Long Live ODB: Projecting Odell Beckham Jr’s Second Season

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Daniel Sahhar runs The Fantasy Football Forum and is a guest writer for The Fantasy Footballers.

Odell Beckham Jr. is coming off one of the more spectacular seasons we have ever seen from a wide receiver, and he did it as a rookie. It was the second best rookie season in terms of fantasy production behind only Randy Moss. Incredibly, Beckham Jr. did it in only 12 games. In those 12 games he put up 91 receptions, 1305 yards, 12 TDs, and perhaps the best catch we have ever seen in an NFL game. Did I mention he did it as a rookie? Now the question that seems to be on everyone’s mind is: Where should we draft ODB in 2015?  When it comes to WRs, I think that there is a very clear process in projecting them out over a full season, and I will walk you through my projections for Odell Beckham Jr.

Beckham has dealt with injuries throughout his college and his short pro career, missing the first 4 weeks of the 2014 NFL season. After playing in the Pro Bowl he revealed that he played this year with two torn hamstrings. There may have been a bit of exaggeration in that statement, but nonetheless, he was dealing with something. While injuries are hard to predict, it would be unreasonable to expect him to play in 16 games, so my projections are based on only 15 games.

Eli Manning threw 601 balls last season, the most of his career. Typically, we would call that an outlier and expect some regression back to his career average. However, I attribute this high number of attempts to Ben McAdoo’s newly installed offense that predicates on a high volume of short, quick throws. I expect this number to be repeated or even surpassed, considering Beckham will be there from Week 1, Victor Cruz is expected back from injury, Shane Vereen has arrived, and the new offense has had some time to settle in.

Last year, 29% of Eli’s total targets went towards ODB, and as shown in the chart below, we saw that number grow nearly every week. Much of the weekly increase can likely be attributed to Cruz’s absence, but there is no doubt that Eli got more comfortable with Odell as the season progressed. While we shouldn’t expect Eli to throw 40% of his balls to Beckham, I believe that 27% is a solid baseline, considering Cruz’s return, and the arrival of Shane Vereen. This would provide Beckham with 152 targets over 15 games, or about 10 targets per game.

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 5.22.23 PM

I believe that this graph is more than enough evidence to conclude that Eli Manning is very, very comfortable with Odell Beckham Jr. as his #1 target in a high volume offense. Yes, Victor Cruz is returning, but do not expect him to hamper ODB too much. If anything, expect more from Beckham, because he should get less attention from defenses. On the opposite side of the coin, though, is the fact that defenses have had an entire year and offseason to hear about how great of a receiver Beckham is. Simply put, he won’t be fooling anyone in 2015. Throw everything into a pot and let it simmer all day, and what I think you get is a target rate very similar to last year’s average.

We are all aware of Beckham’s incredible hands. At this point, I think it’s safe to deem his hands the best in the NFL. If you have ever watched his pre-game drills, you probably needed a wheelbarrow to carry away your jaw after it dropped to the floor. He is perhaps the best athlete in the NFL. In my opinion, he is a more athletic Antonio Brown, which is about the best compliment you could give a player. In fact, the two have nearly the same build, as ODB is only an inch taller, and about 10 pounds heavier than Brown. These two might singlehandedly, or I guess doublehandedly, change the landscape of NFL Wide Receivers. Guys who would have previously been provided only with the option to play defensive back in college due to their size may now be given the opportunity to play receiver. Besides, big guys with bodies like Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones have a history of getting injured, where the little guys may actually get hurt less often. Anyways, back to my point. Last year, Beckham caught over 69% of his targets. This is obviously very high, and if we are determining a baseline value, 67% sounds about right to me. 67% of 152 targets = 102 receptions.
Beckham averaged around just over 14 yards per catch in 2014. Coming up with a baseline here is difficult, but 13.5 yards per catch seems reasonable 102 receptions at 13.5 yards per catch = 1370 yards

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He averaged 1 TD per game last season. This, I believe is unsustainable. TDs range wildly, but ODB seems like a guy that should continue to get peppered with targets in the red zone. Over 15 games, which I have projected him for, I would expect anywhere between 8-14 TDs. 11 seems like a solid number here.

Predicted stat line: 102 receptions, 1370 yards, 11 TDs

Now we must put that stat line into perspective. These projections are fairly conservative, as he had 91 receptions, over 1300 yards and 12 TDs in only 12 games last year. I think it would be unreasonable to actually expect that kind of production again. That is not to say, though, that he isn’t a very, very, VERY good fantasy option in 2015. Where would 1370 yards and 11 TDs have placed him among the fantasy WRs in 2014? Thanks for asking! He would have been the number 5 WR, which makes sense, considering he was the number 5 WR last year, and those projections are similar to last year’s numbers.

In conclusion, I am expecting the same numbers from ODB as last year, but over a 15 game sample, rather than 12; therefore, less points per week. I would draft him as the 6th or 7th WR off the board. Personally, I still have Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, Jordy Nelson, and Julio Jones all ahead of him, with Calvin just behind him. While I love what Beckham brings to the table, I would still like to see a little more before I cement him near the top of the WR ranks. I would not at all be surprised if he finishes as the top WR this year, but I wouldn’t expect it.

Bottom Line:

Expect 100-110 receptions, 1300-1400 yards, and 10-12 TDs out of Beckham in 2014, but don’t over draft him based on last year’s performance. Look for him in the mid to late second round, after a few of the bigger name WRs are out of the queue. He is still a player who should not surprise us if time is missed due to injury. He is by far the most talented WR in the NFL, but in my opinion, not a top 5 fantasy option in 2015.

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