As we begin the countdown to the NFL Draft starting on May 8, I will spend anywhere from 4-8 hours to break down the strengths and weaknesses of at least the top 20 or so offensive skill-position prospects available in this draft.
Important NFL Combine Numbers
40-Yard Dash: 4.43
Vertical Jump: 38 1/2”
Broad Jump: 10’ 2”
20-Yard Shuttle: 3.94
Background (College Stats)
A four-star recruit by Scout.com and Rivals.com as well as the son of an All-American sprinter (Heather Van Norman) and a former starting running back for LSU from 1989-92 (Odell Beckham Sr.), Beckham Jr. followed his parents’ footsteps when he stayed in Louisiana to play for the Tigers. He garnered freshman All-SEC honors in 2011 and added return duties to his resume on more of a full-time basis the following year. Beckham continued his improvement in his final season at Baton Rouge, earning a first-team All-SEC selection from the coaches and winning the Paul Hornung Award as the most versatile player in FBS after shattering the school’s single-season record for all-purpose yardage as a junior (2,222) previously held by Domanick Davis (2,120) in 2002. Beckham’s most dominating performance may have come against UAB in 2013, when he posted a 5-136-3 line against the Blazers while returning a punt 60 yards and a missed field goal 100 yards for a fourth touchdown. In the end, it all added up to 331 all-purpose yards – one of six times in 2013 he gained at least 217 in a game.
NFL Player Comp(s): Randall Cobb
- Great burst and reaches top speed quickly; fluid out of his breaks and perhaps the “smoothest” receiver in this class.
- Will work over the middle and is willing to take punishment in order to make the big play.
- Can make the difficult catch look easy at times.
- Has huge/strong/quick hands; plucks ball out of the air on high-point throws and rarely allows the ball to get into his body.
- Superb body control; made significant improvement in ball skills during 2013.
- Dynamic returner and all-purpose yardage threat.
- Transformed himself from great athlete to great college player; no questions regarding durability and off-field behavior.
- Has no issues with gaining separation, but got caught from behind a bit too much for a player with his timed speed (reflected by the high number of big plays he created versus the relative lack of touchdowns).
- Still a work in progress in terms of catching the ball consistently in traffic, although he made major strides in this area as well in 2013.
- Is more dash than smash; could stand to add more muscle.
- While he is obviously a very explosive athlete, less-than-ideal height may make high-point throws a bit more risky in the pros.
- Could show better effort on a more consistent basis as a blocker.
Beckham made his mark primarily as a deep threat in his final season at LSU, but his willingness to work the middle of the field and ability to create yards after the catch in the short and intermediate passing game is probably how Beckham will leave his impression at the NFL level. Absent of being a true speed demon, one way a young receiver can distinguish himself early on is to be a “smooth” route runner and contribute on special teams; check and check. The only disturbing part of the New Orleans native’s college tape was the number of times he was able to break loose for the big play because of his elusiveness, only to get caught from behind. With that said, Beckham has very little downside as a prospect because he should make an instant impact as a returner while he continues to hone his craft at the next level. Even though his final college receiving totals don’t exactly jump off the page, talent evaluators understand that LSU has more of a balanced, pro-style offensive attack that won’t necessarily inflate a player’s end-of-season numbers. Those same evaluators love to see a prospect that improves by leaps and bounds each season and takes to pro-level coaching when he has access to it and Beckham did exactly that. (Longtime NFL play-caller Cam Cameron became the Tigers’ OC prior to the start of last season.) Whereas I have a few reservations about a receiver like USC’s Marqise Lee unless he finds his way into the right scheme, Beckham is a player whose floor should be as a top-level No. 2 receiver in the NFL – almost regardless of the offensive system – for the next decade. As for his upside, he could emerge as the top receiver in this draft class.