2019 ADP Faceoff: Which Young Stud WR is the Better Pick?
By: Nate Georgy @KingN8G
JuJu Smith-Schuster (PIT) ADP 2.03 vs Odell Beckham Jr (CLE) ADP 2.01 (according to Fantasy Football Calculator)
JuJu Smith-Schuster and Odell Beckham Jr. are two of the most beloved players in all of fantasy football and they are also two of the most dominant WRs in the league today. They have brought many fantasy owners championships and amazing performances in the past, and this season, they of course, come at a premium draft cost. JuJu and Odell are both being selected in the early second round in PPR leagues, so which one should you take to lead your WR unit in fantasy this season?
Let us first take a look at what happened last season for both of these stud WRs and how they got to where they are this season.
|JuJu Smith-Schuster||Odell Beckham|
|2018||16 Games111 Receptions1426 Yards7 TDs18.6 PPR, WR8||12 Games77 Receptions1052 Yards6 TDs19.5 PPR, WR15|
|2017||14 Games58 Receptions917 Yards7 TDs13.7 PPR, WR23||4 Games25 Receptions302 Yards3 TDs18.5 PPPR|
|2016||*Not in league||16 Games101 Receptions1367 Yards10 TDs18.7 PPR, WR4|
|2015||*Not in league||15 Games96 Receptions1450 Yards13 TDs21.3 PPR, WR5|
|2014||*Not in league||12 Games91 Receptions1305 Yards12 TDs24.8 PPR, WR7|
JuJu’s rookie season was an impressive one for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but his sophomore season is where he really took off. He broke out onto the scene finishing as the WR8 with very impressive numbers at just 21-years-old.
Odell’s career arc is a pretty interesting one, he set the fantasy world on fire in his rookie season with one of the most memorable seasons ever. Since then, he has lived up to the hype, putting together very impressive seasons, averaging at least 18.5 PPR in each of them. Odell’s only knock thus far in his career has been his recent inability to put together full seasons and stay healthy. He has appeared in just 16 games in the last two seasons.
Both of these WRs are coming into 2019 in different situations from the year prior. JuJu’s big change is that he is no longer second fiddle in town. WR, Antonio Brown demanded a trade from Pittsburgh and found a new home in Oakland. This makes JuJu the focal point of the offense and the favorite target in the passing game.
Odell’s change is even more noteworthy, leaving the New York Giants and becoming a member of the Cleveland Browns. Odell has finally been freed of the Giants pedestrian offense and weak QB play and joins one of the most exciting offenses in Cleveland to be their go-to weapon through the air.
Surrounding JuJu in Pittsburgh is a lot of young talent and with the departure of Brown, the Steelers offense is definitely looking to prove they can still be one of the league’s best without him. They are once again led by veteran QB Ben Roethlisberger, who has been at the helm now since 2004. The WRs behind JuJu are led by Donte Moncrief who is a new addition looking to find consistency and revive his still young career. James Washington is entering his second year in the league, after being drafted in the 2nd round in 2018. He was not used very much last season but should be more of a focus this upcoming year. The Steelers spent a 3rd round pick this season on Diontae Johnson who also figures to be competing for one of the WR slots up for grabs. The easiest way to describe the Steelers WR core is, JuJu and the other guys. Vance McDonald is the starting TE for them and figures to get a fair share of targets after flashing in years prior while splitting duties. At running back they have a very young and talented group, James Conner is the starter, and Jaylen Samuels is there to help out as well. The offense as a whole should be good like every Roethlisberger led offense. The question is if they can be top five like they were for many years or will they fall into a middle of the pack offense.
On the other hand, Odell’s new home in Cleveland is loaded with talent, top to bottom. QB Baker Mayfield is at the lead and is entering his second year in the league, first as a full time starter. Many believe Mayfield is already an elite QB in the league, and it appears he has developed an early chemistry with Odell in training camp. At WR Odell has long time friend and college teammate Jarvis Landry on the other side, a great talent to help take pressure off. Behind Landry and Odell is Antonio Callaway, another good talent looking to make his mark in the league. David Njoku is also expected to be involved in the passing game, who is coming off a great season last year and provides high upside potential. The running back group in Cleveland is extremely loaded and versatile, headlined by second year player Nick Chubb who is one of the league’s most exciting young RBs. Duke Johnson is a great pass catching RB and Kareem Hunt will also join the mix after he serves his eight game suspension. It is going to be tough for defenses to key in on Odell this season with all these weapons surrounding him, making it much easier in Cleveland than it was in New York.
EXPECTED OFFENSIVE PHILOSOPHY
Last season the Steelers dropped back to pass on 66.6% of their plays for an average of 43 times a game (https://www.fftoday.com/stats/18_run_pass_ratios.html), both of which lead the league. This season, they would like to get that number down and run the ball a bit more behind their talented offensive line and RBs. Expect the split to be closer to 60-40 between pass-rush, on an offense that always runs plays at a great rate.
The Browns have a new play caller around in Todd Monken, most recently the OC in Tampa Bay. Monken is known for his aggressive down field play calling, which obviously includes a high passing volume. This is a perfect match for Odell who is one of the biggest play WRs in the league today as shown by his career 14.0 Yards Per Catch. Tampa’s leading receiver last season was Mike Evans, who put up career highs in Monken’s offense with 1,524 yards at a ridiculous 17.7 YPC.
The guy delivering the ball is a very important factor when deciding between WRs. JuJu has the luxury of playing with one of the league’s best in Roethlisberger, who is known for “peppering” or giving his number one receiver a lot of targets. Brown had over 153+ targets each of the last six seasons as Ben’s go-to receiver. Roethlisberger is a veteran leader who is not a reason for concern for JuJu, he won’t be holding him back.
It was no secret that Odell and New York Giants QB Eli Manning did not have the best relationship, not only off the field, but on it as well. Manning has lacked the willingness to drive the ball deep down the field and take chances, even just intermediate routes scare Eli at this stage in his career. The few times Eli would drive the ball it was hardly on time or in the right spot. Odell does not have to worry too much about that anymore with Mayfield being his new QB in Cleveland. Mayfield was drafted number one overall in 2018, and a big reason why was his accuracy and his mentality on the field. Mayfield will not be scared to take chances and give Odell plenty of 50-50 balls, it also helps that Mayfield and Odell have appeared to already establish an off the field relationship.
EXPECTED TARGET SHARE
Predicting a players target share is one of the most important factors in ranking WRs. It is important to find a range of potential at target share to be able to predict where a player could end up. The less targets, the more efficient a player has to be to hit his ceiling, the more targets, provides a good floor and elite efficiency might not have to be reached.
JuJu is at a very good spot when it comes to target share, last season he ranked fourth in the NFL in total targets at 171 (10.7 per game), that gave him a 24.5% target share for the team. It is easy to think that his targets could go up with 165 leaving in Brown, but it is unrealistic to expect much of a bump in this category for him. His actual target share percentage will most certainly go up, but the team as a whole will be passing less this season. A target share between 24% and 28% is a good estimate with his target total ranging from 150-175 with the latter in both being the more likely scenario.
Odell’s target share is another one that has historically been great, last year in the 12 games he played his share was 28.5%, which was good for fifth in the league. He still finished 17th in total targets with 129, despite the four games missed and is primed to be among the leaders in this category again. He is unlikely to hit the 28% mark he is capable of hitting, mainly because of the other weapons on his team. There are a lot of talented players who will receive plenty of targets, as well as the great rushing attack they have, but Odell should range between 22% and 26.5% with around 140-170 total targets, the improved efficiency this season will negate any dip in targets from years prior for Odell.
RED ZONE/TD OUTLOOK
The most difficult factor to predict for fantasy players year-to-year is TDs, but one thing we do have is an average or a mean, to set a baseline. Last season JuJu was extremely unlucky in when it came to TDs. He ranked second in the NFL in red zone targets at a whopping 29 total, but yet he only scored seven TDs. JuJu saw the lowest TD total for someone with at least 111 receptions since 2013. History says that he should positively regress towards the mean here, and if we can expect his target count to stay near the same number as last season, than we can expect him to score more TDs with the same opportunity, 8-11 TDs is a safe bet.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Odell is a good old fashioned TD scoring machine. While not being your prototypical TD receiver being just 5”11 198 LBs, Odell just has a knack for finding the end zone, scoring 44 total TDs in 59 career games. The Browns will make plenty of red zone trips this season and Odell will be the likely leader in targets down near the end zone; if he can put together a full season he will most certainly hit double digits in TDs.
Strength of Schedule (SOS) tends not to be a major factor when choosing between two players, but it can definitely help the case if one is facing easy defenses all year long, or if one has a very difficult matchup every week. For this case, according to FantasyPros, the SOS for WRs for the Browns and Steelers rank back-to-back at 20th and 21st. Definitely not the ideal rank for either of these players, but with talent like theirs and enough weapons around both, this should not present a problem.
A floor and ceiling analysis is the most important part when picking in fantasy drafts, take all the factors that you individually weigh the most, and establish a floor and ceiling for that player, in other words, a realistic range of outcomes.
JuJu comes in as a high floor/high ceiling player, his massive target count leads him to a safe floor every week, and then mix in his positive TD regression coming and he provides weekly WR1 upside, as well as season long WR1 upside. The only slight bit of a concern for JuJu that could lower his floor, is how well he can handle lining up on the outside more often this season, and dealing with a team’s best cornerback shadowing him.
Odell has a very safe season long floor, however week-to-week it will not be as consistent and safe as some of the other WRs drafted around him. His ceiling is WR1 as he is the lead dog in one of the best offenses in the league and there will be games where the Browns are in shootouts, or when they will need to lean on him to find offense. The QB improvement just contributes more to his WR1 potential, as we have never seen him play with a QB this talented, Odell could be a league winning pick in the 2nd round.
This pick is almost an impossible pick to make, if I was on the clock in a draft I may very well just flip a coin between these two. However, in .5 PPR or traditional PPR I would slightly lean in JuJu’s favor. I like to shoot for consistency early rounds, and while Odell is relatively consistent, JuJu’s potential league leading target total makes him a bit safer week-to-week. You combine that with more TDs coming his way this season, and he could potentially finish as the WR1. It is tough to pick against Odell but his offense is just so good that he might not be leaned on week-to-week like JuJu, there are also very minor injury concerns there, which is just enough for me to go the other way.
About the Author- Nate Georgy is a die hard NFL and Patriots fan from the New England area. He has been watching football and playing fantasy since he was 12 years old. Nate loves the analytical side of Fantasy Football and loves evaluating and breaking down player film/talent. You can follow him on Twitter @KingN8G