Oct 21, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (13) warms up before the game between the Browns and the Denver Broncos at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Odell Beckham Jr. that we used to know is missing and might be gone for good.

That’s a shame. Beckham was once one of the most exciting and popular players in the NFL. All we see now are vapor trails of excellence. A catch here. A run there. An occasional throw. Nothing like the vintage OBJ that the Cleveland Browns expected when they traded for him in a blockbuster 2019 deal.

The statistics: 16 catches for 226 yards in five games this season. You’ve caught as many touchdowns as OBJ: zero. His catch percentage is a woeful 48.5 – ranking near the bottom of the top-200 wide receivers. When you factor in targets (33), Beckham is one of the league’s least productive players.

NBC Sports NFL writer Peter King pointed out this alarming factoid: Beckham, who has scored a grand total of seven touchdowns in his Browns career, hasn’t visited the end zone in 54 weeks.

You don’t need a numbers deep-dive to see that the Baker Mayfield-and-OBJ pairing isn’t working. The two have little chemistry on the field. Last year, with Beckham sidelined due to injury, the Browns’ offense was better without him.

“You really wonder: Are we ever going to see Odell Beckham Jr. again?” King said. “I don’t know.”

It seems like Beckham and the Browns are heading towards divorce. The trade deadline is Nov. 2. However, is there a market for him? He has a bad shoulder and hasn’t been healthy since his first year in Cleveland. Even if Beckham isn’t traded, it’s hard to imagine Beckham returning for 2022. He might eventually be a salary-cap cut. Beckham can be waived after this year with no dead money.

If that happens, it would be quite a fall from grace. You could make an argument that he’s the Browns’ most disappointing acquisition since the franchise returned in 1999. What happened? It could be as simple as injuries catching up to him. Still, it’s crazy to think that Beckham might be washed at an age when he could still be productive. He turns 29 years old next week.

Before Justin Jefferson, before Ja’Marr Chase, there was another LSU pass-catching alum who captured our attention. That was Beckham, the 12th overall pick in the 2014 draft. He was fast, athletic with cartoonishly large hands (10 inches) for someone who is “just” 5 feet, 11 inches tall. To put that in perspective, he has bigger hands than 6’5″ Mike Evans (9.5).

Except for height, Beckham was everything a team could want in a wideout. Those physical gifts allowed him to have one the best rookie seasons by a receiver in league history. He snagged 91 catches for 1,305 yards with 12 touchdowns in his debut season for the New York Giants. One play turned Beckham into a superstar.

The Giants lost to the Dallas Cowboys, but The Catch was the story. His one-handed snag on Sunday Night Football was the best of 2014 and one of the greatest ever. It was replayed countless times and continues to be in any highlights rotation whenever Beckham is featured on television. The Catch turned Beckham into an instant celebrity for a Giants team traditionally known for its anonymous wide receivers.

As great as his rookie season was, Beckham’s sophomore campaign was better: 96 catches for 1,450 yards and 13 scores. One of his trademark moves was the slant route, an unstoppable play once Beckham got a step on a defender.

Beckham was fun with a brash personality, which made him extremely popular among young fans. For a while, he had one of the top-selling jerseys in the NFL. His totals after three seasons were astonishing (288 catches for 4,122 yards with 35 touchdowns). But New York’s love affair with Beckham soured.

First, there was the boat trip fiasco. Beckham and his teammates went partying in Miami before a playoff game in Green Bay. While they didn’t do anything wrong, it was a bad look that got worse when the Giants lost 38-13 to the Packers. Beckham had four catches for 28 yards.

The following season, Beckham was limited to four games due to injury. But he still made headlines with his contract demands. He finally signed a five-year, $98 million deal with the Giants in 2018. He would only play one season under that deal. Giants’ management, a notoriously conservative group, grew tired of Beckham. Still, it was a bit surprising when New York sent him away to Cleveland prior to the 2019 season.

Giants general manager Dave Gettleman was ripped for trading away a young talent. However, it proved to be the right move. The Browns thought they were getting a game-breaking wide receiver who would elevate Mayfield and Cleveland into Super Bowl contenders.

Never happened. The Browns went 6-10. But Beckham had a good season (74 catches for 1035 yards), and made plays, including this incredible catch and an electrifying touchdown.

But injuries have taken their toll, and he and Mayfield have struggled to get on the same page.

Last season, the Browns went 11-5 and won a playoff game while Beckham missed most of the year with a torn knee ligament. It’s fair to wonder if Cleveland (4-3) needs him. Unless Beckham vastly improves or is dealt, the Browns will remain haunted by the ghost of what he used to be.

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.