When Odell Beckham Jr. finally returns to the football field as a full participant, he will do so as the New York Giants number one receiver.
It almost goes without saying by now that Beckham isn’t just the Giants’ best receiver (and best player, at that), but is one of the very best receivers in the whole NFL. He is one of the few “true” number one receivers in the league, but that honorific has undergone something of a change as offenses continually evolve.
In earlier days, the “Number One” receiver was generally the “X” receiver, who lined up on the line of scrimmage, had the size to beat press coverage and the speed to threaten down the field. The prototypical “Number One” receiver was a player like Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Plaxico Burress, or Calvin Johnson, and generally considered to be the player quarterbacks look to first on any given play.
But as concept-driven offenses have proliferated in the NFL, that relationship has changed. For instance, on the famous (infamous?) Spider 2 Y Banana play, the quarterback’s first read is the fullback, followed by the tight end, while the “number one” receiver is last in the progression.
So then, how can we determine who is, or isn’t, a “number one” receiver?
ESPN has settled on using target share to determine who each team’s top receiver is, and to rank them into tiers. Unsurprisingly, Beckham falls in to the category of a “Clear No. 1” receiver.
2018 outlook: Odell Beckham Jr. remains the Giants’ top playmaker even as he returns from a serious injury and with Saquon Barkley on the roster. Beckham looked like his old self running routes at minicamp, and there is little reason to believe he will fall off much from the 1,300 yards and double-digit touchdowns he produced each of his first three seasons. Now if only the Giants can lock Beckham up long term to make sure he’s happy and focused. Beckham is scheduled to play on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract for $8.5 million. -- Jordan Raanan, ESPN Giants reporter
Projected target share: 28 percent. Healthy during the better part of the 2014-16 seasons, Beckham handled 237 more targets than any other Giants player during the span. He registered a share of at least 27 percent each of those seasons and enters 2018 with Sterling Shepard closest on the depth chart. -- Clay
Additionally, Beckham was listed in a recent article on what “the players got wrong” in the 2018 edition of the NFL Top 100.
About Beckham, Nick Shook said:
When healthy, Beckham is still a top-tier receiver not even at the peak of his career. One needs to look no further than rumblings of his possible move out of New York via trade ahead of the draft, which sparked speculation of his worth. Many pegged him being worth Cleveland’s two first-round picks, which were both in the top four. That is about as high as one can value a player -- despite the fact said player was ranked No. 77 on this list.
Raptor’s Thoughts: It should be obvious without knowing how many passes go Beckham’s way that he is the Giants’ best receiver, and one of the few receivers who truly deserve the title of “number one”. There are only so many receivers who keep defenses up at night, and the Giants’ top wideout is one of them. However, it will be interesting to see how the Giants’ renovated offense impacts Beckham’s target share.
The combination of Pat Shurmur and Mike Shula changing the scheme and an offensive lineup that also features Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, and Saquon Barkley as pass catchers could see Beckham’s load lightened. The Giants want to throw fewer passes and run the ball more — the Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers were two of the most run-oriented teams in the NFL last year. Hopefully, when the Giants throw the ball, they won’t have to rely on Beckham quite as much as in years past, both helping him and making opposing teams defend the whole field.
However, he is also the kind of player offenses benefit from feeding, so he will still see plenty of passes go in his direction.