With just under four minutes remaining in the first half of Super Bowl LVI, NBC’s Chris Collinsworth stated the obvious: “Odell Beckham Jr. has been a nightmare so far.”
Although he only hauled in two catches, the Rams wideout had gone for 52 yards and a touchdown. It was the culmination of a tumultuous season for Beckham Jr.; in just one year, he had gone from disgruntled Cleveland Brown to Los Angeles’ offensive X-factor. Still, at this moment in time, it would have been best if he was on the bench.
An underthrown ball from Matthew Stafford on a crossing route left Beckham Jr. in agony at midfield, a victim of the dreaded non-contact injury. The damage to his knee proved costly; despite a never-ending free agency saga, Odell would miss all of the 2022 season due to a torn ACL.
Beckham finally found a home last Sunday, signing a one-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens worth up to $18 million. On paper, it’s a move both sides needed to make. Baltimore has needed a true number-one wide receiver for years, while Beckham Jr. needed a roster that would allow him to shine as a top option in the passing game. It’s the best scenario for fans that want to see the Odell of old return. Now, the biggest question: what to expect?
Odell Beckham Jr.’s Likely Role in Baltimore
Although the receiving yards weren’t eye-popping, Beckham Jr. made quite the impact in Sean McVay’s offense. With teammate Cooper Kupp drawing all kinds of coverage from defenses during a historic campaign, OBJ was able to grab five touchdowns in just eight games in Los Angeles. That would have earned him a hefty payday last offseason had he not suffered a major injury, which essentially made 2022 a year of recovery despite interest from several clubs.
It’s hard to quantify how NFL teams would have valued a fully healthy Beckham Jr. Playing on a stacked offense certainly revived OBJ’s career, but his time with the Browns was marked by injuries, poor play and a lack of chemistry with Baker Mayfield. It’s clear that Cleveland’s issues were deeper than one player, but even the biggest Odell supporters can admit the wideout’s poor play was a factor in the team’s struggles.
Now back in the AFC North, Baltimore might be the best offensive environment of Beckham Jr.’s career. That might surprise those who watched Greg Roman’s “medieval,” run-heavy play calling in recent years, but new offensive coordinator Todd Monken should prioritize getting playmakers the ball in open space. That’s a perfect fit for OBJ, one of the most explosive players in NFL history.
On the other hand, there are legitimate concerns over Lamar Jackson‘s availability this season. The Ravens’ superstar quarterback has been involved in a public, drawn-out contract negotiation since last summer. This culminated in Baltimore designating Jackson with a transition tag, which allows them to match any deal Jackson signs with another team (although none have made an offer so far).
Despite Jackson and the Ravens showing no progress towards a new deal, the QB did play a role in recruiting Beckham Jr. to Charm City, according to ESPN.
“The goal was to come here and have the opportunity to play with him,” Beckham Jr. told reporters on Thursday. Still, OBJ said that he received no guarantees that Lamar would suit up for Baltimore this season.
Should the former MVP play for the Ravens this year, Odell would have one of the game’s best throwing to him. While Jackson isn’t one of the game’s elite passers, he’s still more than capable of throwing down the field. Defenses will always be focused on stopping Baltimore’s running game, which means OBJ will have more room to exploit opposing secondaries.
If Jackson moves on, Beckham Jr.’s success becomes dependent on Tyler Huntley, a decent backup known more for his rushing than his passing. However, the rewards of a Jackson-Baltimore agreement could be massive for Odell as a real-life and fantasy player.
Where Should You Draft OBJ in Fantasy Football?
Whether Jackson returns or not, OBJ is sure to be one of the biggest enigmas of the offseason. The talent hasn’t gone away, and his contract leaves him as Baltimore’s undisputed top wideout. Sadly, injuries and quarterback uncertainty will make an early fantasy football draft selection difficult to justify.
With the draft yet to unfold, there’s still plenty of time before depth charts across the league begin to clarify. As of now, Beckham Jr. is a risky, yet justifiable, pick for managers to make as soon as Round 6, if you’re feeling bold.
The Beckham draft day dilemma is that someone else will likely pounce on such a big name before the rest of your league. Anyone targeting OBJ needs to have plenty of conviction that he can at least return to his L.A. production. That’s not hard to imagine, health-pending, but it’s impossible to feel very confident.
Draft day is still far away, so this is just speculation, but I’d anticipate Odell’s fantasy stock rising between now and September, depending on the Jackson situation.
There are plenty of issues that need to be resolved before anyone can comfortably stake major draft capital on Beckham Jr. However, the biggest question is how risky a manager is feeling. Will you trust the talent, or look for safer bets?