The NFL season is just a short seven weeks away and online sportsbooks have updated their odds for who they think will tally the most receiving yards in the upcoming season. The early favorite is Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown at +225.
BetOnline has Brown as the favorite followed by Julio Jones at +400, DeAndre Hopkins at +900, Odell Beckham Jr. at +1000 and Michael Thomas at +1400 rounding out the top five. Brown led the league last year, but can he do it again or is there another receiver looking to snag the top spot in 2018-19?
Antonio Brown is the Betting Favorite
Steelers standout Antonio Brown has been one of the most dangerous and consistent wide receivers in the NFL over the last five seasons, racking up an average of 1,569.6 yards per year and twice finishing with the most yards in the league. The Florida native has only twice not broken the 1,000-yard mark in a season – his rookie season and in his third year when he suffered an ankle injury.
However, the 30-year-old may have his hurdles to jump over if he wants to rise to the top this season. He has an aging quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger who has been prone to injuries in recent years which could hamper the receiver’s yards. Although he doesn’t miss many games, a banged-up QB is not the best way to collect a lot of yards. Another factor could be the emergence of JuJu Smith-Schuster, who essentially took Martavis Bryant’s spot as the No. 2 option. Smith-Schuster picked up 917 yards in the 14 games he played in, only seven of which he started. Assuming he gets an uptick in looks as the definite second option, he could eat into Brown’s yards.
The other area of concern for Brown to become the first player since Jerry Rice to lead the league in yards in three or more seasons is the strength of schedule the Steelers have this year. Pittsburgh goes through the NFC South, including stops in New Orleans and Tampa Bay, it plays in Denver, in Jacksonville, in Oakland, and hosts New England. That is a tough stretch for Brown to collect yards, not to mention the improved defense of the Cleveland Browns, against whom the receiver picked up 182 yards in one game last year.
Risky Bet: Josh Gordon
The former NFL leading receiver in 2013, Josh Gordon has only appeared in 10 games since that season in which he picked up 1,646 yards in 14 games. The Texas native has had off-field issues resulting in him missing two seasons due to suspensions. However, there appeared to be a bright spot last season as Gordon suited up for the Browns in the final five games of the season. The 27-year-old had 335 yards on 18 receptions through those five games and things were looking up. But in a statement released on July 23, 2018, Gordon will be placed on the non-football injury list citing personal issues. At this point, we don’t know when the receiver will take the field again.
There’s plenty of question marks on the offensive side of the ball for the Browns heading into the season with a new quarterback, whether it be Tyrod Taylor or Baker Mayfield, new running back Carlos Hyde and a new receiver in Jarvis Landry. If and when Gordon returns to the club, I’m not sure he can jell with all the new moving parts quickly enough to challenge for the most yards this season and even though +5000 looks juicy, I’d stay away.
Sleeper Picks: Odell Beckham Jr. and Tyreek Hill
Now, the first person I’m going to talk about may not exactly fit the “sleeper pick” mold but at +1000 he may provide the most value. That player is Odell Beckham Jr., who is coming off a season riddled with injuries. The 25-year-old surpassed 1,300 yards in each of his first three years but in 2017 he appeared in just four games and collected 302 yards. This is a contract year for Beckham, which leans toward a strong 2018-19 for him in hopes of the big payday at the end of the season.
The New York Giants are much improved this season from last, especially in their run game with the addition of Saquon Barkley, which could open up more opportunities for Beckham. Last season, QB Eli Manning took a lot of flak for his poor play, though much of it could be attributed to the injuries to the receiving corps and a Swiss cheese-like offensive line. The receivers are healthy and the O-line has been improved, all things that point toward Odell having a career year in 2018-19.
The second sleeper pick is one of the fastest guys in the NFL in Tyreek Hill. The 24-year-old picked up 1,183 yards through 15 games in just his second year in the league. He hauled in 71.4 percent of his targets and continues to improve. This upcoming season he will have a new QB in Patrick Mahomes, who has a big arm that will be able to find Hill deep. The Chiefs have other weapons that will need to get the ball as well in Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins and Kareem Hunt, so finding touches may hold Hill back but when he does get the ball he’s a hard one to catch. I think a new QB that pushes the ball downfield works in the benefit of a burner like Tyreek Hill and at +6600 he could be a juicy wager.
Here’s a look at the rest of the odds for the most receiving yards in 2018:
|Antonio Brown (PIT)||+225|
|Julio Jones (ATL)||+400|
|DeAndre Hopkins (HOU)||+900|
|Odell Beckham Jr. (NYG)||+1000|
|Michael Thomas (NO)||+1400|
|Keenan Allen (LAC)||+1500|
|Adam Thielen (MIN)||+1600|
|AJ Green (CIN)||+1600|
|Mike Evans (TB)||+1600|
|TY Hilton (IND)||+1600|
|Davante Adams (GB)||+2200|
|Demaryius Thomas (DEN)||+3300|
|Amari Cooper (OAK)||+4000|
|Doug Baldwin (SEA)||+4000|
|Alshon Jeffery (PHI)||+5000|
|Brandin Cooks (LAR)||+5000|
|Josh Gordon (CLE)||+5000|
|Golden Tate (DET)||+6600|
|Larry Fitzgerald (ARI)||+6600|
|Marvin Jones Jr. (DET)||+6600|
|Tyreek Hill (KC)||+6600|
|Julian Edelman (NE)||+7500|
|Michael Crabtree (BAL)||+7500|
|Rob Gronkowski (NE)||+7500|
|Stefon Diggs (MIN)||+7500|
|JuJu Smith-Schuster (PIT)||+10000|
|Robert Woods (LAR)||+10000|
|Travis Kelce (KC)||+10000|
|Jordy Nelson (OAK)||+12500|
|Marquise Goodwin (SF)||+12500|
|Kelvin Benjamin (BUF)||+15000|
|Jarvis Landry (CLE)||+20000|
Odds as of July 23 at BetOnline
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