Why Odell Beckham Changes the Betting Calculus in Cleveland

Why Odell Beckham Changes the Betting Calculus in Cleveland

Odell Beckham somehow still managed an easy 1,000-yard season in 12 games last year. I say somehow because the regressive Giants regime stacked the deck against Beckham’s all-around game coming through.

Beckham working open deep literally meant nothing between a quarterback who almost never read deep, an arm that lobbed balls up like punts when he did, and an offense with little interest in taking advantage of Beckham’s gifts.

The Pat Shurmur takeover in New York was about trying to marry a power run game to a move-the-chains passing game, and it failed because the Giants had no offensive line, a defense that bore little semblance to the 2017 Vikings that Shurmur thrived with, and never generated the game scripts that were key for Shurmur’s scheme.

Oh, and because Eli Manning hasn’t been good since 2014. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

For NFL betting fans, the elements are here to make the Browns both an over bet machine and a points-scoring juggernaut for NFL daily fantasy purposes.

The elements have combined with other circumstances in the AFC North to make the Browns a team with playoff potential and, perhaps, a team that could win the division as its rivals falter.

Free agency was not kind to the Ravens, who lost C.J. Mosely and John Brown. The Antonio Brown trade has taken the Steelers off the top shelf of contenders in the AFC, if not tumbled them far down in the pecking order.

A Boon for the Browns

Beckham was scapegoated for reasons that will only make sense in Dave Gettleman’s head. Now in Cleveland, his effect projects to be something that raises all boats. Football is a game of matchups, and Beckham’s ability to produce extensively great results while being the focal point of an offense is extremely valuable in and of itself.

But what we don’t even factor in when we say that is how he changes the calculus for the rest of the offense. Jarvis Landry’s highly ineffective season as Cleveland’s No. 1 receiver will gain effectiveness as the Browns can target him on lower quality corners. The construction area that was Antonio Callaway, fantasy football wideout, will not be relied on like it was in 2018.

The Browns were already likely to take a step up as an offense with a full season of Baker Mayfield at quarterback, as their elevated Super Bowl odds pre-Beckham indicated.

Cleveland’s offensive DVOA took a major step forward after Hue Jackson was fired, which is something objectively bankable rather than a small sample size fluctuation. Every one of Cleveland’s negative passing DVOA games came in the first seven weeks of the season.

The only game that wasn’t double-digit positive DVOA was Week 13 against the Texans, where Mayfield threw three picks in the first half … but still threw for 396 total yards in the game.

Beckham as a receiver is one of the easiest separators in the NFL. Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception tells the story in a chart below. But in words alone: He’s got great acceleration, he’s able to turn on a dime, and his releases against tough coverage are incredibly well-designed and thought out.

How Beckham Changes an Offense

The former Giants receiver isn’t enormous, but he will be Baker Mayfield’s main target on slants. Beckham led the league in DYAR on slants in 2016, then went out and was targeted only 18 times on slants in Shurmur’s offense.

Only five of those slants were incomplete or not successful by down-and-distance standards. This should be a staple of Freddie Kitchens’ offense in 2019.

Landry is now in uncharted territory after this trade. He may be happy to be reunited with his LSU teammate, but Landry’s whole schtick in Miami was volume receiver and running-game substitute.

Now he’s going to be working with a lot less volume -- his volume in the offense already declined once Kitchens took over as head coach -- and the Browns don’t really need him to be a running game.

Long-championed by NFL types and slagged by analytics, this is going to be the most fascinating thing we won’t know until games start: What does Jarvis Landry do for a team when he doesn’t have to be who Jarvis Landry was for the first five years of his career?

For Mayfield, this represents a chance to capitalize even more on his ability to buy time in the pocket. The only thing that can make a quarterback like him even more dangerous is playing with someone who can go from covered to open in about a half-second, like Beckham.

Nobody should throw around the term “Mahomes” lightly in fair conversation of Mayfield’s sophomore season, but Mayfield is going to be given the same kind of tools to make something in that ballpark happen.

Betting on the Browns in 2019

I could already tell I was going to have a tough time betting against the Browns this season looking at the raw tools they had to work with this offseason. Kitchens as a head coach is somewhat of an unproven commodity, but the work that was done in November and December was an expression of a talented roster that just needed to be put in the right circumstances.

Now you add one of the best receivers in the NFL, put Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi together inside as one of the toughest interior lines to play against, and the only real consequence is shedding Jabrill Peppers?

It’s going to be a hard sell to be a pessimist on this team without going deep into the statistical vault and banking hard on regression.

To these eyes, regression is something that you always have to be on the watch for, but regression is also something that happens to steady teams. Mayfield improved because Jackson was fired, not because he faced mediocre defenses or found a random hot streak throwing deep.

New offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s system had receivers running open in Tampa all season. Kitchens, a Bruce Arians disciple, knows a lot about the value of attacking with the deep ball.

For the first time in a long time, we need to understand that the Browns are dangerous. Take baby steps with the concept, don’t start throwing money on them winning the Super Bowl.

But the AFC North is in reach and I wouldn’t be surprised to see their over/under hovering near 9 or 9.5 wins after the draft officially locks in most of the rosters.

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