NFL

Is Odell Beckham Jr. on the Downslope of His Career?

Odell Beckham Jr. is just 27 years old. The conversations around him should be about how he is still one of the best receivers in the NFL and is only getting better. He joined a new team this year with a promising young quarterback and an old friend named Jarvis Landry. Despite the new-look Browns roster stirring up belief among some that Beckham would have a superstar season, that hasn’t been the case. 

Because of that, people are no longer asking if Beckham could soon hoist a Super Bowl trophy, but instead if he is starting to decline. 

Are we seeing Odell Beckham’s regression?

In a recent piece for Bleacher Report, Mike Tanier posited that Beckham is no longer an elite wide receiver in the NFL. Tanier argues that Beckham, who has made more headlines for off-the-field antics than on-the-field success this year, is done being what he was once promised to be. He also notes that nonstop rumors of discontent and extravagant purchases off the field have replaced the awe-inducing catches on the field. 

It’s getting harder and harder to remember those things, though. We’re at the point where we must consider, unfortunately, that the guy we have been watching for the last three years is the “real” Beckham now.

He’s no longer one of the NFL’s biggest difference-makers. And he has not been for some time.

Beckham has been hurt this season with a sports hernia. Undoubtedly, that has affected the speed he has often relied on to get his highlight catches. Tanier notes that these injury problems are nothing new, and Beckham has struggled with similar instances throughout the last few years. With all of that considered, it might not be unfair to assume that Beckham’s final days are behind him. 

However, it also could be a reactionary response to what he has done recently without looking at other contexts. 

Quarterback problems in Cleveland

Even an elite wide receiver like Odell Beckham can only do so much if the quarterback isn’t performing. Although Baker Mayfield is still getting his feet wet in the NFL, he has been disappointing in his sophomore season. Through 14 games, Mayfield has matched his 17 touchdowns with an equal amount of interceptions. 

Going back to the Giants, Beckham witnessed what many believed to be the last stage of Eli Manning’s career. Manning was never known for his stunning accuracy as much as he was for his penchant to make the right play, but he struggled during the end of Beckham’s tenure during the games where injuries didn’t hobble Beckham.  

Injuries taking a toll on Odell Beckham

Tanier highlighted Beckham’s injuries in his piece, too. 

Injuries are a recurring problem for Beckham: a quad injury last year, multiple ankle injuries in 2017, and so forth. He’s always playing through them, working his way back from them, missing practice with them, and returning from one of them just in time to suffer another.

That might not be exactly fair to Beckham. He has struggled with injuries, and missing practices is a problem for an NFL player. As far as missing games, however, the wide receiver has never missed more than four in a season, save for the 2017 season that cost him most of the year. He has played in every game this year despite the hernia, and on top of that, his production hasn’t gone down too far. 

Touches and usage down with the Browns

Odell Beckham Jr. has had a quiet season (on the field) with the Browns. Is it a one-off, or is he regressing?
Odell Beckham Jr. (right). | Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Beckham has seen a regression in some of his stats, although the regression hasn’t been all that dramatic when the context is brought into it. The Browns have run an economical offense that does not get Beckham the same amount of looks he might have gotten in his prime. Still, Beckham has found a way to perform despite that. His two touchdowns are a concern, but the passing isn’t helping that. Other statistics, however, are right where they have been. 

Beckham’s yards per reception are right where they were during his third season, and his yards per target, while down from his first two years, is not dramatically different from the years since then. Beckham is getting the ball less than he did in his early days and is naturally slower than he was at 22, but without the opportunity to succeed, it is hard for him to do what the Browns expect him to do. 

Odell Beckham isn’t blameless in his regression, but his regression has not yet shown that it is a cause for concern, even if there are inklings here and there. While his best days may soon be behind him, there are also signs that with health, a good quarterback, and an offense that caters to his skills, he can be back to human highlight reel he was just a few years ago instead of player hinting that he might skip town at the first chance he gets.