Odell Beckham Jr. Fantasy 2019
It isn’t often that you see an elite receiver get traded in his prime. The Odell Beckham Jr. trade will likely go down in history as one of the worst decisions made by a general manager in the current NFL era. The Giants had one of the best young tandems at wide receiver and running back in recent memory, and they chose to break that up in favor of keeping Eli Manning. But regardless of how you feel about the trade, there will be colossal fantasy football implications headed into the 2019 season for both teams. Some players will gain value due to an increased opportunity share, while others will suffer from added competition. My goal is to dive into the impact that this trade will have on every player involved and help you decipher who you should be targeting on your fantasy rosters. So with that in mind, let’s start with the team that lost their top receiver headed into this season.
New York Giants
11th Ranked Passing Offense in 2018
Manning was the 16th overall fantasy quarterback during the 2018 season even with Beckham on the team. I don’t see much change coming during the 2019 season considering Eli hasn’t managed to be a top 10 fantasy quarterback option since 2015. Over the last five seasons, Beckham has accounted for anywhere from 20-25% of Mannings completions making him Eli’s most dependable target. Removing a declining quarterbacks top receiver is a recipe for disaster even with one of the leagues best running backs on the roster. I would definitely avoid drafting Manning on your fantasy roster unless he’s a late round depth option. Even in two-quarterback leagues, you can probably find better opportunities elsewhere. With the added first-round draft pick the Giants received in the Beckham trade it wouldn’t surprise me to see them add a quarterback to this roster that could compete with Eli Manning for reps down the stretch. If they’re losing games, they’d have no reason to stick with Eli considering he’s in the last year of his contract and likely won’t be back in 2020.
It is hard to say that Saquon could benefit from losing the most dynamic receiver on his team. Although he will likely see some added touches due to the Giants projected run-heavy approach, they will likely be against stacked defensive boxes. There are some who say he could gain some targets with the absence of Odell Beckham, but after receiving 121 targets in 2018, it’s hard to imagine them scheming more targets his direction without becoming too predictable. Beckham missed weeks 14-17 in 2018 due to injury and Barkley didn’t see any significant increase in targets relative to his season averages. I’m not saying he will suffer regression in the absence of Beckham, but I don’t believe this trade will increase Barkley’s production in any significant way.
Over the years Shepard has proven himself as a reliable target managing a 64% catch percentage. But even with such a high catch rate, he has failed to reach 1,000 yards receiving in a single season. The concern for me with Shepard comes in the form of Eli Manning’s historical target trends. Throughout his career, Manning has tended to target his number one receiver first, followed by his running back and tight end options. There were a few seasons in the middle of his career where he was able to support multiple receivers, but if you look back at those seasons, it was primarily due to the lack of receiving talent at running back and tight end. When Eli had reliable tight end targets like Jeremy Shockey and Martellus Bennett he targetted them heavily. And likewise, he was able to succeed by targeting running backs like Tiki Barber and Shane Vereen running routes out of the backfield. Going back to 2017 when Beckham missed most the season due to injury, it was Evan Engram who managed to be the Giants top receiver ahead of Sterling Shepard even though Shepard had little competition from the other wide receivers on the roster. And that was before they acquired Saquon Barkley who commands are larger target share than any Giants running back in recent memory. All this leads me to believe that Shepard will continue his trend of being a mid-level wide receiver three with upside.
In what almost seemed like a desperate attempt to save face after trading Beckham, the Giants management went out and quickly acquired Golden Tate in free agency. I am personally a huge fan of Tate’s talent and what he has been able to bring to the Lions offense over the last few seasons. He will add some big play ability to the Giants offense that has lost its most dynamic playmaker in the passing game. But with that said, I feel like this was a horrible landing spot for Tate in terms of fantasy production. He is by no means a prototypical wide receiver one, and I’m not entirely sure how the Giants plan to deploy Shephard and Tate at the same time. Although the Giants should be able to utilize Tate better than the Eagles did at the end of 2018, it is going to be difficult for him to reach the mid-wide receiver two range as he did with the Lions in 2017. It won’t shock me if the wide receivers in New York fail to make the top 25 in PPR fantasy leagues. This could easily become a very frustrating situation on a week to week basis where it’s hard to start Tate and Shepard due to boom or bust production.
I’ve tempered my expectations of the Giants receivers because I believe that Evan Engram has a real possibility of becoming the true wide receiver one in the Giants offense. He will be the largest target for Manning by far and could easily see some mismatches in what projects to be a unique offensive scheme. As I mentioned above, Engram has already been able to prove himself as a top option in the absence of Beckham during his 2017 rookie campaign. And even though his 2018 season was somewhat disappointing due to injuries, I believe he will have the opportunity to pick up where he left off at the end of the 2018 season where he was averaging 15 PPR points per week. This would give him the opportunity to jump up into the elite tight end category with players like Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz. I realize this may seem somewhat premature because Engram has plenty to prove, but the situation appears to line up perfectly for him to take a jump in production and value similar to Zach Ertz in 2017. I’ll be looking to acquire Evan Engram in 2019 fantasy drafts in the hope of capitalizing on his current value.
14th Ranked Passing Offense in 2018
In a stroke of genius, John Dorsey capitalized on some of the assets the Browns had been collecting over past few offseasons and acquired a true number one receiver for his young franchise quarterback. When the Browns inevitably reach the playoffs within the next few seasons, it could easily be the Beckham trade that people reference as the key acquisition that put the Browns over the top. Now I realize that there is still plenty to be proven when it comes to the Browns playoff aspirations. But this organization has done an admirable job setting themselves up for success.
When the Browns drafted Mayfield number one overall in the 2018 draft, they injected hope into a fan base that had long suffered through subpar quarterback play. As a Texans fan, I know the struggle of watching your offense struggle year after year with terrible quarterback play. So I can relate to the excitement of seeing your offense finally acquire a franchise quarterback to build around. And giving Mayfield an elite receiver like Odell Beckham only increases the expectations of greatness for this young quarterback. When looking over the Browns roster and realizing they now have one of the best X receivers in the league to match up with one of the leagues best slot receivers and a young talented tight end, you quickly realize that the sky is the limit for Mayfield in 2019. Not to mention the talented running backs they have to support the passing game by forcing the defense to stay honest. Although it is hard to imagine Mayfield matching the production Patrick Mahomes had in 2019, he could easily reach similar star status this season if he manages to connect with all of his weapons. He is a definite buy in keeper and dynasty leagues because he could see a meteoric rise in value throughout this season.
The addition of Beckham can only stand to improve Chubb’s opportunities on the field. With the talent this offense has at receiver, opposing defenses will be forced to spread out the protection leaving the running lanes wide open for Chubb to gash them between the tackles. If he continues to build on the talent he showed in 2018 it is highly likely that Chubb could end the season as a top-five fantasy running back. And if you feel like that is a stretch, remember that he was able to finish as the running back 15 overall in 2018 despite only starting nine games. The only concern for Chubb’s production comes in the form of Kareem Hunt who will likely steal some carries from Chubb when he returns from his eight-game suspension. However, if Chubb can establish himself over the first eight games, it would be counter-intuitive for the coaching staff to disrupt the offensive balance by giving significant touches to Hunt.
Odell Beckham Jr.
If this trade had happened a few years ago, we would all be talking about the inevitable regression of Odell Beckham due to the Browns inept offense. But this is 2019, and the Browns have reinvented themselves over the last few seasons. Beckham has failed to reach the top ten in PPR settings since 2016 due to his struggles with injuries but let’s not forget that his guy is one of the most explosive wide receivers in the NFL when he is healthy. If he has been able to succeed in recent years with a rapidly declining Eli Manning lobbing him the football, imagine what he can do with a young talented quarterback like Baker Mayfield. For many years Beckham was my number one ranked wide receiver, and although I’m not quite ready to bump him back up ahead of DeAndre Hopkins just yet, it wouldn’t shock me if he attempts to reclaim his spot atop receiver rankings this season. I could easily see myself drafting Beckham over any other receiver on the board after Hopkins is taken.
For some, the trade for Beckham was a big knock to Jarvis Landry’s value headed into 2019, but for me, it changes nothing. With Beckham lining up outside, Landry will have the opportunity to play from his most natural position in the slot. Now let me say, I believe the days of seeing Landry make the top 10 in PPR settings are behind us. However, I do think Landry will continue to be a solid wide receiver two with Beckham on the field to draw the coverage. And I believe that Landry will increase his target share from 2018 due to the fact that he will likely be Mayfield’s favorite check down option. In PPR formats Landry could end up being a steal in your upcoming fantasy drafts due to his lackluster 2018 performance and the addition of Beckham. But don’t let that fool you into sleeping this guys upside.
A favorite of many dynasty analysts, Callaway will likely take the biggest hit in value with the signing of Beckham. He went from being a projected starter to having little chance of receiving a large target share overnight. I’m not saying that he isn’t worth stashing in deep leagues with the possibility of an injury to Beckham or Landry, but his projected upside in 2019 is pretty low. However, he is a guy I would be picking up immediately off waivers if Beckham or Landry get injured this season. The kid has big-play ability and plenty of raw athleticism.
I am a huge Njoku fan and much like many other analysts, I was expecting to see him have a breakout year in 2019. But the addition of Beckham definitely lowers my expectation of what Njoku’s ceiling could be this season. That isn’t to say he doesn’t have a chance to remain a top ten tight end option but I think his chances of becoming an elite tight end are pretty limited. The only way I could see him reaching the top three tight end range is if he manages to establish himself as Mayfield’s favorite red-zone target. But with Landry projecting to eat up all the reps from the slot position it is hard to imagine Njoku carving out a huge target share in this offense. We may be stuck waiting a little longer to see Njoku have the breakout campaign many were expecting from him.
In conclusion, I just want to say that this offseason has been one of the most fun to watch unfold that I can ever remember. Seeing the trade of not one but two elite wide receivers in Beckham and Antonio Brown is something we are not likely to see again any time soon. So for all the Browns fans out there, enjoy your upcoming season watching what could be a very exciting team in 2019. And for the Giants fans, there isn’t much I can say to make you feel better about your franchises questionable decision to trade away such an amazing talent. But enjoy watching Saquon Barkley carry your offense in the absence of Beckham.
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