Odell Beckham Jr. recently told his teammate Jarvis Landry that 2021 is going to be "a special year." While we can easily see that being the case for the Cleveland Browns, it's difficult to know if Beckham will be able to be special in comparison to what he did early in his career with the New York Giants.
Beckham has played in 23 games for the Browns over the past two seasons, and we've yet to see him consistently look like the Hall of Fame-caliber player that he was at the outset of his career. Granted, his first season in Cleveland was an unmitigated disaster for the team as a whole and his second season was ended prematurely by a torn ACL, but the three-time Pro Bowler has averaged just 58.9 receiving yards per-game with the Browns, as opposed to 92.8 in five seasons with the Giants.
During his time in Cleveland, you've still seen flashes of the generational playmaker that Beckham appeared to be early in his career. For example, in a win over the Dallas Cowboys last October, Beckham had five catches for 81 yards and two receiving touchdowns, while also running for 73 yards and a touchdown on the ground. In the four other full games he played last season, though, Beckham didn't have more than 74 receiving yards in a single game.
While it would hardly be shocking if Beckham re-emerges as one of the game's top receivers in 2020 and the Browns make a Super Bowl run, he currently finds himself on the outside looking in of the top wideouts in the game.
Here are our projected top-10 wide receivers in the NFL for the 2021 season:
10.) Cooper Kupp - Los Angeles Rams
Certainly you can make the argument for a few other names here, but when Kupp has been on the field in four seasons for the Rams, he's been one of the most productive players in the league. Kupp had 94 catches for 1,161 yards and 10 touchdowns two seasons ago, and with Matthew Stafford now at quarterback in Los Angeles, it would hardly be a surprise if he matches or even tops what's been his best season to date.
9.) Justin Jefferson - Minnesota Vikings
We ranked Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert as the No. 6 overall player at his position for the upcoming season, a sign of how impressive his rookie season was. Still, for our money, Jefferson probably should have been the Offensive Rookie of the Year, after he hauled in 88 passes for 1,400 yards in 2021. We could easily see CeeDee Lamb exploding in his second year with the Dallas Cowboys, but to this point, Jefferson has been the most productive wide receiver in the much-talked-about 2020 class.
8.) A.J. Brown - Tennessee Titans
How good was Brown in his second NFL season? So good that Pro Football Focus graded the former second round pick as the third-best wide receiver in the NFL last year. In January, Brown had what he called "cleanup" surgery on both knees, which is something to monitor, as is the departure of offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, now the head coach in Atlanta. Still, the Titans added future Hall of Famer Julio Jones - who was one of the first names off this list - across from Brown after an 11-touchdown season. We're expecting big things.
7.) Mike Evans - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It felt like Evans was never completely healthy a season ago, and yet he still hauled in 70 passes and racked up 13 touchdowns, while topping the 1,000 receiving yards mark for the seventh-straight season to begin his career. Assuming better health this season and accounting for the fact that Tom Brady should feel much more comfortable in Bruce Arians' system this year, Evans should continue his march towards Canton.