Wide Receiver is without question my favorite position to scout leading up to the NFL draft. Having previously played the position helped me gain a better understanding of all the nuances of the position. So I can appreciate the subtle things like receivers not taking a false step off the line of scrimmage, or not taking those extra steps out of a break.
There are several qualities of a wide receiver that can tell you how well he’ll translate to the next level. A 40 time is certainly not one of them.
I’m going to go through every trait a wide receiver needs to be successful at the next level, and tell you why Odell Beckham Jr. is better than you think, and just might sneak into the first round.
The absolute most important trait for a wide receiver. Can you get off press coverage with no wasted movements? Can you make every route look the same? Whether it’s a 10 yard out route, a 3 step slant, or a deep post. The best receivers sell every route as it it’s the same, and don’t take 3-4 steps to get out of their break. That’s the difference between creating separation at the next level, crisp routes with no wasted movement.
Here is an example of Beckham working out of the slot.
He does a good job of pressing the corner, and getting in and out of his break here. Nothing flashy, but very effective.
This next route Beckham is matched up on the outside, and runs a comeback. When you run a comeback, you want to sell the vertical route, and as soon as you get the corner to “bail” and turn and run, is when you chop your feet and comeback to the ball.
Again, nothing flashy, but an all-around good play by Beckham.
Okay, so I can hear you now going “that was against Kent State, let’s see him do it against better competition.”
Fair enough, how about against arguably the most physical and best cornerback in the country, TCU’s Jason Verrett.
I mentioned you have to be able to beat press coverage if you want to make it at the next level. Well, Beckham could’ve had a touchdown if Zach Mettenberger throws him the ball early in the 1st quarter. He hits Verrett with an inside-outside jab step and leaves Verrett grabbing air. But no throw, so there’s no stats.
Same route as above, a comeback, against Verrett.
Same result, and Verrett is actually closer now that the ball has been caught. Beckham does a great job of utilizing his speed to create separation. This can be a problem for faster receivers as they rely too much on their athleticism and not enough on their technique.
Route running is also recognizing coverages. Knowing the difference between man and zone. In zone, you have to find the holes in the defense, know when to sit down. This next one if a good example of Beckham understanding zone coverages.
Sounds simple, but catch the ball. Catch the ball in traffic with a defender draped all over you, catch the ball away from your body, and catch the ball at it’s highest point. Show strong hands, don’t let the DB knock the ball away from you. Show good concentration, watch the ball all the way in. Win the catch point and give your QB a big catch radius.
This a strength of Beckham’s. He doesn’t have the smallest hands.
Here, against Verrett. Beckham does a great job of extending for the ball, catching it away from his body and at the highest point, and controlling it to the ground.
This is picture perfect by Beckham.
Against Mississippi State this year, Beckham put on a clinic on how to catch the ball in traffic and how to high point the ball. It was really fun to watch. I could GIF you to death, but you’d be here all day. 6″ receivers aren’t supposed to make the catches he does. They’re usually nowhere near as good as adjusting to the ball in the air as Beckham is. That’s why I think he is a special player and is being sold short of how good he really is.
Finally, what can you do once the ball is in your hands? This is how you shoot up draft boards. This is what separates the Demaryius Thomas’ from the Stephen Hill’s. The Keenan Allen’s from the Nuk Hopkins. Once you have the ball in your hands, can you make a play?
In Beckham’s case. Absolutely.
Beckham averages 11.9 yards per punt return and has come “this close” about 5 times this season to returning a kickoff. He’s a threat to score each time when the ball is in his hands. He shows incredible acceleration and an ability to get to top end speed in a matter of steps. He’s also not all straight line speed as he’s shown more than enough wiggle to make defenders miss.
Why Beckham Will Sneak into the 1st Round
I don’t know where, but I think he will. Beckham has the versatility to fit into any offense. Whether it’s a west coast offense that requires good agility and the WR to create separation on quicker routes, or the deep passing Norv Turner/Bruce Arians type offense that require you to beat your man deep and be better at intermediate routes. Beckham fits the bill. He isn’t limited to where he can line up, and should be able to excel whether in the slot, split end, or flanker.
Beckham’s value on special teams just adds value to his stock.
I mentioned how 40 times don’t mean much(at least in my opinion) when scouting a receiver. When Beckham gets a chance to run for scouts, he should wow them. I won’t be surprised if he runs a sub 4.43 40, a good pro agility, and I expect him to jump out the gym based on his tape. Vertical should be high 30′s. This will all push shoot him up draft boards. There aren’t many draft eligible receivers better than Beckham that offer as much as he does. This is why I think there’s a good chance he’s a first round pick.
Multiple Pro Bowl Player, Top 10
8.5 – 9.0
Highly Productive Starter, 1st Round
8.0 – 8.4
Very Good Starter, Early 2nd Round
7.8 – 7.9
Reliable Starter, 2nd Round
7.5 – 7.7
Potential Starter in Year 2, 3rd Round
7.0 – 7.4
Backup/Spot Starter, 4th Round
6.5 – 6.9
Productive Backup, 5th Round
6.0 – 6.4
Very Good Backup/STs, 6th Round
5.5 – 5.9
Quality Backup/Good STs, 7th Round
5.0 – 5.4
Backup/STs/Project Player, 7th Round
4.5 – 4.9
Priority Free Agent w/ Limitations
4.0 – 4.4
Beckham grades out to an 8.3. I'm probably the highest on him, but I think he can have a really good NFL career.