One of the most explosive athletes at the 2014 NFL Combine, Odell Beckham Jr. solidified his spot as a legitimate first round selection. As fate may have it, the New York Jets could definitely use a receiver or two, and Beckham happens to be one of the best wide receivers in this draft. It was reported that he was among the players to interview with the Jets last week. Could he be in play with the #18 selection?
Weight: 198 lbs.
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NFL Draft Projections:
Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com): 23rd overall
Bucky Brooks (NFL.com):23rd overall
Charles Davis (NFL.com): 26th overall
Rob Rang (CBS.com/The Sports XChange): 23rd overall
Dane Brugler (CBS.com/NFLDraftScout.com): 18th overall (to the Jets)
Pete Prisco (CBS.com): 23rd overall
Walter Football: 23rd overall
Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the most athletic receivers in the league. He showed off his jets at the combine, running a 4.43 40-yard dash but also excelling in the 3 cone drill and the shuttle drills, as well as the vertical jump. By all indications, he is one of the most explosive players in this draft, and it was as evident in the game-tape as in his combine results. He is far from a workout warrior, supplementing his physical gifts with very soft hands, preferring to grab the ball with his mitts rather than look it into his chest. Interestingly enough, his 10'' hands are actually bigger than Mike Evans' and Sammy Watkins'. He is good at gaining separation from defensive backs, using good technique, and an innate ability to shift gears. He is a deadly route runner, displaying good footwork and fantastic fluidity. He is quite a leaper (as evidenced by his vertical jump), which allows him to get to balls that other receivers wouldn't even try for. He has a large catching radius, despite his height. And when he gets the ball, defenders better watch out, because he is agile and fluid, as quick as he is fast.
Every team is looking for a playmaker, and Beckham certainly fits the mold. Despite his diminutive build, he isn't hesitant to mix it up and get physical. He also has experience in the return game, returning kickoffs and punts at various stages of his collegiate career. He played on the highest level in college, matching up against powerhouses like Auburn (5 catches for 60 yards), Alabama (82 yard kickoff return) and Texas A&M (5 catches for 50 yards), so I don't believe the NFL will be "too big a stage" for him. He is a willing blocker, although he is more effort than results at this point. Did I mention that he has strong hands? How many receivers can catch a kickoff "like a tennis ball?"
While Odell Beckham isn't puny like Dri Archer, he definitely doesn't have the biggest frame. It doesn't have to hold him back (his build is almost identical to Santonio Holmes), but he might need to bulk up to outmuscle some of the bigger defensive backs on 50-50 balls. His disappointing results in the bench press probably support that theory, but his game is built more on speed than strength anyway. The speed is actually what concerns me most (its a very minor concern). While he ran a blazing 40-yard dash with great splits, his game tape doesn't always show a guy with elite speed, rather a guy with elite agility. He looks quite fast on tape, but the Desean Jackson comparisons that I have seen look a bit unfounded. I don't think he'll have any problems getting open in the NFL, but teams expecting a Marquise Goodwin or Tavon Austin will be disappointed. He is versatile in that he can return punts and kicks, but he's been very inconsistent in both facets of the return game. He is just as likely to make an error on a punt return as he is to make a big play. Teams expecting a return specialist will get a guy with potential, but probably not an instant star in the return game.
How Does He Fit:
While I would love to get Beckham with a 2nd round pick, I think he will almost certainly be gone by the late twenties in the first round. For this reason, I would not hesitate to pick him at #18, especially if Watkins and Evans are gone as expected. Many pundits limit him as a slot receiver, but I see no such thing. He is a little bigger than Santonio Holmes and similar in build to a guy like Reggie Wayne, two receivers that can line up outside just as often as they do inside. A player with plus-speed and hands as soft as Beckham's shouldn't be limited to the slot, and I think Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg would certainly employ him all over the field. Given Josh Cribbs' uncertain NFL future and Jeremy Kerley's struggles returning punts, he might even be a fit in the return game as well. Beckham is the type of player that leaves defensive backs scratching their heads and lacing up their shoelaces as they watch him run by them, and I think he would fit in perfectly with the new-look Jets.
Tale of the Tape