Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. is primed to return to elite status in 2020

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the most potent and exciting players in the NFL. Beckham, who was traded to the Browns in the 2019 offseason, did not have the debut season people anticipated, as he and Baker Mayfield struggled to build the chemistry required to dominate and produce the elite fantasy football results we’ve become accustomed to. OBJ possesses league-winning upside, which is why he could be paramount to your fantasy football success or failure this season. Let’s evaluate what went wrong in the 2019 season for OBJ, how the Browns can fix it and whether he can return to elite status in 2020.

Average draft position (ADP) data is sourced from Bestball10s drafts dating back to the beginning of August.

Average Draft Position

According to BestBall10s, Beckham's ADP currently lands him at 32.71 (WR11), which places him roughly somewhere in the middle of the third round in 12-team drafts. For a player as dynamic and dangerous as he is, a third-round ADP may result in a potential bargain, even though it is still an expensive draft pick. Beckham has proven throughout his relatively short NFL career that he possesses true WR1 upside, and that even subpar quarterback play wouldn’t hamstring his dominance.

Fantasy Points per Game

The chart below displays Beckham’s point totals, points per snap, points per touch and points per game figures dating back to his rookie season in 2014.

Odell Beckham Jr. Fantasy Points | 2014-2019
Category Total points (Rank) Points per snap (Rank) Points per touch (Rank) Points per game (Rank)
2014 297 (7th) 0.38 (2nd) 3.03 (21st) 24.6 (1st)
2015 319.3 (5th) 0.32 (7th) 3.29 (19th) 21.3 (3rd)
2016 298.6 (4th) 0.30 (8th) 2.93 (32nd) 18.5 (6th)
2017 (4 games) 74 (84th) 0.35 (4th) 2.85 (58th) 18.5 (3rd)
2018 220.1 (17th) 0.31 (10th) 2.68 (62nd) 19.2 (8th)
2019 202.5 (25th) 0.20 (58th) 2.63 (69th) 12.6 (33rd)

As you can tell, Beckham’s numbers nosedived across the board in 2019, particularly his fantasy points per game figure — which had never dipped below the WR8 spot before his WR33 ranking last season. His 2019 season was the perfect mix of a hazardous situation. The lack of chemistry between him and Mayfield was evident, his usage in the offense wasn’t ideal and an injury (sports hernia) sapped his effectiveness and proved to be too difficult to overcome.

As far as we know, Beckham enters the 2020 offseason as healthy as ever and will finally get a legitimate chance to build the necessary rapport with his quarterback, as well as learn a new offense that should be more suited to his skill set and potent vertical ability.

Usage Rates

OBJ’s usage in 2019 was on par with teammate Jarvis Landry, as each received 130 targets throughout the season. Both receivers registered a 21.8% market share. Dating back to 2014, here are Beckham’s market shares within his team’s offenses throughout the years.

Odell Beckham Jr. Market Share | 2014-2019
Category Market share
2014 20.0%
2015 23.3%
2016 25.8%
2017 (four games) 2.4%
2018 18.8%
2019 21.8%

Clearly, a lack of usage was not the issue for Beckham, as his market share percentage was right in line with his career usage rates. The main issue for Beckham — as I mentioned above — was his lack of chemistry with Mayfield. That disconnect led to a lack of quality targets — but not total targets. Beckham led the NFL in inaccurate targets due to quarterback play (27). Only Tampa Bay Buccaneers wideout Mike Evans matched that number.

Another issue was that many of those missed chances were some of highest-scoring opportunities in fantasy football and in real-life football. Of those 27 inaccurate targets, 16 came on passes that were 20-plus yards downfield. Beckham once again ranked first in that regard, with the next closest player registering 12 inaccurate targets on 20-plus yard throws.

Lastly, Beckham also led the league in inaccurate throws due to quarterback play in the red zone (six targets). Not only did Mayfield miss Beckham far too often, but he missed him far too often on the plays with the highest potential for major points.

Team Projection

The Browns did not meet expectations in the 2019 season, though the team still ranked well by fantasy football purposes. The offense ranked 11th in red-zone plays, eighth in goal-line plays, eighth in deep pass attempts, 11th in explosive plays passing (15-plus yards downfield) and 11th in explosive pass percentage. Even with the team’s struggles, it ranked highly across the board as a passing offense, and that speaks to the potential ceiling of Cleveland's skill position players.

2020 Projection

The Browns' decision to hire Kevin Stefanski as their head coach may ultimately foreshadow what could be an elite season for Beckham. Stefanski’s former role as the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings (2019) resulted in a massive season for Stefon Diggs. While Diggs wasn’t force-fed targets like most elite receivers, he proved to be otherworldly as a vertical weapon, ranking third in targets (33) and first in receiving yards (635) and receiving touchdowns (six) on passes 20-plus yards downfield.

Even though Beckham struggled to capture the same form and efficiency as Diggs did in 2019 on passes that traveled the same distance, his continuous usage downfield (second in targets 20-plus yards downfield) suggests the Browns are going to provide every opportunity for Beckham to create massive plays downfield.

Stefanski’s offense and usage resulted in a WR20 finish for Diggs. While he didn’t rank tremendously high among his counterparts at the receiver position, Diggs did rank 12th in points per snap and 20th in points per touch. Luckily for Beckham, he is expected to receive far more targets than the 91 that Diggs saw in 2019, and that increase in volume should theoretically allow OBJ to return to elite WR1 status.

The positives don’t end there for Beckham, though. PFF’s strength of schedule (SoS) metric ranks the Browns’ receiver schedule as the fifth-easiest in 2020. PFF’s fantasy projections anticipate a WR11 season out of Beckham, which would result in a decent improvement over his 2019 campaign. While that would lead to fair value with his current WR11 ADP, it doesn’t exactly portray a path for OBJ to reach WR1 status.

Expect a strong rebound season from the superstar — Beckham is simply too talented to have a repeat of his 2019 season. The addition of Stefanski, potential improvements in chemistry between him and Mayfield, potential positive regression in inaccurate targets and a clean bill of health are all reasons to buy Odell Beckham Jr. in 2020. 

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