This is the second piece in a series of positional analysis of individual player props. Last week, I took a look at some quarterbacks and today I’ll dig into some Wide Receiver player props. Unless otherwise noted, the props listed are sourced from the DraftKings Sportsbook. Remember, it is always important to shop around to the different sportsbooks that offer these props in order to find the best odds.
Odell Beckham Jr. over 9.5 receiving TDs (-110)
Last season OBJ caught six touchdowns in 12 games with the New York Giants. In the last two seasons, he has only managed to play 16 total games due to multiple injuries. In those 16 games, he caught nine total touchdowns. From 2014-2016, Beckham caught 35 total touchdowns and topped 9.5 in each of his first three seasons.
There is little doubt OBJ is one of the five best wide receivers in the NFL and there is also little doubt that he put up Hall of Fame-caliber stats despite his quarterback, Eli Manning. Since Beckham has entered the NFL, Manning has produced a pitiful 6.4 yards per attempt average on targets to non-OBJ receivers. Only on targets to Beckham, Manning has produced an excellent 8.8 yards per attempt figure. OBJ makes that much of a difference.
26 of Beckham’s 44 career touchdowns (57 percent) have come inside the red zone. His touchdown rate could easily be higher if not for Manning’s struggles. In the red zone, Manning has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL since 2014. He has completed only 52 percent of his passes in the red zone, which ranks third-worst since 2014 among all qualified quarterbacks. His touchdown rate in the red zone sits at 24%, sixth-worst in the NFL over the last five seasons. By comparison, without a wide receiver near the caliber of OBJ, Baker Mayfield completed 66 percent of his throws in the red zone with an excellent 35 percent TD rate. Both metrics ranked in the top-4 in the NFL last season. Since Beckham has entered the NFL, Manning has not been close to reaching Mayfield’s red zone completion percentage or touchdown rate in any season.
The offensive game plan that Beckham will see with the Browns will certainly be conducive to producing long touchdown receptions as well. In Beckham’s 59 career games, he has scored nine touchdowns of 50 or more yards. Other star wide receivers like Antonio Brown (seven in 130 games), Julio Jones (eight in 111 games), and Deandre Hopkins (four in 95 games) aren’t in the same neighborhood as Beckham in being able to produce explosive touchdown receptions. New Browns offensive coordinator Todd Monken brings with him a big-play offense that produced the sixth-most explosive pass plays last year in Tampa Bay. Marrying Monken’s offensive philosophy with that of head coach Freddie Kitchens, who led the Browns to the most explosive pass plays in the NFL when he took over in Week 10 last season, should be a blessing for Beckham.
Juju Smith-Schuster under 1400.5 Receiving Yards
Last season Juju Smith-Schuster compiled 1,426 receiving yards while playing all 16 games. He did so on 166 targets, fourth-most in the NFL. Ben Roethlisberger led the NFL in pass attempts last season with an astonishing 42 attempts per game. In the prior three years, Roethlisberger averaged 39, 37, and 36 attempts per game. The question is, why did his attempts increase so radically? In 2018, Pittsburgh faced eight teams that ranked in the bottom-10 in defensive yards per attempt allowed through the air, including five games against the bottom five teams. Not only did Big Ben and Pittsburgh get to face a ton of bad pass defenses but they also faced a schedule of opposing offenses that lent itself to many shootouts and necessitated lots of passing attempts. When you face a schedule that includes high powered offenses like New England, Atlanta, New Orleans, Kansas City and the LA Chargers it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Roethlisberger had to throw a lot and Smith-Schuster received many targets. This season, Smith-Schuster and the Steelers will replace the NFC South, Kansas City, Oakland, and Denver with the Jets, Bills, Dolphins, and the NFC West. The 2019 set of pass defenses and pass offenses will most likely lead to lower scoring games, fewer pass attempts, and tougher defenses than what Pittsburgh saw last season.
There have only been 21 wide receivers with over 1,400 yards in the last five seasons. For Smith-Schuster to hit the over with this prop, he will need one or more of these things to happen. Roethlisberger will have to attempt close to the same amount of passes this upcoming season as he did last year. The Steelers will also have to produce a similar offensive output through the air against a tougher set of pass defenses. Finally, Smith-Schuster will have to receive the same number or more targets than he did last season. That will not be an easy task as there have only been 13 wide receivers with over 166 targets in the last five seasons combined. If it is assumed that Big Ben’s number of attempts will decrease this season, Smith-Schuster may end up receiving a higher percentage of his target share but still may not exceed the 166 targets he received last season. Even if his targets do increase, then Smith-Schuster will still have to most likely play all 16 games to hit the over 1,400 yards. With such a high bar with this prop, one misstep could lead to an easy under.
Robby Anderson over 6.5 Touchdown Receptions (-110)
Robby Anderson scored six touchdowns in 2018 but his upside was hurt by a lack of playing time early in the year. He only played 71 percent of the total snaps in the first 11 games but that number increased to 94 percent of the snaps in the final three games. In those final three games, Anderson produced 19 receptions on 32 targets and scored two touchdowns. In the five games last season when Anderson played over 80 percent of the snaps, he averaged nine targets with five receptions and 66 yards per game. I am always skeptical of coach speak but it sounds like the Jets view Anderson as an integral piece of their offense. At the combine, new Jets head coach Adam Gase said, “We want to think of ways to get him the ball, ways to create variety in his routes. Instead of just doing one or two things, maybe we can open that up to five, six, seven things to where he’s a threat on multiple levels, whether it be underneath, intermediate or down the field.”
Anderson is a big-play receiver and it will help that the 2019 schedule includes opponents like the Raiders, Giants, Bengals, and Dolphins, who all ranked in the top-six in the NFL in the most explosive pass plays allowed last season. Anderson will get to play five games against those opponents. Last season, Anderson was on the receiving end of 35 percent of Darnold’s 17 touchdown passes. As noted in my quarterback props breakdown, Darnold’s passing touchdown prop is set at 22.5. If he were to reach that number, 35 percent of Darnold’s total touchdown passes would get Anderson to eight receiving touchdowns. It is clear that an increase in Anderson’s usage combined with a second-year elevation in Darnold’s game, that Anderson is poised for a very good season.