The Cleveland Browns and Odell Beckham Jr worked out a deal to release. While we wait for Beckham to get on a new roster, let’s take a look at what this means for the Browns offense moving forward. We will add in a Beckham outlook once he signs.
The Cleveland Browns are sitting at a 5-4 record and are battling for one of the three wildcard spots. It’s a crazy spot to be in considering they are tied for last in their division. The Browns offense has had a rough time with injuries this season. Those injuries have made for an inconsistent scoring offense. The Browns have shown signs of being an AFC contender putting up 29 points against the Chiefs and 42 against the Chargers. They have also had weeks where they looked like pretenders putting up only 14 against the Vikings and Cardinals and 17 against the Broncos. The offense is built to run the ball first. They boost the best backfield duo when healthy in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. They also came into the season with a top-ranked offensive line. Rushing the ball is what the Browns want to do. So far this season they have rushed the ball 48.73% of the time which is the 3rd most in the NFL. The defense has been the downfall to the running game in Cleveland. The Browns are middle of the road in point differential. They are giving up about the same number of points as they are scoring. So what does the Browns offense look like in the post OBJ era?
We don’t have to go back far to find examples for life without Beckham. We can go back to Weeks 1 and 2 when Beckham was out. In those two games, the Browns scored a combined 60 points. Those were two of their highest-scoring games on the season and were both above the team’s season average of 23 points per game. In those two games, the Browns rushed the ball 53.10% of their plays. In both those games, the Browns never played a snap while trailing so that may skew the play calling. Let’s take a look at the percentage of run plays every week this season
Weeks 6 and 7 were weeks without Nick Chubb and Week 7 Kareem Hunt was missing as well. Those rushing percentages are some of the highest in the league most weeks. It’s what the Browns and the coaching staff want to do and usually do most weeks. Obviously, there have been injuries that have caused some changes in plans. Quarterback Baker Mayfield missed Week 7 and Case Keenum filled in. Injuries to Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt put D’Ernast Johnson in the starting role Week 7. Injuries to the receiving core have also been there. Beckham missed Weeks 1 and 2 and Jarvis Landry missed Weeks 3 through 6. There have also been injuries to the offensive line.
The last time we saw the Brown’s offense as we will see it without OBJ was Week 1. They had both running backs and they also had Jarvis Landry who missed a few games with an injury. In that game, the Browns led the whole game and they scored 29 points. The Brown’s offense was very balanced. Not just in the run-pass ratio but in whom got the targets in the offense. In the passing game, Jarvis Landry, David Njoku, and Anthony Schwartz earned five targets, and Kareem Hunt and Austin Hooper were at three targets. In total nine players received at least one target in the game.
Looking forward we can expect to see the same from the Browns. Nick Chubb is back in the fold and Jarvis Landry is back as well. Kareem Hunt could come back in Week 11 and the offensive line is back to healthy. Baker Mayfield is playing through his multiple shoulder injuries and even if he were to miss time Case Keenum is capable of running the offense. From a fantasy perspective, Nick Chubb is still an RB1. He gets plenty of opportunities and capitalizes on them to put him in a Top 10 back. He does lose some work to Kareem Hunt when he’s healthy. Hunt is a great RB2 most weeks mainly due to his pass-catching work and the team’s confidence to give him extended time in on drives.
Jarvis Landry has already become the wide receiver to have in Cleveland. He has received 18 targets over the past two games since returning. The window to get him in trades has probably passed so if you have him you have been super happy and excited for the future. Donovan People-Jones and Rashaad Higgins would be the 2nd and 3rd behind Landry. Peoples-Jones missed Week 8 with a groin injury and was held off the score sheet in Week 7. This was a letdown for owners who saw DPJ put up back-to-back weeks of solid production. He had five receptions on six targets for 70 yards in Week 5 and then followed it up with a Week 6 performance of five targets, four receptions 101 yards, and two touchdowns. Higgins has been almost fantasy irrelevant this season. He has only two games where you would have been happy with his production, Weeks 4 and 5. Similarly, the tight ends for the Browns have been disappointing. With the Browns spreading the ball around both David Njoku and Austin Hopper haven’t had enough opportunities to make themselves fantasy relevant. Hooper does lead the team with eight red-zone targets this season and with Beckham gone his four targets through eight games will probably be evenly spread out.
Overall the running back and Landry are the fantasy pieces to own going forward. If there was an injury to one of the tight ends we could see the other move into a low-end startable option most weeks. Baker Mayfield’s injuries seem to be something he can play through but one good hit could send him to the sideline and elevate Keenum again.
We saw very similar things happen in Week 9 with the Browns. There were eight different receivers who go a target yet no one had more than five. It’s a system that the Browns want to have and has produced success.
Odell Beckham on the Rams
Let’s start with the player himself. He is now 29 years old. He was released on his birthday. He has been a shell of his old self ever since joining the Browns. He came back week 3 this season after missing most of the 2020 season and the first 2 weeks of 2021 rehabbing from a knee injury. This isn’t to say that he cant return to his top 10 form. At age 29 he still has an 11.6% of being a top 5 wide receiver this season according to FantasyPros.com. Some of the metrics for OBJ look promising. His average depth of target has gone up the past 4 season
We are looking at small sample sizes for both the 20 and 21 seasons. 7 and 6 games respectively. The 2018 season was Beckham’s last season with the Giants. Those numbers are a good sign for a wide receiver who has excelled in the past on deep balls and making spectacular catches. A metric not so great is his yards after the catch per reception.
OBJ isn’t running away from defenders like he used to and is getting tougher coverage and not being wide open. It’s hard to look at his stats for targets and receptions and not see a big drop in the per-game average but that may have more to do with the growing rift between him and the team and presumably quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Now we take a look at the Los Angles Rams. They were a team no one was talking about in the OBJ sweepstakes yet they landed him after reports were he might take some time to sign. The Rams have leveraged everything to win this year. They traded in the offseason for Matthew Stafford and last week brought in Von Miller. Now they add Beckham to their team. The Rams pass on 59.19% of their plays. That’s the middle of the road in the NFL. It should be an upgrade for Beckham who came from a top 3 run play calling team. The issue is where does Beckham slot into the Rams offense that already has Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Van Jefferson, and Tyler Higbee. The Rams run 3 wide sets more than any other team in the NFL. They line up in that formation 85% of the time but the Rams have only run 3 plays this year with 4 wideouts or more. Beckham looks to be the 3rd wideout in that set instead of Van Jefferson.
Van Jefferson the last 3 weeks looked like this
Jefferson also had a touchdown in week 7, his third of the year. He is accounting for 13.5% of the team’s targets and has seen 9 red-zone targets. If OBJ were to completely take over that spot in the offense He would be a weekly flex play. I don’t see him getting all of Van Jefferson’s work. I think he is a slight upgrade from Jefferson in terms of talent but also a different skill set. I believe that OBJ’s skill set is very similar to Robert Woods and will steal some of his targets as well as some of Van Jeffersons. Stafford is passing on average 36 times per game.
Here is how I see a breakdown going forward
|targets||team’s target share|
It will be an interesting experiment for Sean McVay to work OBJ into the offense and his ego and attitude into the locker room. Winning will certainly cure-all and if the Rams win the Super Bowl it will look like a smart move. It’s unclear if Beckham will be able to play week 10 so we may have to wait till after their bye for a Week 12 game against the front runners to sing Beckham initially in the Green Bay Packers.
(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)