence in himself, nor the chemistry with OBJ, to connect or even attempt to make a lot of these plays. Down the stretch, when the Browns hit their stride and turned into a truly explosive and balanced offense, Baker started hitting on these plays to new X receivers, even when they had less separation than Beckham was often creating when he was healthy.
Thus there’s a ton of reason for optimism this year, as the two have had all offseason to prepare, in addition to actual preseason reps, unlike last year.
Additionally, considering that Beckham still eclipsed 1,000 yards in 2019, any significant strides that Odell and Mayfield make this offseason should result in explosive numbers by season’s end.
I’m expecting a huge step forward from last year, with somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,100-1,250 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns, but remember – those numbers aren’t a monumental progression from Beckham’s 2019 campaign.
Rank at Position
If Odell Beckham is anywhere close to those projections, it’d easily be enough to provide a return on value at his current ADP on ESPN of 64 (WR26).
With a whole offseason to work with the Browns’ offense, OBJ is a much more exciting player based on both talent and opportunity in 2021 than Kenny Golladay, Chris Godwin, and many of the receivers going ahead of him in drafts at the moment.
Though he’s one of the most recognizable names in the league, just a little research and film study into the real problems behind his game last season could illuminate fantasy owners to a guy who could easily break WR1 territory in 2021.
If nothing new develops, view OBJ as a mid-to-low end WR2 with the upside to break into top-12 territory.