A massive upgrade at QB and(!) a strong supporting cast on offense? Odell Beckham Jr. made off better than his fellow WR star Antonio Brown.
Odell Beckham is going to be the answer to a lot of trivia questions by time his career is over. One that would’ve seemed impossible as recently as six months ago is, “Who was the first player in the 2000s to see his fantasy value increase significantly by virtue of being traded to the Browns?”
Beckham became the answer to that question on Tuesday, when the Giants shipped him to Cleveland for a first-round pick, third-round pick, and Jabrill Peppers. Instead of playing another season with Eli Manning and a sinking ship in New York, Beckham gets to join Baker Mayfield and the rising tide lifting all ships in Cleveland.
Beckham’s talents and accomplishments are so striking and well-known that we don’t need to go over them here. It’s borderline remarkable that Beckham has been able to play as well as he has his entire career with a quarterback who has been beyond his prime from the moment he stepped foot in the league in 2014. Despite Manning’s obvious deficiencies over the last five years, Beckham has averaged 6.6 catches, 92.8 yards and 0.7 touchdowns per game. That translates to 105.6 catches, 1,484.8 yards and 11.8 touchdowns across a 16-game season. Unlike Antonio Brown and Julio Jones, his counterparts atop the wide receiver rankings in the last half-decade, he hasn’t had the pleasure of playing with a Ben Roethlisberger or Matt Ryan. That changes in 2019.
Mayfield lived up to expectations in his rookie year after being the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft. He threw for 3,725 yards, 7.66 yards per attempt, and a rookie record 27 touchdowns. He was even better after the Browns made a coaching change at midseason, elevating now head-coach Freddie Kitchens to the offensive coordinator job, throwing for 2.254 yards, 8.91 YPA, 19 touchdowns and eight picks in eight games. What’s more, he looked every bit the worthy No. 1 overall pick and franchise quarterback. Manning may have been both of those at one point in his career, but that was long before Beckham joined the league.
Consider the offense Beckham joins in Cleveland. Not only is Mayfield a massive upgrade from Manning, even in his best season during Beckham’s career, but the skill-position talent around him is significantly better than it was with the Giants. Defenses are now going to have to figure out how to slow down an offense led by an ascendant Mayfield surrounded by Beckham, Nick Chubb, Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, David Njoku and Duke Johnson, plus Kareem Hunt when he joins the fold. That’s an offense that’s ready to be among the very best in the league this season. Again, when has Beckham ever played in an offense like that? And the best part for him? He’ll still be at the center of everything.
Yes, Landry will command a larger target share than any receiver Beckham ever played with during his Giants tenure. Still, this is Odell Beckham. This is not a guy you squeeze for anyone. The backfield will secure a large touch share, as well, but no larger than Saquon Barkley received last season. Beckham has averaged 10.6 targets per game in his career, and he should hit that mark again this season. Those targets will have a lot more value coming from Mayfield in the Browns’ offense than they ever did coming from Manning in the Giants’ offense.
Beckham ended Tuesday with more fantasy value than when the day began. But how much more? Had he remained with the Giants, he likely would have been a second-tier receiver and second-round pick, rubbing elbows with David Johnson, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Dalvin Cook and the also recently traded Antonio Brown. It’s safe to say that Beckham ended up in a much better spot than his fellow star receiver. The move to Cleveland has him locked in as a top-three receiver with DeAndre Hopkins and Davante Adams, and top 15 overall player.
It’s been a long time since a player’s prospects improved by going to Cleveland. Then again, Beckham has always been a trend-setter.