When it comes to wide receivers, they don’t get much more famous than Odell Beckham Jr. In a sport where the players’ faces are obscured by helmets, Beckham is easily recognizable by football fans and non-football fans.
He’s still a star. Is he still a great player in the NFL? Beckham hasn’t been a Pro Bowl wideout since 2016. And yet, everyone is curious to see how he’s going to fit in with the Baltimore Ravens. The last time Beckham was elite, Lamar Jackson was still in college on his way to a Heisman Trophy-winning season for the University of Louisville. Now Beckham and Jackson are teammates who will try to lift the Ravens to new heights.
Throughout Jackson’s career, he’s been stuck with one of the worst collections of wide receivers. It’s a testament to his talent that he was the 2019 NFL MVP without a true No. 1 wideout. This season could be different. New offensive coordinator (Todd Monken). New pass catchers (Zay Flowers, Nelson Agholor, and Beckham Jr.). When you mix them with returnees tight end Mark Andrews and third-year receiver Rashod Bateman, this is the best skill position talent Jackson has ever had.
Odell Beckham Jr. ladies and gentlemen pic.twitter.com/20cCUBXEhN— The Ravens Realm (@RealmRavens) August 1, 2023
What are reasonable expectations for Beckham? The last time we saw him in a game it looked like he was on his way to being named Super Bowl MVP for the Los Angeles Rams. But it’s important to note two things. First, he was playing opposite of Cooper Kupp who was having one of the greatest seasons in NFL history. Second, Beckham has had two ACL tears since 2020.
At the age of 30, you have to wonder how much Beckham has left. There’s a reason he signed a one-year contract with Baltimore. The Ravens are taking an expensive $15-million flyer on a guy and hope it pays off big. This was surprising since historically this franchise has never committed big money to receivers. Perhaps, it was a move made to placate Jackson during his acrimonious contract negotiations.
Jackson must have had flashbacks to Beckham’s days with the New York Giants. Remember when the Beckham slant was the most unstoppable play in football? If he got a step on a defender, he was gone, usually for a touchdown. But the NFL has a way of chewing up bodies. Injuries have robbed Beckham of his explosiveness.
The good news for the Ravens is that Beckham still has the great hands that helped him make the most memorable catch in Sunday Night Football history. At this stage of his career, he’s likely more of a possession receiver than a game-breaker. Baltimore could be getting a No. 1 receiver who can make tough contested catches, keep drives alive on third down, and score in the red zone.
If he’s healthy after taking a season off, Beckham might be the player he was with the Cleveland Browns in 2019 and 2020. That could be enough to help Baltimore win the AFC North. But to expect anything more than that is a big ask. It’s also tough to predict Beckham’s impact because he’s on a new team with a new offensive coordinator.
The spotlight will be on one of the NFL’s brightest luminaries. We just don’t know if Beckham still has what it takes to shine.