Every year during the NFL Combine, a few players start to creep up the boards that may have originally been considered afterthoughts. This offseason Odell Beckham Jr. is one of those athletes that is making a name for himself. I decided to go back and watch five of his 2013 games: Ole Miss, Georgia, Mississippi State, UAB, and TCU to get a good perspective of what kind of athletic skills he possesses if they transfer to the next level.
Although former LSU receiver looks big on the screen, he is a muscular 5′ 11″ 198 lbs. who ran a good, but not great 40 of 4.43 at the Combine. The wide out is a very versatile player as he can play on the outside of the formation, in the slot, and returns both punts and kickoffs. Some people could see him as a WR1 in the NFL; however I think he will be an excellent NFL and dynasty WR2.
Let’s start with his special team play. Beckham Jr. is a very dangerous returner because he runs with explosion, sees the field well, and works with his downfield blockers to create space. He has a scary habit of turning his back to the defense to reverse his field on returns that causing me a little pause, but the Hall of Fame great Barry Sanders turned his back all the time to the defense, so I won’t dwell on it (and please I’m not comparing Beckham Jr. to Barry, just that they both like to turn their backs to the defense). Beckham Jr. is significantly better at returning kickoffs than he is with punts.
When the play maker has the ball in his hands, he uses a strong stiff-arm to keep defenders off his body and is not shy about hand fighting. This helps him find more creases in the defense to exploit. Beckham Jr. sets up the coverage team to run one lane and quickly shifts his hips to explode down the field on another path. This cut back ability makes him downright nasty in the open field as he can start and stop making everyone fly right past him. Even after contact is made, Beckham Jr. keeps his feet chopping until he is on the ground or in the end zone.
As a receiver, Beckham Jr. is quick off the line and he does a good job shielding the ball from whichever defensive back is covering him. On almost every catch, the receiver makes the first man miss. There were a few times when he let the ball into his body, but it appeared that it was more of the ball placement from the quarterback giving the receiver no other way to make the catch. The wide out has quick feet, almost running back like which makes him valuable as an occasional runner. The former Tiger was effective on reverses with his loose hips as he reads the offensive line’s blocks well and was usually good for ten yards catching the defense off-balance.
The abilities that make him stand out as a receiver are the sudden burst, his quick juke moves, a hurdle every so often, and his good center of gravity. Defenders are not sure what they are going to get when they go after him in the open field. I was surprised that Beckham Jr. was not used more often on short bubble screens as he just needs a sliver of space to maneuver. He always knows where he is on the field as he fights for first downs and uses the sidelines to his advantage. While he won’t amaze you with his run blocking skills, the wide out is a willing blocker who isn’t afraid of mixing it up with defensive backs.
Beckham Jr. is just as dangerous as a downfield threat as he is within ten yards of the line of scrimmage. The receiver runs tight, crisp routes and uses a double move or two to sell routes and then goes downfield. He breaks down quickly, tracks the ball well, adjusts to the ball mid-air, but will not overly amaze you with his catch radius. What I mean is that Beckham Jr. does not dig down low for the ball, but is happy to catch anything from his hip to three feet above his head. The wide out fully extends to make the reception in stride and keeps on running. He catches the ball at its highest point and has good leaping ability to make sure he has position versus the defender. There were several times that he came back to a poorly thrown pass only to make it look easy. He does a good job of getting both feet down on sideline throws and concentrating to make difficult catches. The receiver has a tendency to catch the ball with his hands right in front of his facemask. I would prefer that he moved his arms to the ball instead of just his body.
The wide out looks fantastic when he was in one on one coverage as he could blow past almost every corner he faced. It is even worse if you use zone coverage against him. The receiver can get behind a defense and run to daylight if you allow the coverage to break down. However, it did not always look so good for Beckham Jr. when his corner had a good safety providing help by bracketing the receiver. In his game against Ole Miss, Beckham Jr. got targeted deep on three passes at or near the end zone that were either broken up or intercepted. The wide out got forced out of position and did not battle back into the play. In the NFL, a true WR1 will always see double or even triple coverage while WR2s and WR3s typically see one on one coverage. Beckham Jr. will eat up any one on one coverage. When LSU faced TCU, the receiver went against college football’s best slot corner in Jason Verrett. He had a productive day with five catches for 118 yards.
I’m excited about Odell Beckham Jr. as a dynasty WR2 as he has the speed, quickness, route running, and hands to be an impact player in the NFL. Depending on your rookie draft, he might be available at the back-end of the first round or beginning of the second round depending on which NFL team drafts him.
For further questions or comments, please contact me on twitter @AndrewMiley