2013 is the year when everything came together for Odell Beckham Jr. and when he went from showing flashes of his immense talent into more consistently playing up to the talent he had displayed as a sophomore. The combination of a far more consistent Zach Mettenberger at quarterback along with increased development by Beckham as a wide receiver have produced dramatic results and been part of what has been an explosive offense this season.
As a sophomore, Beckham was a huge special teams threat that showed talent but inconsistency as a wide receiver. This year, Beckham has really come into his own as a receiving threat and much of that improvement has been with his hands and just being a better pass catcher but also as a deep threat that has given the Bayou Bengals the ability to threaten teams by stretching the field at any time. Not only did Beckham make a significant leap in the offseason, but he shows improvement over the course of this final year. Beckham may have improved as much as anyone this year in all of college football.
Going to the NFL, Beckham is a big ball of talent and athletic ability that has the size and strength to compete. Beckham goes into the NFL as a wide receiver first and a special teams weapon second. He is a terrific pass catcher, has developed into an effective route runner, and is a threat with the ball in his hands after the catch or as a returner. Beckham warrants a first round pick based on talent that is still ascending, but it would not be a surprise to see him slide into the second round and be a great avalue.
Vitals & Build
Beckham is listed at 6′ 193lbs and while the height seems like it might be inflated slightly, he also plays smaller. He plays extremely low to the ground, which enables him to have great balance, body control and terrific feet. His burst and top end speed are impressive. Beckham’s potential is just adding strength to what he is already doing as a speed athlete.
Route Running & Technique
Beckham gets off of the line of scrimmage with a good burst and has the body control and footwork that enables him to be an excellent route runner. He is able to set up opponents and plant his foot in the ground to make a cut and create separation. Beckham has shown ability to set up routes create separation to open up opportunities. He has gotten a little tougher with holding his ground and fighting for his position as he runs his routes.
Beckham has gotten better with fighting and beating press at the line of scrimmage, using both his hands and his feet to win at the point of attack. He has experience lining up on the line of scrimmage and the Tigers have not been afraid to put him just about anywhere. There will be some questions about how he can deal with stronger corners in the league, but between his technique and increased strength, Beckham should be able to hold his own in that department.
When he is on his game, he can be a nightmare for corners to deal with and maintain coverage. He has the speed to scare teams over the top so many opponents are scared to play up on him. He can eat up ground which forces the defensive back to flip his hips and run with him, allowing Beckham to plant and come wide open underneath or coming back to the football. Beckham has also shown he is not afraid to mix up how he runs different routes. Some of this appears to be planned and some of this is a matter of feel based on where the defensive back is going to be and where he is hoping to go. With his height and skill set, he can play both on the outside and in the slot. LSU has used him far more on the outside but he clearly has the ability to be a problem for defenses on the inside.
As a pass catcher, Beckham has made strides over the past year. His catch radius is good but he is always trying to push his limits and improve, so he seems to be expanding it almost by the game. Beckham has improved dramatically in how well he tracks and catches the ball. He is aggressive and attacks the football, trying to do his best to take away any lane for the defensive back to make a play.
Beckham seems to be extremely comfortable catching passes in traffic and through contact. He almost seems more comfortable doing that than he does catching the ball at an awkward angle away from his body. Beckham has been impressive in how well he can concentrate on the football with players around him or bodies flashing in front of the ball. He has shown he is not afraid to go up in the air and make a catch. There have been a number of difficult catches in traffic and through contact this year and he does a great job with how he positions himself to keep the opponent boxed out from the play.
Beckham can still work to improve and snatch the ball more cleanly away from him and there are some occasional drops, but the improvement this year has been substantial and the results have dramatically improved as a result.
Run After Catch
Beckham has done a lot of work improving how he sets up and anticipates the catch, so he plays even faster than his physical ability. He has shown he is willing to set up his feet or starts running to the football and getting some momentum going so when he catches the ball, he is already moving and able to make a play as opposed to being stopped and having to then start and make a move.
Beckham has also worked how on how quickly he transitions the catch to his body and is able to keep moving. This has also improved significantly and it is a far smoother process. Because he is such a confident hands catcher and attacks the football, he is able to catch the ball cleanly and easily and then like clockwork brings it to his body while he makes his move. Occasionally, he will leave the ball at risk, but this has been an area that has improved almost by the game and the improvement has been dramatic as have the results.
After the catch, Beckham is a nightmare for defenses. At that point, he becomes unpredictable as he is not afraid to go outside, go inside or both in the same play. Last season, LSU was more likely to get a bubble screen with the hopes of making a play down the field with some short drag routes mixed in, he is more comfortable now taking a comeback route, setting up to catch the ball while already moving so he is far more viable on those plays and able to pick up yardage. Beckham also really does a good of not letting the catch slow him down while going deep, so he is effective at cashing it in in the end zone.
Beckham’s ability to block is a work in progress. He shows the willingness to block but too often he ends up just throwing his body at the opponent rather than really blocking them and makes that part of the game far more difficult than it needs to be. Beckham’s method for blocking for the most part is so feast or famine and he just needs to break down and control the play side shoulder. Too often, Beckham seems to be closing his eyes and just going for the shoulder bomb, hoping for the best.
Beckham is a dynamic threat on special teams, especially when it comes to returning punts. His acceleration, balance, and body control allow him to make opponents miss and he can flip the field. He sees the field well so he can anticipate where opponents are attacking from and adjust accordingly.
Teams have made efforts to reduce the amount of times he has had to return punts and he is not going to end up anywhere near the amount of returns after his breakout sophomore year, but the talent is still evident in what he does. The fact that teams are afraid to kick at him has had an impact on LSU’s field position this season.
It is difficult to imagine that Beckham will not immediately walk in and become the punt returner wherever he is drafted. He is also overqualified to stand in the end zone and watch the ball go over his head. And if his punt returning ability is anything like it has been in Baton Rouge, most of the time it will be him watching the ball sail out of bounds as they avoid him there as well, but he has the ability to flip the field and potentially score from there.
Beyond that, Beckham’s fit as a wide receiver depends entirely on the system he ends up playing and there are several teams that might move Beckham around in different situations. For instance, Beckham could find himself as the Y receiver in two receiver sets, but then slide into the slot when they put in a third receiver. With his height, he can legitimately play in both spots and it all depends on how a team wants to find ways to get him the football.
Beckham has demonstrated the ability to take a slant and take it all the way but also can stretch the field and beat teams deep. He could ultimately end up as somewhat of a joker in the NFL and where he lines up entirely depends on how a team wants to use him on a particular play. In terms of body type, Beckham may not look like a #1 receiver, but he has the athletic ability and technique where he could develop into that role.
Beckham’s game is similar to that of Randall Cobb of the Green Bay Packers. The former Kentucky Wildcat came out of college as a dynamic athlete with potential to be a good wide receiver and be a returner and he has flourished with the Packers. Beckham has that same type of ability as Cobb did but he might be a little more polished. He is able to change the game in many of the same ways as Cobb, but Beckham might be more prepared to make an instant impact and perhaps get to the level Cobb reached a little bit faster.
Odell Beckham Jr. has reinvented himself over the past year in that he went from being a special teams threat first and a potential receiver as an added possibility to now being a wide receiver who is also a terrific returner. He has made significant strides with his hands, has gotten better as far as being a threat over the top, running after the catch and just being the player that he looked like he could be last season. Beckham is a weapon in so many facets of the game and it all depends on just how much a coach wants to use him, but he warrants a first round pick between his physical talent and technical ability. He could potentially slide into the second round but his value is terrific and he should be able to make an instant impact.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com