Can OBJ Still Play?

Odell Beckham, Jr one-handed catch

Odell Beckham, Jr., is no longer a Cleveland Bown, and the fantasy football world has been a buzz all week since it was announced that he was being released. Every 10 minutes we checked our Twitters for an answer to the question as to which team would pick him up. On Friday the LA Rams put that question to rest which leaves one more question left to be answered.

Can OBJ still play?

His dad thinks so, but as a father I understand how emotional and sometimes irrational we can be about our kids. For every video that OBJ’s dad can create to villainize Baker Mayfield, I bet Baker could splice one together that showed all of Beckham’s drops and failures to beat coverage. So, let’s just try to answer the question objectively. 

Passing Through Memory Lane

OBJ just turned 29 years old this month. Is that too old to still be good? Let’s compare that with some great wide receivers from the past. Reggie Wayne, a career-long Indianapolis Colt, caught 111 passes for 1355 yards in his 10th season at the age of 32. His QB was Peyton Manning, so that might’ve helped. Steve Smith, Sr., in his 11th season with the Carolina Panthers, at the age of 33 years old, caught 79 balls for 1394 yards. They were from rookie Cam Newton, for whatever that is worth. In 2004, at 32 years old, St. Louis Ram Isaac Bruce, caught 89 passes for 1292 yards. One more example, but I am sure there are plenty more. Andre Johnson had one of his best years in 2013 at the age of 32 with 109 catches for 1407 yards. (All stats from Pro Football Reference).

So, You’re Saying There’s A Chance?

That’s enough of a sample size to agree that it’s within the realm of physiological possibilities for OBJ, at the age of 29, to still have some tread on his tires. But back to the question, can this man still play? He has been elite, no question about that, and he has done it with mediocre to average QB play. In his first 3 seasons in the NFL as a New York Giant, 2014-2016, he caught 288 passes for 4122 yards and 35 TDs from Eli Manning. No one will ever forget this catch against Dallas in his rookie season. As recent as 2019, as a Cleveland Brown with Baker Mayfield, who performs better on the set of TV commercials than he does on the football field, Beckham caught 74 passes for 1035 yards. But then in week 7 of 2020 OBJ tore his ACL and missed the rest of the season and the first 2 games of the 2021 season. At his week 7 exit in 2020, OBJ had 23 catches, 319 yards, and 3 TDs on the season. Extrapolated over an entire regular season that would be 57 catches, 785 yards, and 7 TDs. Not elite numbers at all, closer to Robbie Anderson stats than elite. Then in weeks 3-8 of this year, Mayfield targeted Beckham only 34 times for 17 catches, and 0 TDs, resulting in the video released by Beckham’s father that launched the #freeobj campaign.

Apparently, the Rams Think So

So, recent history hasn’t been favorable to Beckham. His decline started in 2020 and carried into 2021. He was mediocre prior to his ACL injury in 2020 and even worse to begin 2021. I can understand Beckham Senior’s unwavering belief in his son, but why exactly do the LA Rams think he can still play? Pro Football Focus analyst Dwain McFarland tweeted today, “Maybe Odell Beckham Jr.’s dad was right. Only 10 receivers in the NFL get open over 50% against single-man coverage. OBJ on that list and targeted third-least (22% per route), 7% less than the group average.” Maybe it is Baker’s fault. OBJ is top 10 in getting open and bottom 3 in targets. I guess that’s what his dad is talking about and Sean McVay was smart enough to recognize it. Win or lose the gamble, it’s smart money at $1.25 million base pay and $4.25 million tops including incentives. 

Should Fantasy Football Players Take A Chance On OBJ?

This one is. In the swirl of controversy just prior to the Browns releasing him, I was able to snag Beckham in a 2-1 deal with Kendall. I gave up Ja’Marr Chase (who had a bye week coming up and my losing record couldn’t handle it) for Justin Jefferson and OBJ. Why not? In 7 full seasons, he has been a 1000 yard receiver 5 times, with 3 of those seasons over 1300 yards. He finished as the overall #3 WR twice, #9 once, and #14 once. He missed most of the 2 seasons with injuries in which he didn’t put up top numbers. At 29 years old, he is still quick enough to get open over 50% of the time in single-man coverage, and I refuse to believe that he forgot how to catch the football. Again, go back and watch that crazy catch from 2014. Getting picked up by the red-hot Rams while Matthew Stafford is torching the NFL is just an unexpected bonus. 

I hate to mention this next part which was just reported today. Robert Woods, the #2 WR for the Rams, tore his ACL in practice and is out for the season. In this twisted, messed-up world of fantasy football, I am likely to benefit from Wood’s injury, but my fantasy life means nothing compared to his real life. I love Robert Woods. He’s been one of my favorite players for years and this is truly a sad, unfortunate event. I wish him the best and a speedy recovery. 

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