The biggest league winner last year was Odell Beckham. Emerging from the double-digit rounds, Beckham torched stat lines with 91 catches, 1,305 yards and 12 TDs despite missing the first 4 weeks. That’s a prorated line of 121/1,740/16 which is sick nasty. His athletic profile is also amazing – he’s fast, agile, and has an absurdly large catch radius.
If Odell Beckham was this good, how did we all miss so badly? The fantasy community at large outsmarted itself by overthinking several events from the offseason. The 2015 draft class contained many promising receivers who we may be underselling based on some of the same factors that depressed Beckham’s ADP last season.
In each of the following sections, I will analyze one of the fantasy community’s concerns about Beckham before applying this analysis to a 2015 rookie WR. Hopefully, we can learn from some of the mistakes that kept us lower than we should have been on one of the finest rookie WRs the game has ever seen.
Odell Beckham tweaked his hamstring early in rookie camp, and struggled with the injury throughout training camp. As a result, he ended up missing every preseason game, and the Giants announced early that he was not going to play Week 1. The lack of reps scared fantasy players (especially writers), as we are all looking for instant gratification from our offseason “Hot Taeks.”
2015 Player: DeVante Parker. Parker had foot surgery at the beginning of June, and is hoping to return by Week 1, which means that he will not receive any training camp reps. Assuming he fully recovers from the procedure, he should be back at the beginning of the season. Parker has the speed to be an effective split end receiver in two receiver sets, but would be more effective as the flanker, with Jarvis Landry in the slot and Kenny Stills (4.38 40-yard dash) at split end. If Parker is utilized in this way, he will be in great shape to receive a large snap share and lots of targets.
“Team Big WR” was a menace last year, and it makes some sense. Bigger WRs are easier targets in the red zone, and TDs often spell the difference between every-week contributors and fantasy super-studs. Based on MFL ADP data last year, only 2 of the top 12 WRs drafted were shorter than 6-0: Antonio Brown and Randall Cobb. Brown is a monster, and Cobb catches a ton of TDs from an elite QB. Apparently, if a player’s height starts with a 5, drafters are a little less interested. Beckham measured out at 5’11” leaving him an inch short of minimum requirements to board the WR1 ride at the fantasy fair.
2015 Player: Phillip Dorsett. Dorsett checks in at 5’10”, but is ridiculously athletic:
Unfortunately, he landed in a seemingly muddled depth chart, although the Colts’ OC seems excited:
Pep Hamilton on drafting Phillip Dorsett: “I immediately ran down to my office & ripped up some of my 3TE & 6OL, 1TE & 2WR packages.”
— Steve Andress (@ColtsReporter) May 13, 2015
From a WR perspective, the easy take is that Dorsett was insurance in case T.Y. Hilton doesn’t get re-signed in the offseason. However, outside of their size and raw speed, Dorsett and Hilton are actually not very similar. Hilton’s athletic profile is less than impressive, save for his 4.39 pro day 40-yard dash. His on-field production has been amazing, but his best fit is at the split end field stretcher, with Andre Johnson in the flanker role, and Dorsett with his great burst and agility in the slot. (Note: This does not mean I have given up on Donte Moncrief. You aren’t allowed to write for PlayerProfiler without first showing your Donte Moncrief fan club card.) [Ed. Note: This is actually true.]
If Dorsett is given the chance to contribute as the Colts’ slot receiver, he will be a PPR standout for years to come. Even if he is only Hilton insurance, from a metrics and college production standpoint, there is nothing keeping him from producing as much or more than Hilton has in the same role.
Last year, Tom Coughlin was frustrated by Beckham and his hamstrings, calling it “more than a little disappointing” that Beckham was unable to see the practice field. The notion suggested that it was somehow Beckham’s fault that his hamstrings weren’t healing fast enough. Classic Tom. There isn’t a coach in the league crustier or more “old-school” than Coughlin. Fantasy owners overrate this kind of coach-speak gibberish, and tend to downgrade players who are relegated to the proverbial doghouse. Remember, though: The goal of every NFL coach is to win. Talented players like Beckham get on the field so the coach can keep his job.
2015 Player: Kevin White. While there have been no direct quotes, the common observation is that John Fox doesn’t play rookies. This seems to be recency bias after the Broncos spent a 2nd-round pick on Cody Latimer, only to have him sit on the bench for much of the year. Of course, we later learned that Latimer didn’t know the playbook very well. Looking back at Fox’s highly-drafted skill players, he started Keary Colbert, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Brandon LaFell in their rookie years. Again, Fox’s job is to win, and he will put the best talent on the field in order to accomplish this. With Alshon Jeffrey set as the target hog flanker, and Eddie Royal as a nice slot option, the blazing-fast White becomes a desirable field stretcher. There is no WR on the Bears better suited to fill the X than the 10th overall selection from the 2015 rookie draft:
Stay tuned; there is plenty of time left in camp for some coach-speak to rear its ugly (and often irrelevant) head.
Overshadowed by Peers
The final factor depressing Beckham’s value was the perceived quality of his fellow rookies. Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, Allen Robinson; it was a historically great class, making it easy for the rookie hype-patrol car to shine its spotlight on other choices. Obviously, Beckham had the most impressive rookie campaign of the bunch, leaving most of us scratching our heads and wondering why we missed him amongst his peers.
2015 Player: Dorial Green-Beckham. The 2015 WR class is very solid, but it will be years before we get another draft class like 2014’s. DGB is being overlooked after disappearing into the Titans’ cesspool while guys like Amari Cooper, Breshad Perriman, and Nelson Agholor have received more offseason hype. DGB put up slightly disappointing combine numbers, but at 6’5″, his HaSS is 97th-percentile.
There’s also a major void in the Titans WR depth chart for a guy like DGB. Here at PlayerProfiler, we love Tre McBride, and Kendall Wright profiles as a slot receiver, but there isn’t a target hog on the roster who compares to DGB.
It wouldn’t be fair to expect DeVante Parker, Phillip Dorsett, Kevin White, or Dorial Green-Beckham to generate Odell Beckham-level production this year. However, continue to evaluate training camp’s non-news with scrutinizing eyes and ears, and stay focused on the metrics that matter.
(If you are looking for other rookies who may compare athletically to Beckham, George Kritikos makes a great argument for Kenny Bell as a potential late round flyer.)