It was a time to remember: The great Odell Beckham Jr. burst onto the NFL scene with the New York Giants in 2014, wowing NFL fans and fantasy football executives alike for three straight Pro Bowl seasons, each time serving as one of the landed five top wide receivers in the PPR. Beckham was a wonderful talent and in the first three campaigns he’s been in averaged With 96 often acrobatic receptions on a variety of 152 goals, at least 1,300 yards and double-digit touchdowns per season, he was one of the sport’s top players and likely a future Hall of Famer.
Unfortunately, those days seem to be long gone and fantasy managers should be realistic about expectations this season.
Beckham, 30, is now — for a season at least — a highly paid member of the Baltimore Ravens, and while we always hope that a once-standout player will return to health and statistically dominant, it most certainly doesn’t look like one of those situations. Beckham has been in the news since the end of his highly publicized days with the Giants ahead of the 2019 season, though he’s barely played since his quasi-prolific debut with the Cleveland Browns. The wondrous Beckham, who many fantasy executives are anticipating a return to fame, has played in 21 regular-season games over the past three seasons, catching 67 passes.
Still, in part because so many are familiar with his famous name, many fantasy executives continue to dream of Beckham playing a key role with the Ravens this season and returning to the active fantasy roster, which seems a little far-fetched for a number of important reasons . Beckham didn’t play last season, recovering from his second cruciate ligament tear, this time as his Los Angeles Rams won the Super Bowl at the end of the 2021 season. As he and his new franchise proclaim the wide receiver is fully recovered, the Ravens will be careful with Beckham this summer, as they should be.
Statistically, even if we could count on a full 17-game season, moving to the Ravens hardly seems like the best fit for someone of Beckham’s skill set. While talented running quarterback Lamar Jackson boasts an MVP award and remains a fantasy difference maker, the Ravens were one of the standouts Operation teams during his tenure, partly because it’s his forte. Even during his magical 2019 season, Jackson only threw for 3,127 yards. Marquise Brown, now with the Arizona Cardinals, is the only Ravens wide receivers to reach 50 receptions or 550 reception yards over the past four seasons.
When Baltimore’s low-volume passing offense is deployed, TE Mark Andrews still features, who averaged 75 catches, 940 receiving yards and seven touchdowns during the Jackson era, and that’s not likely to change much going forward. Of course, it’s smart for the Ravens to use outside playmakers to diversify offense, but Beckham isn’t alone either. The team drafted Boston College’s Zay Flowers in the first round this spring, and 2021 first-round pick Rashod Bateman can be electric on the field.
Ultimately, when we use the term “bounce back” to describe potentially valuable fantasy football options, we are generally referring to players who have produced large numbers two seasons ago, then — for whatever reason — collapsed in the last. This isn’t Beckham or any of the other wide receivers listed below. In 2019, his first season with the Browns, Beckham finished as the No. 31 PPR wide receiver, catching 74 passes for 1,035 yards and four touchdowns. It wasn’t an ideal attack for his talents, but neither is Baltimore’s current attack. ESPN Fantasy is forecasting 52 catches for 676 yards and four touchdowns this season. Be careful fantasy manager.
Other players are unlikely to bounce back
Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints: Thomas has directed this column for the past few seasons, so we decided to cast someone else as the lead. Still, Thomas belongs here, as he and the overrated Beckham end up in the 10th round of ESPN’s average live draft despite minimal production over the past few seasons. Thomas set records during his magical 2019 season, with 149 catches for 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns. Since then, he has 56 catches and three touchdowns in just 10 games over three seasons, all while succumbing to repeated leg injuries (ankle, toe, hamstring). Thomas is also 30. Draft younger, healthier WRs with higher upside potential in the final rounds.
Allen Robinson II, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: Unlike Beckham and Thomas, who get drafted in virtually every ESPN standard league, Robinson is the forgotten, playing in barely 3% of leagues. That’s smart. Most of you probably didn’t know that the former Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears star has ended up with the Steelers. His last decent season was 2020. Here we go.
Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool, WRs, Chicago Bears: Like the Ravens, this team is backed by a talented quarterback runner who does his best statistical work when he’s not throwing the pigskin toss often. Mooney had a strong 2021 season but then struggled last season. Claypool, a Steelers star with nine touchdowns as a rookie in 2020, has since scored three points and cost the Bears a big draft pick. DJ Moore came from the Carolina Panthers in a trade for the No. 1 pick overall. It’s also likely to be statistically below expectations.
Adam Thielen and DJ Chark, WRs, Carolina Panthers: Thielen and Chark are reportedly replacing Moore in Carolina’s new passing attack, led by rookie quarterback Bryce Young, and it seems a bit dangerous to assume either receiver will return to former statistical goodness. Thielen caught 24 touchdown passes in the 2020 and 21 seasons with Kirk Cousins in Minnesota. Chark has been solid with the Jaguars in 2019. Young may be great off the bat, but still keep expectations in check for the future.
Cordarrelle Patterson, RB, Atlanta Falcons: Patterson was a top-10 fantasy RB in a stunning 2021 season (11 touchdowns) and was an afterthought in passing last season. The Falcons recruited RB Bijan Robinson, WR Drake London and TE Kyle Pitts to make plays on this offense. Patterson is 32.
Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Commanders: Gibson rushed for 1,800 yards and 21 touchdowns in his first two NFL seasons, but the offense switched to Brian Robinson Jr. last season and injured runner Chris Rodriguez Jr. should have a positive impact on his rookie season.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: A rookie favorite in the 2020 season, Edwards-Helaire has struggled with injuries since and was passed on the depth chart by Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon. Fantasy managers gravitate toward top backups on top offense, but Edwards-Helaire doesn’t seem statistically relevant at all right now.
Dawson Knox, TE, Buffalo Bills: Knox was the No. 6 fantasy PPR TE in 2021 largely because he had nine touchdown catches, and despite finishing the regular season with points in his last four games, he fell short of that number. First-round pick Dalton Kincaid reckons Knox’s productivity will continue to fall going forward.