Sports

Can OBJ still be an elite wide receiver in the NFL?

Odell Beckham Jr. and Baker Mayfield have not been a good match in Cleveland.
Image: Getty Images

He’s baaack!

Odell Beckham Jr. is ready to make his return to the field after missing the second half of last year due to a season-ending knee injury. In some circles, Beckham is still considered a top talent at wide receiver in the NFL.

But is this only perception, or is it a reality?

For all the fuss over OBJ since he arrived on the scene in 2014, arguably the greatest moment of his career occurred just 11 games into his career. Yes, that phenomenal one-handed catch against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football is an iconic moment in NFL history. That may have been the catch of the decade.

Even with that spectacular catch and the individual success OBJ experienced during his first three years in the league, the past four haven’t been as glamorous. His individual accomplishments on the field haven’t exactly contributed to his team’s winning.

All of the blame isn’t on OBJ. He has played for some pretty bad teams over his first seven years in the league. In four seasons with the New York Giants, Beckham played in one playoff game. That was a 38-13 arse-kicking at the hands of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. OBJ had just four catches for 28-yards in the loss, and two big drops, one in the end zone. And this, of course, came after Beckham and a couple Giants went on that infamous boat party the week prior.

The Cleveland Browns did make the postseason last year, but again Beckham missed the latter half of the season. But the former offensive ROY still has his fans and admirers. Still, OBJ is no longer a hands-down top-five wideout.

In his first three years, OBJ averaged 1,374 yards and 96 catches per season. Over those first three years with the Giants, he also recorded double-digit receiving touchdowns each season. OBJ hasn’t come anywhere close to these stats in his last four campaigns. From 2017-20 OBJ hasn’t caught more than 77 passes in any season. He has barely topped 1,050 yards either.

To be fair, injuries have played a big part in derailing what looked like a sure-fire Hall-of-Fame career early on. But we all know the most overused cliché in sports when it comes to professional athletes and the injuries they suffer. The best ability is availability.

No longer having a two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback seems to have also slowed down OBJ’s hall of fame aspirations. Say what you will, but two of Tom Brady’s three Super Bowl losses came at the hands of one man. Elisha Nelson Manning.

Baker Mayfield hasn’t exactly shown that he has the same clutch gene that Manning possessed in New York. I think we’ve seen during his time with the Cleveland Browns that OBJ needs to be with a veteran QB. A veteran QB might better suit Beckham and his strong personality. Teams need those strong personalities but sometimes it can be a bit much for a young QB, especially when that personality is your number one target at receiver.

Mayfield hasn’t shown that he can always get OBJ the ball where he wants when he’s open. According to StatMuse.com, Mayfield has a passer rating of 83.0 with OBJ on the field and a 94.9 rating without him. Mayfield has also thrown double the interceptions with OBJ on the field as opposed to without. 28 with OBJ, 15 without.

Manning was already a made man by the time OBJ got to the league in 2014. There wasn’t much he could have said to Manning because Manning already had two Super Bowl rings. For an NFL franchise that makes you an untouchable.

A change of scenery may be what the doctor ordered for OBJ. First, he must figure out a way to stay on the field. I don’t blame players for injuries because they do happen, but at a point, something needs to change once a player experiences multiple seasons with injuries that keep them out multiple games.

Where the Browns are concerned, OBJ would be better suited on a team where the QB slings the ball all over the field. Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers are highly unlikely to be a possibility. The Packers just brought back Randall Cobb for Rodgers, so they are ‘good.’

Maybe the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will make a move to grab OBJ and surprise Tom Brady for his 50th birthday coming up soon. They went out and signed everybody else Brady asked for last season, including Antonio Brown. They were even able to drag Rob Gronkowski away from Vince McMahon and the WWE.

Imagine a locker room with Gronkowski and OBJ. Now that would be entertaining. Get your cameras and your popcorn ready folks if this were to happen.

I do think OBJ can still be a top 5-to-10 wide receiver in the league, but it won’t happen in Cleveland. He needs to get to the right situation with a new start that suits his skillset. You cannot be elite catching 75 passes a year.

It just doesn’t seem like he’s going to be able to accomplish much more than that playing with the Browns.


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