Odell Beckham May Not Be What Fantasy Football Owners Expect in 2018
Even without the spectacular one-handed grabs and a host of highlight-worthy plays, it is nearly impossible to ignore Odell Beckham's standing as one of the premier wide receivers in the NFL. Since the New York Giants selected him 12th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, he has taken up residence alongside the game's elite receivers.
After an injury ruined his 2017 campaign, all signs are pointing toward Beckham returning to full health for the upcoming season, and that has not escaped the attention of fantasy owners.
According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Beckham is the third of three wide receivers (Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins) currently being drafted in the first round of (PPR) drafts, at pick 1.10. However, there are forces in play that could prevent Beckham from being the slam-dunk fantasy superstar this year that many of us have come to expect.
Despite missing a total of five games from 2014 to 2016, due to injuries and other reasons, Beckham was among the leaders in most key receiving statistics during his first three seasons.
|2014 to 2016||Total||Rank|
Beckham's 14.3 yards per reception was also third-best among the wide receivers to see at least 400 targets in that time.
In addition to his raw production, Beckham was also ridiculously efficient on a per-play basis in his first two seasons, according to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric -- which you can learn more about in our glossary.
As a rookie, Beckham had 0.60 Target NEP per Target, good for third among all receivers with at least 100 targets. Only three players had a higher Reception NEP per Target that year than Beckham's 0.91, and he ranked 11th in Reception NEP per Catch (1.30).
In his second season, his Target NEP per Target dropped slightly to 0.58, but that was still good for third among high-volume receivers. His Reception NEP per Target checked in second (0.96), while no other player had a higher Reception NEP per Catch (1.58).
In 2016, Beckham continued his dominance, logging the second-most targets in the league (169) and finishing third in both receptions and receiving yards.
Here are Beckham's year-end PPR finishes for his first three seasons, starting with 2014: WR7, WR5 and WR4.
Last season was a lost year for Beckham as he played only four games, amassing 25 receptions for 302 yards on 25% of the total team targets.
Obviously, none of this is breaking news. Odell Beckham is very, very good at football, and his first three seasons are as good as anyone's initial three years in modern NFL history -- by advanced metrics, traditional stats and fantasy numbers.
But a lot -- almost everything outside of who is throwing him the ball -- has changed with the Giants' offense since OBJ's early days. Is he still a lock to see massive volume, which is the lifeblood of any fantasy star?
The New-Look Giants
Beckham saw market shares of 20.41%, 24.31% and 27.26%, respectively, in his first three years. That 27.26% clip from 2016 ranked third in the league that year.
While he'll surely be a focal point for the G-Men, Beckham may not see the monster volume he got in 2016 as the Giants' offense appears to be trending more toward the run. After finishing 12th and 4th, respectively, in pass plays over the last two seasons, New York's offseason moves hint toward a change in offensive philosophy.
Not content with signing free agent running back Jonathan Stewart, the team spent the second-overall pick on Saquon Barkley in this year's draft. Some time after these moves were made, the team also released veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
Altogether, this has the makings of a team that wants to run the ball early and often. I mean, you don't take a running back second overall unless you're planning to feed him. And if there's not as many pass plays, Beckham could still command a big market share and at the same time see his raw numbers fall.
On top of that, there are more mouths to feed for Eli Manning than there used to be. Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram solidified themselves as good pass-game targets last season, carrying the load in Beckham's absence.
Engram finished 2017 with a 17.91% market share, a huge number for a rookie tight end and the fourth-highest share among all tight ends. (Rob Gronkowski had a 16.88% share in his 14 games.) And while Shepard's season-long market share was just 13.08%, he played in only 11 games and saw at least 8 looks in 4 of his last 6 outings, including single games of 13 and 16 targets.
Oh, and that Barkley guy is way more than just a runner, putting up a 17.94% reception share in his final college season, which is a top-10 number, per our JJ Zachariason, among all backs drafted over the past decade.
It's not just the Beckham show anymore on offense for the Giants.
There's also the possibility that Eli is toast.
There have been reports that the Giants want Manning to attempt more of his throws further downfield. That would certainly be a boost for Beckham, one of the best big-play weapons in the NFL.
However, it's a boost only if Manning is able to adequately propel the ball downfield. Manning finished with a lowly 5.7 adjusted yards per pass attempt last season, which ranked 26th among qualified passers. Of course, he was negatively impacted by Beckham's absence, but Manning's yards per completion has decreased in each of his last six seasons. That doesn't seem good for his odds of being a quality deep-ball guy -- or just having a bounce-back season in general -- in 2018.
Lastly, there's Beckham's contract situation with the Giants. The team has appeared to be reluctant to give their superstar wideout a big-money extension, and there was even some trade speculation this offseason. You could spin this into a narrative of a contract-year wideout being extra motivated to perform, but however you view it, reports have made it seem like the relationship between Beckham and the Giants isn't a great one. That's probably not ideal.
The change in offensive philosophy, upgrade in surrounding cast, strained relationship between the team and player, and the dwindling skills of Eli Manning all combine to cloud the optimism around Beckham in his comeback season.
The most important question mark in all of this is volume. The Giants appear to be shifting more toward the run, and on top of that, with Barkley, Shepard and Engram in the fold, Beckham has some pretty stout competition for targets when the G-Men do air it out.
Beckham has been a fantasy superstar in each of his three healthy seasons, and it's hard to call a player who is unquestionably one of the most talented guys in the NFL a risk in the first round of fantasy football drafts, but there's some uncertainty here. Plus, we need to look at the opportunity cost involved with taking OBJ. When you're on the clock for your first pick, uncertainty is a scary thing, especially when the alternatives at running back and receiver in Beckham's ADP range -- the likes of Melvin Gordon, Kareem Hunt, Dalvin Cook, Julio Jones and Michael Thomas -- don't appear to have as many question marks.
We project Beckham to have another good year -- pegging him for 99 catches, 1,351 yards and 9.16 scores -- but he sits just 18th among running backs and wideouts in standard-league fantasy points, per our models
As things stand now, Beckham is a little tough to stomach at his late-first round ADP.