Fantasy Court: The Case Against Odell Beckham Jr. in 2020
This article is a part of our Fantasy Court Series, where two writers give you opposing viewpoints on a player for the upcoming fantasy season. In this article, I’ll be laying out the reasons that Odell Beckham may not have the high ceiling (or floor) that some would have you believe. Jeff Greenwood will be presenting the Case For Odell Beckham Jr. and then it’s on you to decide!
One of the first things our editor told us when writing for this series is “Own Your Side” Don’t be wishy-washy, don’t straddle the fence; if you are against, be against. With Odell Beckham, that becomes slightly harder for me. As a player, I love OBJ. His talent is undeniable and I do believe he is one of the best weapons in the NFL. So, I will start my argument by telling you, I do not intend on saying a bad thing about Odell in this article. The offense he plays in however, that’s another matter entirely.
While we don’t know a ton about what Kevin Stefanki brings to the table, I believe we know enough to say it won’t be great for fantasy WRs. His scheme is run-first to the very least and fewer passes have never made a WR happy. There simply won’t be enough targets to get Beckham what needs to be a WR1 in fantasy again and with his competition for those fewer targets, he might end up a dicey WR2 in 2020.
Rather than focus on Beckham’s 2019, I will instead shine a light on the real man on trial here, Kevin Stefanski. Appearing in all 16 games, Beckham reeled in 74 balls for 1035 yards and four TDs. He finished the season as the WR26. Of the 25 players that finished ahead of him, 12 missed at least one game. Of the 25 guys that finished behind him, 14 missed at least one game. I mention this to show that all things being equal, there is not much room for OBJ to climb and there is plenty of room for him to fall if he doesn’t improve his own stats. He is not going to improve.
In 2019, Kevin Stefanski was given his first job as an NFL play-caller. He was mentored by Gary Kubiak but for all intents and purposes, the offense was his. As with most offenses that involved Kubiak, it was great for the RBs in Minnesota. The WRs, however, had a rough fantasy season. Neither Adam Thielen nor Stefon Diggs finished as a top-20 fantasy WR last year. Diggs missed one game and finished at WR21 and Thielen missed six games, finishing at WR61. While we could blame injuries, neither WR finished in the top-20 on a points-per-game basis either. And it’s when you start looking at the per-game numbers that the hope for Beckham starts to dwindle.
The Vikings had the 3rd fewest pass attempts in the entire league last season, equating to only 29 passes per game. No player on the team averaged more than 6.3 targets per game for the season. Beckham averaged his fewest targets in 2019 and still hit 8.3 targets-per-game. The Vikings only registered ten games with 8 targets or more, and those were split among four players. Only one time all year did a Vikings’ player hit 10+ targets in a game. Beckham recorded 10+ targets six times in 2019. Stefanski did not throw the ball much and when he did, his scheme led to passes being spread around to a number of players.
If you start your Odell Beckham come back story on the basis of 130+ targets, you are telling a fairy tale.
Expectations for 2020
The Vikings offense last year consisted of a QB who was known for his accuracy, an amazing RB with a solid backup, two great WRs, a veteran TE proven to be a red-zone threat, and a young TE that benefited from attention spent elsewhere. Stefanski now has Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper, and David Njoku. My expectations for the Browns in 2020 are a carbon copy of 2019 Minnesota. The Browns tick every single box that Minnesota did, except their RBs are better.
Stefanski is going to run the football until can’t keep doing it and there are very few scenarios where I see Cleveland tossing it more than 500 times in 2020. There are even fewer scenarios where OBJ ends up with the Michael Thomas like market share it would take for him to see 130+ targets. At best, he is looking at 125 targets and with his career averages, that would get us 76 catches for 1048 yards, or exactly what he did last year. And that is the best-case scenario. If he were to fall to the 7 target-per-game that we saw from Minnesota WRs, he is won’t even be a WR2 in fantasy football.
I didn’t even mention TDs but before we scream positive regression, both Diggs and Theilen scored fewer TDs under Stefanski than they did the previous year, so I would not hang my hat there either.
Odell Beckham in this offense is low-ceiling, moderate floor, and there is nothing appetizing about that description. As of this point, you can land him in the 3rd-5th Round of fantasy drafts and I understand why that feels like a steal. It’s not. You are likely getting him at his ceiling and you are very likely going to hate his floor. The Vikings top-3 WRs finished as a WR1/2 just 10 times last year, meaning that they were WR3 or worse 38 times. (Consistency ranks provided by the UDK, which you should have purchased already!)
Odell Beckham might be entering 2020 healthier than he has been in years but it is not going to matter. He is looking at smaller pieces of a smaller pie and that is not going to fatten up his numbers. He might look like a value going at WR24 in fantasy drafts but this should have “Buyer Beware” written all over it.