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Odell Beckham Jr. to Cleveland - Fantasy Impact

After five seasons in New York, star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was traded to the Cleveland Browns on Wednesday. Despite signing a five-year, $95 million contract extension this past August (which included $41 million in guaranteed cash), consistent friction between the 26-year-old and the front office made this move not only inevitable but prudent as well.

The former 12th-overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft leaves behind an impressive resume in New York, one that if he had stayed, would have likely ranked him as the best wideout in franchise history. Throughout 59 games with the club, Beckham finished with 390 receptions on 625 targets for 5,476 yards and 44 touchdowns. Beckham opened the 2018 season in an impressive fashion, accumulating 11 receptions for 111 yards against the Jaguars in Week 1. However, as a result of continual disdain with his teammates and coaching staff and a quad injury, the former Rookie of the Year disappointed on the fantasy end of things, finishing the season as the 14th-ranked wide receiver.

From a fantasy perspective, Beckham has been historically one of the most targeted receivers in drafts throughout the years. Despite suffering a fractured ankle against the Chargers in Week 5 of the 2017 season, an injury that required surgery and put him on the shelf for the remainder of the year, he was still selected in the first-round in many fantasy drafts this past summer. Though there were questions regarding his health, he still maintained an average draft position of 10.6, routinely selected behind the likes of DeAndre Hopkins and Antonio Brown. However, with a change of scenery that includes being paired with a young, healthy, and up-and-coming quarterback, what does the future hold for the controversial receiver as a Cleveland Brown?

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Big Moves in Cleveland

After several, excruciatingly-painful seasons for the Cleveland fan base, the Browns are a team that appears to be on the rise. After winning only 11 games in the previous four seasons, the Browns exceeded expectations in 2018, winning seven games and for a brief moment, flirting with the potential of making it to the playoffs.

Though they fell short in that area, the Browns have made some sound moves already this offseason, including adding former Viking defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and running back Kareem Hunt, who was released by the Chiefs after a video was released that showed the 23-year-old shoving and kicking a woman. With the addition of Hunt, combined with sophomore quarterback Baker Mayfield and Jarvis Landry, things could be looking up for Beckham with a return to fantasy prominence being on the horizon.

The combination of Mayfield, Hunt (after he serves his eight-game suspension), Beckham, and Landry is enough to send shivers down the spines of opposing coaching staffs; however, the Browns also announced another key addition a few months ago, the hiring of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken. Monken spent the past three seasons calling the plays in Tampa and was responsible for overseeing one of the most productive offenses in franchise history. After he was let go by the team with the hiring of former Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, Monken was a candidate for many head-coaching positions throughout the league before eventually ending up in Cleveland.


Fantasy Fallout

It would be reasonable to assume that Landry will suffer from a decrease in fantasy production with the acquisition of Beckham. However, as recent history proves with Monken, that may not be the case.

The Bucs finished 2018 as one of, if not the most, explosive offense in the league. Tampa led in many categories, finishing atop the league in passing yards (5,125), passing yards per game (320.3), first downs (265), and first down percentage (42.4). They were also ranked third in touchdowns through the air with a total of 36, and passed the ball 63.1 percent of the time.

Evidence to support an increase in fantasy output was highlighted by the effectiveness of the Bucs' receiving corps last season. The team finished with one, top-10 fantasy receiver in Mike Evans, who finished with a total of 175.8 fantasy points in standard scoring formats and 255.8 fantasy points in PPR leagues. Fellow receivers Adam Humphries, Chris Godwin, and DeSean Jackson weren't too shabby either, finishing with an average of 811 receiving yards, five touchdowns, and 161.4 fantasy points each in 2018.

Though the receivers listed above had some effective fantasy performances throughout the year, it would be hard to imagine that Monken's numbers as a coordinator would take a step back with both Beckham and Landry running routes for the Browns this season. There will be plenty of passes going around, more than enough for Beckham, Landry, and even tight end David Njoku and wide receiver Antonio Callaway to be heavily involved in the offensive gameplan.


Is Baker Mayfield a Star Already?

Baker was able to perform efficiently last season with only a few hiccups.  Undoubtedly, the former Oklahoma Sooner stood out from the rest of the quarterbacks selected in his class, finishing with 310 completions for 3,725 yards on 486 passing attempts. He did have some issues with interceptions, throwing 14 on the year, but he was able to salvage his inaugural season by throwing 27 touchdowns to help offset that number. For a guy who had limited options on the offensive side of the ball, that isn't too bad if you think about it.

Heading into the 2019 season, questions surrounding Mayfield's capability as a top-tier quarterback will be asked as he looks to avoid a "sophomore slump." However, with Beckham in town, an experienced receiver who can help compensate for his lack of experience, Jarvis Landry, Kareem Hunt, a capable pass-catching back, and Nick Chubb, who emerged as a useful fantasy back midway through last season, the 23-year-old will have plenty of weapons at his disposal.

As long as the dynamic personalities that make up this new Browns squad can co-exist as one, Cleveland may have one of the most fantasy-friendly rosters in recent memory.


Beckham's Value

As mentioned, Beckham still retained an average draft position that had him being selected in the late-first, early-second rounds of fantasy drafts last summer. But where is he now?

Beckham is projected to be the fifth receiver taken off the board this summer, likely to be selected behind DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, Julio Jones, and Michael Thomas in both standard and PPR formats. Any one of these WR would be an asset to anyone's fantasy roster, but Beckham could easily find himself surpassing the production of those ranked above him, especially if he can stay focused on his play on the field. One thing we know for sure, it will be an exciting season in Cleveland in 2019.

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