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Baker Mayfield, More Browns' Fantasy Outlook After Odell Beckham Jr.'s Injury

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured Columnist

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield warms up before an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

There is a rush of panic setting in for fantasy players after Cleveland Browns star Odell Beckham Jr. suffered a knee injury Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals and was ruled out for the remainder of the season, per Josina Anderson.

As talented as Beckham is, his list of injuries is starting to become a concern. The three-time Pro Bowler missed 11 games in 2017 with a fractured ankle and four games in 2018 with a quad injury. 

In his first six seasons, Beckham has only played all 16 games twice (2016, 2019). He played through hip and groin injuries last year, which helps explain why he disappointed with 1,035 yards and four touchdowns on 74 receptions.  

A healthy Beckham in new head coach Kevin Stefanski's system has WR1 potential, but this injury setback will be a huge blow to the Browns offense. He came into Sunday tied for first on the team with 319 receiving yards and led the team with three receiving scores. 

Jarvis Landry, who has spent most of his career as a WR2 in fantasy, is an even safer selection as long as Beckham is out of action. The 27-year-old has never had a season with fewer than 112 targets and 81 receptions. He came into Sunday leading the team in receptions (24) and was tied with Beckham in receiving yards. His lack of touchdowns through six games is a cause for concern, however. 

The receiving group behind Landry is worrisome. Rashard Higgins only added 55 yards and one touchdown in 10 games last year and has just five catches for 53 yards this season, with two of those receptions going for touchdowns. The 26-year-old is someone worth keeping an eye on if Beckham is out long-term but doesn't need to be rostered at this point. 

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Aside from Landry, Baker Mayfield's favorite target will most likely be running back Kareem Hunt, with tight end Austin Hooper out of the Bengals game with appendicitis

Hunt finished third on the team with 37 receptions and 285 receiving yards last season, despite playing just eight games. 

The Browns were already one of the most run-centric offenses in football, and that could increase with Beckham out of the lineup. At the least, Mayfield is far less likely to take shots down the field, which will keep him out of fantasy relevancy. Don't allow Sunday's performance against the Bengals to buy into any hype that the Browns are better without Beckham. They're clearly not, and teams are going to be able to load up the box unless someone steps into his place. 

Mayfield is a QB2 moving forward, on the lower end of that spectrum. 

Landry and Hunt are all must-start players for your roster, especially with Beckham out. No other Browns receiver is worth looking at until they prove themselves capable of making an impact week after week. 

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