We are rapidly approaching fantasy draft season and I don’t think I could be any more excited! Finally, after months of nothingness, we have preseason action to watch and drafts to prepare for. With that in mind, I have been doing some mock drafts to see how things are looking, especially at the top of the draft. One decision I constantly find myself making in round two is who to pick between Odell Beckham Jr. and Juju Smith-Schuster. Both of these guys are stars who play in offenses that should be near the top of the league in passing. Both of them have terrific quarterbacks throwing them the football and should be the number one target in their respective offenses. As you can see, these guys are slated to have huge seasons, but one of them needs to go before the other and my pick might surprise you.
Draft Juju Smith-Schuster over Odell Beckham Jr. in Fantasy Football
The Case Against OBJ
Let me start this off by saying that both of these guys are amazing and you wouldn’t be crazy for taking either of them. But I still have to lean towards Juju, and I’ll show you why.
Starting with Beckham, he finds himself in Cleveland after spending the first five years of his career with the Giants. It’s a much-needed fresh start for Beckham after going through endless amounts of drama and headaches in New York. Now let’s talk about what actually matters, football.
For the first time in his career, Beckham will be playing with a potentially elite quarterback in a high flying offense that’s going to emphasize the deep ball with new offensive coordinator Todd Monken. Formerly with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Monken led the combo of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston to league-leading passing numbers in 2018. He could have the same effect on this Browns offense.
As of now, everything looks great for Beckham, but you must dig a little deeper. The biggest concern by far when it comes to OBJ is his health. Only once in five years has OBJ played in all 16 games, in just the last two years Beckham has missed 16 games. He has literally missed 50% of his games in the last two seasons due to injury with one of those injuries being pretty serious (fractured ankle). While injuries are a concern for any player, it’s clearly been a bigger issue for Beckham than most.
Once you get past the injury concerns, things obviously look better, but he still might not be top-five wide receiver worthy. While we all expect the Browns offense to be better than the Giants, I’m not so sure it’ll be better for Beckham.
When he played in New York he was not only the number one option, he was essentially Eli Manning’s only option. Whereas in Cleveland, there is Jarvis Landry, David Njoku and eventually Kareem Hunt who are all viable passing targets. Odell could lose some of the volume that’s so important to any player trying to finish top-five at his position.
All of that being said, if Beckham were to play 16 games, he should be tremendous but how confident are you that that actually happens?
The Case for Juju Smith-Schuster
I’m not even sure where to start on this one because there is so much to love about Juju for 2019. First off, he is clearly an incredible wide receiver and he’s only 22! He came into the league as a 20-year-old and has been tearing it up ever since (if you’re playing in a dynasty league, Juju must be top three but that’s for another time).
Now let’s talk about the offense he plays in and his role in it. During the Ben Roethlisberger era, the Steelers have been one of the pass-heaviest offenses in the entire NFL. Since 2009, in any season in which Ben has started at least 15 games, he has thrown at least 506 passes and as many as the 675 attempts he made just last season. Right off the bat, you know there is massive passing volume in this offense.
Now, we’re those targets go is the key. Last year, Antonio Brown and Jesse James combined for 207 targets, which was over a 30% target share. Now in 2019, both of those guys are gone which makes 200 targets a legitimately attainable goal for Juju.
Just last season, with Antonio Brown still on the team, Juju finished with 166 targets. It is not inconceivable that he’ll absorb 35 of those 207 vacated targets, in fact, I’d take the over on 35. If Juju finishes the year with somewhere around 200 to 215 targets, he has a very good chance of finishing as the top wide receiver in all of football.
A famous saying in fantasy football is that you can’t win your league in the first round, but you can definitely lose it. I’d extend that sentiment through the second round as well and it’s something you should always have in mind when picking in the early rounds of drafts.
When it comes to those early-round picks, you need guys you can rely on week in and week out. There is nothing more crippling to a fantasy roster than losing one of your top picks for the season and if that were to happen to one of these guys, history says it’ll be Beckham.
Ultimately, the decision will be yours to make but no matter the players, when you’re picking guys who will be the foundation of your team, it’s not the time to get cute. You go as safe as you possibly can, that doesn’t mean avoid upside, it means avoid guys who for whatever reason (injuries, suspensions, holdouts) can’t stay on the field.
Juju Smith-Schuster is as safe as it gets while still having number one overall upside making him my fourth-ranked wide receiver heading into 2019.
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