In my weekly column, we take a long look at impact fantasy football rookies. I compare their performance to date against my original expectations of them. Let’s continue this 2014 version of the series by looking at one of my highest rated wide receivers, Odell Beckham Jr. I will look at some of his college production against his performance versus Philadelphia to discern his dynasty value.
Here are my thoughts after watching the receiver in college: Once he has the ball in his hands, Beckham uses a strong stiff-arm to keep defenders away from him and seems to love to hand fight while running patterns. This helps him exploit the defenses with the extra separation. Beckham Jr. fools his coverage to cover one path, but quickly shifts his hips to explode down the field in a different direction. His cut back ability in the open field, makes him quite dangerous because the young receiver starts and stops making the defense go right past him.
As a receiver, Beckham Jr. explodes off the line quickly and shields the pigskin from the defender covering him. He has a great habit of making the first man miss. The young wide occasionally lets the ball into his body, but it seems this is more about the quarterback’s ball placement which gave Beckham no other way to make the catch. The wide out has quick feet, which makes him effective on reverses with his loose hips while he reading the offensive line’s blocks well.
What sets Beckham apart is his the sudden burst, the quick shake moves, hurdling defenders, and his good center of gravity. Defenders are not sure where he will be from a second to the next. He is quite effective with short bubble screens needing just a sliver of space to maneuver. The wide out always fights for first downs can use the sidelines to his advantage. While he isn’t the best blocker, Beckham isn’t afraid of mixing it up and getting physical with defensive backs.
Beckham might be more dangerous as a downfield threat than he is within ten yards of the line of scrimmage. The receiver runs tight, clean routes while using a double move or two to shake the defender and then race downfield. He changes directions with minimal steps, tracks the ball adjusting to it mid-air, but does not have a big catch radius. Beckham will not dig down low for the ball, but catches anything from his hip to three feet above his head. He can fully extend himself to the ball, making the reception in full stride. The wide out snatches the ball at its highest point with good leaping ability making sure he has position against the defense. He comes back to a poorly thrown passes while making it look easy. Beckham always knows where he is on the field by getting both feet down on sideline throws and concentrates while making difficult catches.
The wide out looks fantastic when facing one on one coverage as he accelerated past almost every single defensive back he faced. Zone coverage is even worse 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 when his corner had a good safety providing help by bracketing the receiver. Beckham also brings excitement to the return game because of his explosive running, field vision, and following his blockers to create space. I am a bit concerned with his habit of turning his back to the defense when reversing his field on returns. The young playmaker is better at returning kickoffs than he is punts.
Against the Eagles, I saw: him explode off the line with his quick feet and hips and typically gets separation from his coverage within five yards. He has soft hands, catches the ball in stride, while getting in and out of his breaks with ease. Beckham skies high to grab the ball above the defense and has good sideline awareness toe-tapping to make the difficult, acrobatic catches. The rookie was Eli Manning’s first read on every throw, and it has certainly improved the entire offense. I love the way he runs crisp routes and uses a shoulder shake to avoid contact.
Beckham is excellent on bubble screens that take advantage of his quickness and ability to make the first man miss in the open field. He also gets sent in motion quite a bit to dictate a better matchup for him. On deeper throws, the young wide out tracks the ball well in the air and has the speed to run underneath it. He battles well against bracket coverage despite not being a big receiver shielding the ball from their prying arms. Beckham is willing to make catches in the middle of the field, but will go down when it looks like he could take an unnecessary hit much like former Ram Torry Holt would.
He blocks his man on running plays showing team commitment, but got visibly upset when he believed a corner back illegally contacted him before the ball arrived. Beckham took off his helmet and was lucky to not have a flag thrown for his behavior. His best play of the day was a 63 yard touchdown catch and run. The corner back fell down and then the wide out made one safety miss while sprinting down the sidelines. I was most impressed with his spectacular one-handed mid-arm catch that Beckham made right near the sidelines (he has made more impressive catches this season as well). The rookie finished the day with 12 catches, 185 yards receiving with that long touchdown. Beckham is running neck and neck with Mike Evans as my favorite 2014 rookie receiver. If I had to choose right now, it would be Beckham because of his quarterback situation.
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