With the NFL Draft and free agency having come and gone, we’ll break down all sorts of fantasy-relevant questions entering the 2018 season. Up next is a look at arguably the best wide receiver in NFL history through the first four seasons of their career.
The Start of Odell Beckham Jr.’s Career Has Been Legendary
OBJ’s per-game averages through four seasons place him above even the greatest receivers to grace the league since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger:
- Receptions per game: 6.7 (first)
- Yards per game: 94.1 (first)
- Touchdowns per game: 0.81 (third)
- Targets per game: 10.6 (first)
OBJ ranked fifth among wide receivers through in DraftKings points per game through Week 5 in 2017 (18.5) before suffering a season-ending broken ankle, and the absence of his generational talent exposed the limitations of the Giants offense when forced to rely on Eli Manning.
Eli Manning per-game averages with and without OBJ since 2014:
With (47 games): 22.7 PPG, 18.6 DK PPG, 271.9 yards, 7.05 Y/A, 1.9/0.9 TD/INT
Without (16 games): 16.9 PPG, 13.6 DK PPG, 222.4 yards, 6.2 Y/A, 1.3/1.1 TD/INT pic.twitter.com/vUiK5ebk0w
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) May 14, 2018
The Giants’ current streak of 33 games without scoring at least 30 points is only “bested” by the Browns. The Giants have totaled 12 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons; every other team has at least 16. The likes of wide receiver Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram have flashed during their short careers, but OBJ’s accomplishments have come largely as the focal point of below-average offenses.
The 2018 Giants Will Be More Competent than the Ben McAdoo-Induced Train Wreck
As of this writing, BetOnline has the Giants win total at 7.5 (with a -190 lean on the under). New head coach Pat Shurmur has coordinated top-13 scoring offenses in four of his past five seasons, first with the Eagles (2013-2015) and then Vikings (2017). Manning is back for another season and still has Shepard and Engram, but loses free-agent bust Brandon Marshall (Dez, sup?) and gains one of the best running back prospects of the past decade, Saquon Barkley, who should immediately boost the run game’s effectiveness. Barkley is a good receiver as well, and despite the potential for a more pronounced rushing attack, it’s tough to see the Giants straying too far away from their bread-and-butter.
The Case for OBJ as the WR1
OBJ joins Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, and Demaryius Thomas as the only receivers since 2014 to average 10 or more targets per game, and OBJ is one of just three receivers ever to average over 0.8 touchdowns per game through the first four seasons of their career. When drafters looking for a wide receiver pass on OBJ early, it’s usually in favor either Brown, Hopkins, or Jones, but you can make a case for OBJ against each of them:
- OBJ vs. Antonio Brown: Per our NFL Trends tool, Brown has averaged more DraftKings points per game with a higher Plus/Minus than OBJ since 2014, but they’ve posted equal Consistency Ratings and both have 22 receptions of 40-plus yards despite Brown playing 14 more games. OBJ arguably offers a higher ceiling than Brown in 2018 due to an improved overall offense and less competition for targets.
- OBJ vs. Julio Jones: Jones has led the league in yards per route run for three consecutive seasons, but OBJ never ranked lower than fifth in any of his full seasons. However, the two haven’t been nearly as equal in the touchdown-scoring department; while Jones has caught 10 or more touchdowns in just one of his seven seasons, OBJ has done so in each of his first three seasons and was on pace to do so again last season.
- OBJ vs. DeAndre Hopkins: Hopkins boasts a higher average draft position than OBJ as of this writing after posting 96 receptions, 1,379 yards, and 13 touchdowns in 2017, and while Hopkins has proven capable of producing with most (but not all) of his quarterbacks, he still remains one injury under center away from entering a dire offensive situation. OBJ’s career production has been less correlated with his offense’s overall ability than Hopkins.
The consensus at the moment seems to be that OBJ is the No. 3 wide receiver in fantasy behind Brown and Hopkins, which makes some sense given the higher-upside offenses in Pittsburgh and Houston, respectively, but betting against the league’s most talented receiver since Randy Moss has mostly been a losing proposition over the last four years.
OBJ deserves to be in the discussion for first receiver off the board in 2018.
Pictured above: Odell Beckham Jr.
Photo credit: Jonathan Dyer – USA TODAY Sports