Am I the only one who gets a bit nervous when on the clock in the first round and Odell Beckham is the WR at the top of the draft queue?
While he has the talent to overcome historical trends, I can’t help but harken back to Blair Andrews telling us that we should generally avoid WRs who change teams.
Nor can I completely ignore the fact that Beckham will be playing across from Jarvis Landry, a volume monster who ranks fifth in targets (719) and third in receptions (482) among all WRs since he entered the league.
That’s not to say I’m fading Beckham, but I think that JuJu Smith-Schuster also deserves some serious first-round consideration once the consensus top-four options are off the board.
When you do decide to go that route, here are two cheaper WRs to consider who actually have a slightly better range of outcomes.
Similar Upside at a Safer Price
I fired up the Range of Outcomes App to search for some arbitrage opportunities on Beckham and was surprised to find two players who actually have a slight edge based on last year’s numbers.
|Odell Beckham Jr.||9||5||72||0.4||-3||15.3||12.5||14.8||17.4|
The outlook for Stefon Diggs in 2019 is exceptional. He has the best high projection of the trio at 17.6 PPG (tied). He pairs that with one of the safest floors in the league — a low projection of 14.1 PPG which is seventh-best among all WRs, tied with DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones.
Keenan Allen also appears undervalued with a high projection that is 0.2 PPG better than Beckham’s. His low-range of outcomes is a little riskier at 11.4 points per game, but most noteworthy is that both he and Diggs report significantly higher median projections than Beckham’s 14.8 PPG.
None of that confidence from out models is reflected in their respective prices.
Physically, there isn’t much separating these receivers, either. While Beckham is obviously one of the most gifted players we’ve ever witnessed, their ages and builds are in the same ballpark, which is a factor in the model giving them such a complementary range of outcomes.
|Odell Beckham Jr||26||71||198|
Projections & Pessimism
I already outlined a few reasons to be concerned about Beckham at his lofty price this year, and it’s worth noting that Diggs’ outlook in the model doesn’t account for the fact that all signs point to the Vikings going more run-heavy this season.
It’s a small sample, but once Minnesota fired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo after Week 14 last year, their pass attempts fell by 32.3%.
It’s a legitimate concern for Diggs, but it may be offset by the fact that Michael Dubner found him to be a candidate for positive TD regression:
The Vikings have such a narrow target distribution that Diggs will still get his share even if the passing volume is limited. RotoViz projects Diggs to be just one of seven WRs to score 9-plus touchdowns.
Allen shares some of those volume concerns as well, as the slow-paced Chargers ran the fifth-fewest plays in the league last year. But there are a few other factors that could lead to increased volume in 2019:
- Tyrell Williams and his 65 targets are gone
- There is a real risk of Melvin Gordon (149 targets over the last two years) holding out
- The defense is likely to be worse with All-Pro safety Derwin James out indefinitely
The Chargers could be in more shootouts with fewer stars to feed.
Here’s how Dave Caban plots their projections in 2019.
Beckham should still be an integral part of your Zero-RB builds, especially if he slips to that 10-12 pick range in the first round.
But diversifying with some Smith-Schuster in the first round and snapping up these cheaper WRs a few rounds later is an excellent strategy.