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What You Need To Know:
- Beckham played through pain last year, eventually undergoing sports hernia surgery in January.
- He set career lows in yards per game (64.7) and TDs per game (.25).
- A healthy Beckham looks poised to get back into the WR1 mix — especially if Baker Mayfield takes a step forward.
Beckham underwhelms with new team
Had you known Beckham would play 16 games last fall, you’d probably expect a WR1 season.
Baker Mayfield entered year 2 with plenty of promise. And Cleveland’s offense afforded Beckham the targets to produce at a top-12 level.
While Beckham reached 133 targets — 12th most league-wide — he finished just 25th in PPR points. And that was across 16 games.
So what went wrong?
Quite a bit.
Baker Mayfield clearly regressed. Per Pro Football Focus, his percentage of on-target throws ranked 2nd-worst among qualifiers (behind only Jameis Winston, of course). Mayfield and Beckham connected on just 55.6% of targets, hurt by Beckham’s 8.6% drop rate.
The former Giant wasn’t targeted much in the red zone. Interestingly, he garnered only 11 red-zone looks, putting him in company with Mike Gesicki, Dallas Goedert and Jacob Hollister. Teammate Jarvis Landry ranked near the top of the league with 20.
An established deep threat, Beckham notched only 8 catches on 33 deep targets (20+ air yards). But per Pro Football Focus, only 10 were charted as “catchable.”
Pro Football Reference credited Beckham with only 2 broken tackles created all year.
So this wasn’t the early-career OBJ that so often dazzled. Certainly there had to be some underlying issue…
Sure enough — at least according to Beckham — there was.
"So last year I was training in June and July, and I was kind of just feeling stuff around the groin area, abs and stuff like that," he said via ESPN. "My third week of training camp, I tear a little piece of my ab. So before the season, I kind of had the hernia thing going on. Sports hernia is what they call it. End up at the end of the season, torn abductor, torn rectus abdominis on the right.
"So pretty much, I was just f---ed up the whole year. I really didn't try and say anything about it. Probably one of the worst surgeries I've ever had. Recovery's going well. Guess I'm really just trying to put my body back together. I've been playing for 23 years, so for me, I'm trying to put it all back together in seven months.”
Still only 27 (until November), there’s plenty of time for a rebound. Will it come in 2020?
Early offseason rumors suggested the Browns might deal OBJ. Perhaps they fielded some calls, but he’s fully expected to remain in Cleveland this year.
So he’ll return to an offense that still features Jarvis Landry and Baker Mayfield. Landry’s coming off February hip surgery that at least carries the possibility of him missing Week 1. Cleveland added Austin Hooper in free agency, while they’ll get David Njoku back following a lost 2019. However, any missed time from Landry would provide a target boost for OBJ.
The real key here is an increase in efficiency. The Browns don’t project as a pass-heavy team following the arrival of HC Kevin Stefanski. In his lone stop as an OC (2019 with Minnesota), the Vikings registered the 3rd highest run rate (50.5%). That translated to 476 attempts, or nearly 30 per game.
With Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt rostered, Cleveland has the horsepower to roll out a run-first attack.
A healthy OBJ should significantly improve his catch rate, though. Our current projections have him for 61.4%, and there’s certainly room for more. We’ll also need to see Baker Mayfield thrive right away in Stefanski’s offense, one predicated on play-fakes and boot legs.
Draft Sharks Bottom Line:
We know Beckham’s a stud. Statistically, his first 3 seasons as a pro rivaled any WR’s in league history.
Now entering year 7 -- his 2nd in Cleveland -- it's make-or-break time.
We like that Beckham's entering another campaign with the same QB. He's back to full health. And we like the coaching upgrade Kevin Stefanski brings.
Ultimately, we’re buying OBJ as a low-end WR1 who’ll likely post several week-winning lines.