Odell Beckham Jr.’s Fantasy Outlook 2021: Bounce back season coming for OBJ?

While one of the most gifted receivers in the NFL, Odell Beckham Jr. has struggled to bring the same value to fantasy despite his traditionally early-round ADP. Coming off a torn ACL, does Beckham Jr. still bring high-level upside, or is his fantasy football outlook based solely on name recognition?

Odell Beckham Jr.’s fantasy outlook for 2021

It’s time we sat down and had a serious conversation. I know it can be uncomfortable, but it is needed. Why are you drafting Beckham Jr.? Let me rephrase it. Who do you think you are drafting? 

Are you selecting someone who is one of the best in the NFL and carries a similar fantasy outlook based on recent results? Or are you drafting based on name recognition alone and because of a catch he made against the Dallas Cowboys and his pre-game routine? Because for the past four years, Beckham has been okay at best — and that is if he is even playing. 

Beckham Jr. started his career with three straight seasons of 1,300 yards and double-digit touchdowns with Eli Manning. Contrarily, in his past four years, he’s missed 25 games, scored 6 touchdowns only once, and has just as many seasons with 1,000 yards as he does 300 yards.

Can he be a WR1 based on talent? Of course. But how long are we going to keep using that same rationale when deciphering Beckham Jr.’s fantasy outlook?

I think Beckham Jr. can and will be a productive receiver for fantasy in 2021 so long as he stays healthy. He is entering the second year in Kevin Stefanski’s offense and getting the best version of Baker Mayfield he has seen yet. Nevertheless, I have adjusted my expectations to what I feel is a more realistic fantasy outlook rather than believing I am selecting a WR1.

Odell Beckham Jr.’s fantasy projection

While we might have only had six full games of Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry together in 2020, we feel relatively confident in their roles on the offense. Beckham Jr. is a field stretcher (13.6 aDOT [average depth of target] in 2020) where Landry is Mayfield’s security blanket underneath (8.3 aDOT).  

The Browns are not a high-volume passing offense (51.6% in 2020). But they make up for it with two primary options in the passing game in Beckham Jr. and Landry. Together, they combined for 50.3% of the targets in 2019 (16 games) and 44.1% in 2020 (6 games).

Given the nature of his targets, Beckham will never be a high-catch-percentage player. In his two seasons with the Browns, he has averaged a 55.1% catch rate.

Even though I have seemed to be down on Beckham Jr. thus far, I still believe he can have a good season in 2021. In the early part of 2020, the Browns were adamantly run-heavy. Yet, we saw this fade a touch towards the end of the season, which likely coincided with Mayfield’s growing knowledge and comfort in the offense. 

Beckham Jr. was still averaging 7 targets a game in the six weeks he was healthy. Over a 16-game season, that’s 112 targets. There were just 21 receivers with 112 or more targets in 2020, with 18 (81%) finishing as top-24 receivers. That’s Beckham Jr.’s floor for targets.

I expect to see Beckham Jr. hover around the 21-22% target share range, which would put him in line for 8 targets a game. I pinned him with 70 receptions on 120 targets for 1,010 yards and 8 touchdowns in my early round of projections. With these stats, Beckham would end the season with 218.6 PPR points (14.58 ppg). 

Odell Beckham Jr.’s ADP

According to Sleeper, Beckham Jr. is currently being selected as the WR23 with an ADP of 55.9 in PPR formats. In superflex leagues, given the priority of quarterbacks, he falls to 76.1. According to NFC (a high-stakes fantasy platform), Beckham Jr. is the WR31 with an 81.23 ADP.

Should you consider drafting Beckham Jr. in 2021?

Well, yes and no. For me, like all draft decisions, it comes down to roster construction. If I went heavy running back early on, I would not want to rely on Beckham to be my WR1. Coming off an ACL tear and his recent injury history is always concerning until he finally “does it.”

In a perfect world, I would ideally have him as my WR3 and hope he slid a bit in drafts. I do believe in the upside of Beckham to return to top-24 status. I am not expecting the version of Beckham that was one of the best players in the NFL in 2021.

Could he surprise all of us and be a WR1 in 2021? Absolutely. And I’ll take every chance I can get at landing players with a high ceiling like Beckham in fantasy.

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Tommy Garrett is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the NFL and fantasy football and a member of the FSWA (Fantasy Sports Writers Association). You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.

Tommy Garrett is a Fantasy Analyst for Pro Football Network and is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can read all of Tommy’s work here, listen to him on PFN’s Fantasy Football podcast, and check out his contributions in PFN’s free fantasy newsletter. Give him a follow on Twitter: @TommyGarrettPFN.