Odell Beckham is worth every bit of his record-breaking deal for the New York Giants

Jay Asser 28/08/2018
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One of the NFL’s most entertaining players is now also one of its highest paid.

Odell Beckham Jr and the New York Giants agreed to a reported five-year, $95 million deal – including $65m guaranteed – on Monday that makes the star wide receiver the top-earning player at his position.

Any way you slice it, Beckham’s contract puts him above every other receiver in the league, with his total value and guaranteed money eclipsing the mark set by Tampa Bay Buccaneers wideout Mike Evans ($82.5m and $55m), and his annual salary topping the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Antonio Brown ($17m).

Brown and Atlanta Falcons playmaker Julio Jones are, statistically speaking, the only two receivers in Beckham’s class, with the former having recorded at least 101 receptions, 1,284 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in five straight seasons, while the latter is the only player in NFL history with more receiving yards per game than Beckham’s 94.1 (95.3).

Beckham, meanwhile, had at least 90 catches, 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns in each of his first three seasons. Last year, he played in only four games due to an ankle fracture and finished with 25 catches, 302 yards and three scores. But if you extrapolate those numbers over a 16-game season, Beckham was on pace for 100 receptions, 1,208 yards and 12 touchdowns.

No player in league history has ever reached 200 receptions and 3,000 yards quicker than Beckham, who needed 30 games to hit those benchmarks. He also became the fastest player to reach 100 career receptions, achieving the feat in the first 14 games of his rookie year.

At 25, Beckham is considerably younger than both Jones (29) and Brown (30), which means he has several more prime years to continue his assault on opposing defences and the record books.

His value to the Giants – since entering the league and going forward – can’t be overstated.

Since 2014, New York have averaged 22.7 points when Beckham has been on the field, compared to 16.9 without him.

The pressure he puts on secondaries is difficult to fully quantify because the attention he commands opens up the field for the Giants’ other skill players.

Whether he’s facing zone or man defence, Beckham has elite athleticism to create separation and the speed to turn ordinary catches into long touchdowns.

And as the world learned when he made that jaw-dropping one-handed catch against the Dallas Cowboys in his rookie season, Beckham has the kind of flair and big-play ability that is rare.

With Beckham, there’s almost nothing he can’t do as a player. The one flaw in his game of late has been dropped passes. He had nine drops in 2016, including the postseason, which was third-most in the NFL, and led the league with five drops at the time of his season-ending injury last year, according to ESPN.

But even those were arguably more mental than physical, and part of the demons Beckham has had to confront over the past three years when he’s dealt with controversy on and off the field.

Whether it’s been attacking kicking nets, throwing punches at defenders, or being the subject of social media chatter for the wrong reasons, Beckham has had an eventful career that has had few dull moments so far.

Heading into the new season, his presence will once again be crucial to the Giants’ success, especially with the team coming off their worst 16-game record in franchise history at 3-13.

New York used their second overall pick to select running back Saquon Barkley in the draft, while the rest of the offence features third-year receiver Sterling Shepard and second-year tight end Evan Engram.

And no one is more affected by Beckham more than Eli Manning, who is getting another shot as the starting quarterback this season after the Giants opted to pass on drafting his replacement.

Since 2014, Manning has a passer rating of 113.4 when targeting Beckham and a rating of 87.9 when throwing to all other receivers, according to Pro Football Focus.

For the Giants to turn around their fortunes in 2018, Beckham will be every bit as important as any other player on the roster, and as important as any non-quarterback in the league – something that is now reflected in his new contract.

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Peyton Barber and other undervalued players to target in fantasy NFL drafts

Jay Asser 27/08/2018
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Fantasy football leagues aren’t always won by the players you take at the top of the draft. Often, players selected in the mid to late rounds, and even those that go undrafted, can swing leagues by outperforming their draft-day value. Here are five such candidates, along with their average draft position (ADP) in standard scoring compiled by FantasyPros.

Peyton Barber

ADP: 113 overall, RB43

Three-down running backs are scarce as it is, so finding one at Barber’s ADP is like striking gold. Rookie Ronald Jones will be a threat as the season goes on, but for now, Barber is entrenched as the lead back for Tampa Bay and someone who can get you off to a fast start in your leagues.

Patrick Mahomes
ADP: 115 overall, QB16

He has a ton a talent and is in a great situation. What’s not to love? Kansas City coach Andy Reid has a knack for molding QBs and Mahomes has plenty of weapons to work with, as well as a shaky defence that could result in negative game scripts, forcing Mahomes to throw often.

Kenny Stills
ADP: 120 overall, WR47

Jarvis Landry is now in Cleveland, leaving behind a ton of targets for Dolphins receivers. Stills may not have the highest ceiling, but he has the chance to lead his team in targets, receptions, yardage and receiving touchdowns. Yet he’s being drafted as nothing more than a bench option.

George Kittle
ADP: 134 overall, TE13

The 49ers offence has a chance to take a major leap in Kyle Shanahan’s second year and Kittle stands to benefit. Last season, he had 11 catches for 194 yards in his final three games and had 16 red-zone targets. He’s already proven that whenever he’s on the field, he produces.

Chris Godwin
ADP: 192 overall, WR68

Reports out of Tampa Bay’s training camp are raving about the second-year wideout, who is on his way to claiming the WR2 spot on the roster full-time. Plus, he’s already looked the part in preseason. At his current ADP, Godwin is a no-risk, high-reward dart throw.

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A beginner's guide to fantasy football – the NFL version

Jay Asser 27/08/2018
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Nothing enhances the enjoyment of a new league season quite like fantasy sports, especially when it comes to the NFL.

Whether you’re an avid NFL fan or someone looking to get into the league this year, fantasy football is the perfect way to stay on top of what’s happening, while also giving you incentive to watch as many games as possible.

If you already do fantasy football – the Premier League kind – then the concept should be simple enough: put together a team that you feel will earn the most points and hope it’s good enough to top the standings by season’s end.

But that’s where the similarities between fantasy NFL and fantasy Premier League end, with the former a completely different animal.

So put aside your triple captains, wildcards and formations and get ready for a crash course in American fantasy football ahead of kick-off on September 6.

THE BASICS

The first thing you need to know is how you can put together a team. Unlike Fantasy Premier League, fantasy NFL usually features a draft in which players are selected in a snake order, i.e. if there are 12 teams, the team picking 12th will have the first selection in the second round.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can try an auction draft, which is exactly as it sounds: you bid fake money out of a set budget on players. As fun as auctions are, especially when they’re done in-person with a group of people who know each other, they are infinitely harder to prepare for than snake drafts because it’s much more difficult to predict bids on players than the order they’ll be selected.

Regardless of whether you enter a draft or an auction though, always be cognizant of the league settings, which can vary wildly.

Leagues fall into one of three categories: PPR, .5 PPR or non-PPR. PPR stands for point per reception, which means you earn a single point whenever your players catch a pass, regardless of how many yards that reception generates.

So you’re either in a league where you get a point for a catch, in one that gives you half a point for a reception, or one where you get no points for catches. Simple enough, right? Well, that one wrinkle can significantly alter the value of players, especially running backs whose work as receivers is supplemental to their ground game.

The other part of the league’s settings to be aware of is roster positions – as in how many starting spots there are for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, kickers and defences.

Usually, leagues will feature one starting spot for quarterbacks, tight ends, kickers and defences, while having multiple spots for wide receivers (two to three) and running backs (two). That’s fairly standard, but there are plenty of leagues which either force you or allow you to play two quarterbacks, or have ‘flex’ positions in which you can play either a wide receiver, running back or tight end.

The point is, know how many players at each position you can start because that will directly affect roster construction. If you can start more than one quarterback, for example, expect quarterbacks to be drafted earlier.

STRATEGY

Let’s be loud and clear about this: there is no one dominant strategy for success in fantasy football.

You can ask 100 people their preferred strategy when it comes to drafting and you could get 100 different answers. Some people are steadfast in their belief that you need to take running backs early and often because they represent the backbone of your team. Some people feel wide receivers are more of a known commodity and thus it’s better to load up there in the early rounds. Others want to grab a top quarterback to have that comfort, while even more will preach to wait on QBs because the position is so deep and you (usually) only have to start one.

This is largely dependent on what settings your league employs. For the purposes of keeping it simple, here’s a basic strategy for one-quarterback leagues which applies to both PPR and non-PPR.

If you’re picking in the top half of your draft this year, you have the advantage of being in a position to snag a top running back. Removing quarterbacks – the position that naturally scores the most points – the top point scorers are often running backs because they touch the ball the second-most of anyone on the field. Splitting the difference with PPR and non-PPR formats, running backs made up seven of the top nine scorers in .5 PPR leagues last year, with Los Angeles Rams playmaker Todd Gurley the high man.

Running backs who are guaranteed massive workloads are few and far between, which is why players like Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, Kareem Hunt, Alvin Kamara, Melvin Gordon and Leonard Fournette are all worthy of being the foundation of your team.

That doesn’t mean you should ignore wide receivers, though. Antonio Brown is arguably one of the safest players you can draft and someone you should look at in the middle of the first round, along with Odell Beckham Jr, DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones. But because wide receiver is so deep and offers so much value later in the draft, don’t be afraid to wait and target the position in the middle rounds.

Brown

Speaking of waiting, having Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady on your team may be too much fun to pass up, but because there are so many good quarterbacks, filling the single starting spot shouldn’t a priority. Rodgers may cost you a third or fourth-round pick, whereas someone like Kirk Cousins or Matthew Stafford can be had in the double-digit rounds. The difference could be a skill position player you would use in your starting lineup.

Tight end is a little more fluid than in recent years, with the gap between Rob Gronkowski and the rest of the field not as wide anymore. From the end of the second round on, feel free to take a tight end, which will mostly be based on preference after the top hierarchy of Gronk, Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz.

Whatever you do, wait until the second-to-last round to take a defence and until the last round to take a kicker. Those positions are high variance and often unpredictable, so you’re better off rounding out your bench and taking flyers on players with upside.

This is just a basic outline for how to approach a draft. It’s imperative, however, that you maintain flexibility and identify value as the draft unfolds, because chances are, regardless of how much prep you’ve done, there will be picks by other managers that you didn’t see coming. So keep an eye on your rankings and see which players are going earlier than they should or falling down the draft board.

Lastly, have fun. Even for the most competitive fantasy players, this is supposed to be enjoyable. If there are players you really want to have on your team, take them. Whatever helps you come back every Sunday.

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