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  • Vincent Zahler

Overvaluing Of The Wide Receiver Position: OBJ Is Dispensable

Time and time again, we all seem to fall in love with the flashy highlight reel making wide receiver. It’s easy to understand why. Watching the ultra athletic playmaker reach up for a circus catch fit for a poster as he hauls in another for a score will get anyone excited. Who doesn’t want to see their team plastered all over sports media outlets replaying bombs turned touchdowns over and over again? As hard as it may be, we need to keep in mind that in truth, the flash plays are often fluff or bonuses. They sell jerseys and tickets but they don’t always seem to matter where it matters most and that’s wins.

Before we look at the case of Odell Beckham Jr. let’s look at the two best wide receivers of the last 20 years who were both viewed as indispensable parts of their teams. Randy Moss was a human highlight reel in Minnesota. So freakishly athletic and dazzling that he overshadowed fellow Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter. Sports shows on Mondays in the fall seemed to be a nonstop show of Randy making unbelievable catch after unbelievable catch and then blazing his way to the endzone. He was so dominant that even at a time when the NFL was a predominantly rushing league, from 2001-2003, as the highest paid receiver in league history, he averaged 99 receptions, 1404 yards, and 11 touchdowns over a 3 year span. Sure, he was dramatic, controversial and at times allegedly a locker room cancer but who cares when he’s racking up numbers and highlights?

It’s around this time that even those proudly wearing Moss’ jersey couldn’t help but notice a lack of anything to root for outside of Randy making it onto Sportscenter. The Minnesota Vikings would fail to make the playoffs from 2001-2003 despite having been in the NFC Championship game the year prior. At one point after getting paid, Moss exclaimed that he would “play when he wanted to play”. This sentiment coming from now the highest paid player on the team, forced the Vikings to implement the “Randy Ratio” in order to keep the investment involved even at the detriment of the team. 2 years later, Randy Moss was traded to the Oakland Raiders for a 1st and 7th round pick where he became normal until his rebirth with the Patriots. The Vikings win total would actually increase by 1 the year following the trading away of Moss.

Calvin “Megatron” Johnson was everything one could dream of in a wide receiver. A tremendously gifted wide 6’5” athletic body with outstanding work ethic and a lack of a diva attitude. Year after year he dominated like no other receiver before. From 2011-2013, Calvin Johnson would rewrite the record books averaging 100 receptions, 1712 yards, and 11 scores. Like Randy, Johnson would also become the highest paid wide receiver in league history, dwarfing Moss’ contract in the process. Unfortunately, despite all the incredible efforts from Johnson, the Lions would average just 7 wins a season during his prime and making the postseason only twice in his entire career with Detroit, failing to win a playoff game either time. In his sophomore season while amassing an impressive 78-1331-12 stat line, the Lions somehow managed to become the first team in history to go 0-16 in season. No matter what he did, wins were hard to come by.

Due to coming up short every year in the win column, the best receiver of the decade decided to hang up his cleats and go into early retirement ala former Lion Barry Sanders following a 7-9 season in 2015. No one could possibly blame him but now the Lions were obviously in trouble without one of the best players in franchise history. Oddly enough, the Lions would win 18 games over the next 2 season and reached the postseason the year after losing Calvin Johnson to retirement.

Both the Vikings and Lions managed to win more games after losing all-time great receivers when everyone thought they were indispensable. Who would have thought?

Now onto one Odell Beckham Jr. OBJ has been grabbing headlines as well as touchdown passes since he came roaring into the league. Outside of him, the Giants have been virtually unwatchable. With him on the sideline in 2017, Eli Manning’s performance dipped dramatically and the offense was an embarrassment to say the least. A weekly struggle to get a first down and also a lack of any highlight reel plays worthy of talking about. The previous 3 years were loaded with head turning plays carried out by Beckham. The offense for all intents and purposes was “Beckham or Bust”. In his first 3 years worth of games, OBJ would average a stat line comparable to Johnson’s and Moss’ with 104 catches, 1474 yards, and 12 touchdowns. At this point, even coming off a season ending injury, there’s little reason to think that he isn’t rapidly forging a Hall of Fame worthy career as a New York Giant.

There is a downside. Odell Beckham Jr. has the inability to keep his head on straight. Antics on and off the field are starting to give the Giants organization, as well as a growing number of its fanbase, “OBJ fatigue”. If previous incidents including spearing Josh Norman, and punching a hole in the wall after his first playoff game where he both literally and figuratively dropped the ball, OBJ has had a few extra facepalm level moments of recent. Not long after demanding to be the highest paid player in the league regardless of position, OBJ has declared that he won’t play a snap in the 2018 preseason and worse, 2 videos have surfaced of him in rather uncomfortable settings. One showing him in a hotel room with a model who appears to be doing cocaine and another of him involved in a club brawl. Following these videos and his comments, some have suggested Odell Beckham as a trade possibility considering the Giants appear to be in something of a rebuilding mode.

The notion of the best player on the team being made available for trade has ignited a frenzy on social media and mainstream sports media. Fans and media alike can’t stomach the idea of an OBJ-less Giants team especially coming off a 3 win season. Something to be said about the measly 3 wins the Giants managed in 2017 is that Odell Beckham wasn’t on the field for any of them. Even with OBJ dominating since his league debut, his team has had just 1 playoff appearance. His presence hasn’t translated to wins. In fact, the Giants have failed to win the last 5 games in which #13 has played. This includes the playoff game against the Packers where he returned from a now infamous South Beach weekend to drop multiple balls in the most important game of his life.

Looking back, it’s a wonder why so many are quick to object to the trade of a receiver. Even one of Odell Beckham’s caliber. The team isn’t winning with him and his future contract will take up much of the salary cap, thus making it more difficult for the Giants to improve. One can understand how fans want to see highlights but even the game in which OBJ made his greatest play with a one handed grab for a touchdown against Dallas, the Giants left with a loss. At the end of the day, it still comes down to wins. Which no matter how tremendous they are, with extremely few exceptions, (Jerry Rice) historically, they aren’t truly responsible for giving their teams what they really need. Because of that, Odell Beckham like other elite wide receivers, are far from indispensable. A trade of OBJ should be no means be ruled out.

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