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NFL Draft

Can Odell Beckham Jr Improve His 2020 Numbers?

  • The Draft Network
  • June 10, 2020
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Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the most polarizing players in the NFL. Many fall in love with his elite talent and eye-popping one-handed catches. Many believe the preceding is wiped out by some of his off-the-field antics, his “come get me” attitude when things were going poorly last season, and his extensive injury history. The reality is, both sides are valid and make up who Beckham is as a player and a personality. It’s also why it’s so difficult to make a confident statistical projection for 2020.

Health plays a major role in any NFL player’s statistical output, but when you have the history Beckham does, it’s a bigger factor to consider. Beckham played all 16 games in his first season with the Cleveland Browns, but it was only the second time he accomplished that feat in his six-year career. He missed four games in 2018, 12 in 2017, one in 2015, and four in 2014. He’s been fantastic when he’s played, it’s just hard to pinpoint how often he’ll be on the field. 

MyBookie.ag offers the following prop bets for Beckham in 2020:

Receptions: 75.5 (Over -120; Under -120)

Receiving Yards: 1050.5 (Over -130; Under -110)

Receiving TDs: 6.5 (Over -125; Under -115)

At first glance, all of those numbers are very similar to Beckham’s 2019 output of 74 catches for 1,035 yards and four touchdowns. One could easily argue that there’s no way the Browns will be as dysfunctional as they were last season, so take the over on everything. The opposite side might argue that it’s more likely than not Beckham plays fewer than 16 games, meaning there isn’t room for him to improve on his 2019 numbers if he mises time. Each point of view is valid to a certain extent, but let’s dive deeper than surface-level analysis. 

Beckham posted a career-low 55.64% catch rate last season—he’s sitting at 61.46% for his career. If we remove his career-high from his rookie season and last season, his year-by-year catch rate is very similar: 60.76%, 59.76%, 60.98%, and 62.10%. That averages out to about 60.9% and is the number we’ll use for this exercise. 

The next step is figuring out how many targets per game Beckham should receive. He’s averaging 10.07 per game in his career, but had only 8.31 per game with the Browns last season—it was the first time in his career he averaged fewer than 10 targets per game over the course of a season. Quarterback Baker Mayfield attempted 534 passes last season, so Beckham was targeted 24.9% of the time. How much will Mayfield throw this season?

The addition of new head coach Kevin Stefanski should excite Browns fans, but maybe not Mayfield’s (or Beckham’s) fantasy managers. Kirk Cousins saw a significant drop in workload when Stefanski was calling plays. Cousins’ per-game passing attempts dropped from 40.3 to 29.2 and his passing yards dropped from 284.5 to 233.5 in 18 games played under Stefanski compared to his first 13 games in Minnesota. 

If Mayfield experiences a similar workload shift in a more run-heavy offense, that represents a 4.2 passing attempts per game drop and 467.2 total passes over 16 games. In that scenario, assuming a constant 24.9% target share, Beckham would receive just 116.33 targets in a full season. At a 60.9% catch rate, he’d finish with 70.85 catches. He’d fall below 76 catches even if Mayfield has 500 pass attempts. 

Beckham’s 7.95 yards per target average over the last four years has been fairly consistent, ranging from 7.4-8.5 yards each year. If he gets the 116.33 targets mentioned above, that works out to 924.82 receiving yards in a full season. Even 132 targets wouldn’t get him to the 1,051-yard mark needed for an over bet to cash. 

Touchdowns are a lot flukier to project, but when projecting the Browns to throw less often and Beckham to get fewer targets overall, it’s hard to argue that he’ll see his touchdown totals return to his New York numbers. He’s averaging a touchdown every 15.73 targets in his career which amounts to 7.40 over 116.33 targets. Looking strictly at last year’s touchdowns-per-target rate, he would score just 3.50 touchdowns. This prop bet is a complete stay away for me. 

Keep in mind, everything above is based on Beckham playing 16 games. Those who believe I’m underselling Cleveland’s passing offense should consider factoring time missed into their equations. Beckham is averaging 3.5 missed games per season in his career and 1.8 per season if you don’t count 2017. 

As mentioned above, Beckham is one of the hardest players in the NFL to project. The injury concerns are real, but the potential change in offensive philosophy may be a bigger factor when it comes to his 2020 statistical output. I expect the Browns to follow a run-heavy path behind Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt that’s similar to what Stefanski ran as the offensive coordinator in Minnesota. The Browns may be a better team for it, but passing numbers may suffer. Given that and the addition of a true pass-catching tight end in Austin Hooper to soak up some targets, I’m taking the under on 75.5 receptions and 1,050.5 receiving yards for Beckham in 2020.

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