Note: If you want to save precious hours of your life and you are willing to consider my word as generally honest quickly fly to the bottom to see my conclusion. Otherwise get comfy.
We have heard all the platitudes. Odell Beckham is the prodigy of supremely gifted athletes who was a four star recruit to a premier football power, LSU. He set the single season all-purpose yardage at LSU in 2013. On the day of his birth, a star in the south brought Jerry Rice, Devin Hester, and Bo Jackson on camels with gold, frankincense and myrrh. Of his praises:
- "Great burst and reaches top speed quickly" -fftoday
- "Beckham has the speed to stretch the field and has demonstrated the potential to make game-changing plays" -walter football
- "Terrific leaping ability -- climbs the ladder to snatch throws. Creates after the catch -- shows burst and shiftiness as a runner" -NFL.com
- "Excellent vision with dynamic moves. Good footwork, timing and depth in his routes to create separation and catch the ball well in stride. Speedy and explosive return man on special teams with vision, awareness and toughness to create - two career punt returns for scores" -CBSSports
- "He is a great leader and a super nice guy and once gave me a lift to the store when my car was in the shop." -Shifty Fish
Who wouldn't want this guy?! Well, for one, me. And if the advocates for Oh,Hell Beckham are to be believed, I am the only one in existence.
Disclaimer: I have a prejudice. I think it is a well founded one, but it is a prejudice all the same. Wide Receivers and Quarterbacks have a very high failure rate. When we are looking at merely 1st round players at these positions and the production that selection entails it is miserable.
A first round wide receiver should be a multi-year starter that is a threat at 1,000 yards every season through his prime. Less than 50% of wide receivers selected in the 1st round from 1992-2009 meet this criterion. Worst than every other position.
Going into this expose on Beckham I want it known I do not hate him as a man or as a footballer. I merely detest the idea of him as a first round selection, of which it seems he is preordained to become. I am highly critical of all first round wide receiver prospects. The history of the position and the scouting of the position validates a heightened level of skepticism.
I will address Odell Beckham from the least to most concerning issues.
Beckham's proponents will laugh off his small stature and dub him a 6 footer. The idea, I'm guessing, is that if you say it often enough he will magically grow. Draftnikcentral has him as 5'10.75, CBS as 5'11, Ryan McCrystal as 5'11.25. His official height from the NFL combine is 5'11! Sure it is just an inch, but when you are using your top selection in the "Game of Inches" it matters. When the single largest determinate in which 1st round selections become busts is being under 6 feet tall it really matters. No other single category has a higher failure rate.
Inconsistency or Limitations?
This word appears repeatedly in scouting for Odell Beckham. Lets return to our scouts:
- "Room to improve his judgment and consistency fielding punts" -CBSSports
- "Inconsistent making contested grabs -- can be out-muscled in a crowd. Has some concentration drops." -NFL.com
- "Still a work in progress in terms of catching the ball consistently in traffic.Could show better effort on a more consistent basis as a blocker" -fftoday
The overriding thought seems to be that Beckham is an uber-athlete and when he flounders on deep passes, returns, blocking and routes it is due to him being inconsistent.
Inconsistent would be bad, but fixable. My big issue is that his "inconsistent" moments seems to correlate to his games against top teams. Is he truly inconsistent or does he just put on a show against inferior talent? Hold that thought - we will delve into that later.
To compound his smaller stature, he has a distressing level of weak play. His hands are strong as all get out but somehow the rest of his body got left behind. At the combine he could only do 7 reps. That placed him in the bottom 2 percentile. The punters snickered.
Hi me again, I don't know how to do the screen captures of YouTube because, well, I'm not the brightest bulb in the world. Sorry for the inconvenience. Now make to your regularly scheduled diatribe...
OBJ puts on this great display in the Texas A & M game.
At mark 6:30, 6:54 and 7:36 Odell Beckham and LSU is denied a TD as the defender is able to out-muscle him in the end zone.
The same happens against Auburn, when White dislodges the ball on a perfectly placed pass at the 1:35:39 mark.
This lack of strength is magnified in his painful-to-watch blocking attempts. Time and again he is sidestepped, manhandled or flat out falls down when asked to block. Here are some highlights
It would only be a small exaggeration to say that his dive at the DBs knees is the best OBJ does at acting as a blocker (3:56 mark). It surely was an improvement over earlier in the game (3:11 mark) where he completely misses his assignment (even with his great speed?) and then, well honestly, I have no idea what he is doing after that....
At the 2:29 mark you can see him try a real block. The defender swats him away easily to time his play on the running back.
But here is the piece de resistance, mark 2:35, where OBJ attempts to heave himself into the defender only to bounce off him and back into his own teammates path becoming an additional blocker for the opponents.
My issue here is "How do you use him?". You cannot field him on any run or option plays. How long do you think it will take professional DBs and coaches to realize that when he is on the field it is a pass play and when he is off it is a run? Unless he shows immediate and meteoric improvement in his blocking skills he will be limited to playing only on 3rd and long.
Beckham isn't even the best LSU WR to draft.
Lets look again at that Auburn game. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsRprXAyu9g
At the 12:15 mark, Beckham goes deep right along the sideline. He stops, turns 180 degrees in the air and gets both hands on the ball. The DB closes the gap and the contested ball goes incomplete.
A few of plays later, 33:30, the identical play is ran by Landry. He makes the same leap and turn yet is able to use his superior timing and body to create the separation and his strength to hold on to the ball as he crashes inbound.
Later in the game, 1:51:24, Beckham goes on a crossing route. He makes a nice diving catch and is down immediately. In the same drive, 1:54:05, Landry runs the identical play. He manages to create more separation before the catch, snag the ball in stride, stay on his feet and run the ball into the end zone for a TD.
Landry received more targets, has been on the field for more snaps, and made more catches than Beckham last year. The coaches and the QB, theoretically, would know these two receivers as well as anyone and the one they treated as the primary receiver is Jarvis Landry. The same is true for most their opponents who routinely gave Landry double and triple teams whereas Beckham is more often single covered with a safety over the top.
I see Mettenberger consistently blamed for many of Beckhams's poor plays, yet some how Landry played all the same opponents getting the #1 treatment by opponents while catching balls from the same QB and he has a small fraction of the drops and "bad throws" on his resume. Could it be some of those overthrows blamed on Mettenberger were in fact Beckhams inconsistency in how he performed or him not running his routes as crisp as he should or to where he is supposed to be? I image the blame can be shared. Still Landry (only 2 drops on catchable balls all season) seems immune to these errors.
And clutch! 7 of Landry's 15 TDs have been in games decided by less than 15 points. Five in games decided by a TD or less the last two seasons (he had only 4 receptions in 2011). Now, take a wild guess how many TDs Odell Beckham has scored in games decided by 14 points are less in three full seasons. Did you say 4? 2? Did you only give him 1 such touchdown? Sorry you are all wrong. He never did it once in his entire college career! Don't be too hard on him, it was only 18 games he had a chance to do it.
Where is the Speed?
Odell Beckham, Jr., who was a mid second round prospect before the combine, set the standard in the shuttles and ran a 4.43 40. Soon after all the prognosticators had him fly up the board nearly a full round.
Because of his return skills and quick feet it has been assumed that OBJ was a "yards after the catch" monster. The story we are all sold is that he gets a quick burst off the line, is able to use his superior speed and cutting abilities to get behind the defense, catch the ball and then turn on the jets to a huge gain. Or his elusiveness will let him get past that last line.
The only problem is this has not happened but on very rare occasion. Something here does not fit. If this guy stretches the field and can out juke and outrun most college players how does he have only 12 TDs in his 3 year tenure? He only averages 5.60 yards after the catch. Not that that is a bad number, in college it is dead on average, but for a fleeting and fleet of foot athlete that stretches the field you would expect above average, right?
To save time later I am going to use the OBJ highlight video that shows all but 1 touchdown from the 2013 season (when he had 8 of his career 12).
Let's go catch by catch -
- Catch deep middle. Immediately tackled vs. TCU
- Ditto vs. UAB
- Nice over the shoulder TD catch while in stride vs. UAB
- Another over the shoulder TD vs. UAB
- Comeback TD vs. Kent State
- Leaping TD vs. Miss. State
- Comeback catch and 23 yards of YAC for a TD vs. Miss State
- Crossing pattern in stride 25 YAC vs. Furman
- Deep Left. Contested catch with 5 YAC for a TD vs. Furman
- Catch in slant. Safety tackle after 15 YAC vs. Furman
- Crossing route with 45 YAC for TD. Shows his elusiveness vs. Furman
He looks really good, doesn't he? I am not saying he doesn't belong in the NFL - I am saying he is not first round talent!
Remember this is his highlight. This is his best work of his best year. Where is the play where there isn't a single defender within 5 yards of him? You can't find those pictures because they do not exist. There are factors that completely negate his combine speeds.
First, he is prone, almost reliant on turning his body to face the pocket.
Secondly you can see that he often slows down greatly or comes to a complete stop when catching the ball. True many of his catches are comebacks, 35.19% according to rotoworld. But leaves nearly 65% of his targets to be exploited by such a reputed speedy, elusive athlete.
But lastly, and most distressing, the DBs are often in his immediate vicinity. When he has faced the guys that are already in the NFL or slated to go there in the first 4 rounds this year they have been all over him. We see this addressed repeatedly in his scouting reports.
- "Lacks elite speed and can be caught from behind by NFL DBs" CBSSports
- "Lacks elite top-end speed to separate vertically" -NFL.com
- "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)" -fftoday
- "He sometimes holds back so he doesn't seem arrogant with his superhuman speed and agility" -TXPanther
- "Tested well in the 40-yard dash at the combine, but his playing speed is only average when compared to other receivers who play the same role in an offense. Lack of elite speed and ability to break free over the top may limit him to a role as a slot receiver." -Ryan McCrystal.
Speed is useless if you are running away from your end zone or decelerate (often to a dead stop) when you catch the ball. Odell Beckham did this on over 85% of his receptions.
Now look at the highlights from Cody Latimer, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZXQcakwFAc . This is what one expects from a guy that spreads the field and can get behind defenses. There is separation you could drive a car through. Far more dominating than anything in any Odell Beckham highlight reel. As he enters the end zone the defenders are off screen and gassed.
Pay keen attention to how Latimer manages to keep his feet moving and his body pointed to the end zone even when he has to contort backwards to pluck the ball in the air. Beckham would slow down and turn his whole body on catches like that, allowing the corner to close on him.
Even Jarvis Landry, the supposed possession receiver, makes more big plays and goes for more long TDs than his more ballyhooed sidekick. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuIP1ZyqVLU
Panthers almost never play Furman or Towson
In fact, I can't find the last time we went against a Division II team (unless you count Jacksonville).
This is the most troubling aspect of Beckham's game comes when we look at how he dominated the little guys. Why? Because it means all these below average or average stats he has on the whole season become poor stats when he is facing talent comparable to what the NFL teams will throw at him.
I refer you back to the highlight video above. Furman, an FCB school that ranked 80th in pass defense among the JV teams, accounts for at least 90 of his YAC (and that is on only 4 of the 6 catches I could find). If you remove this pansy game his YAC drops to 4.36/receptions.
And Furman accounted for 2 of his meager 8 TDs last year. University of Alabama- Birmingham, the 115th of 123 FSB teams in pass defense, accounted for 3 more of them. In fact, the vaunted All-Purpose hero isn't so purposeful if scoring points is the objective.
How far below the other top WR prospects is Beckham against the top competition? Check this out
WR (2013) ------ Against AP top 25 ---------Against Conference
Beckham -------- 0 TDs 75/game -------------2 TDs 72.9/game
Landry ------------4 TDs 100/game ------------5 TDs 104.9/game
Watkins ----------2 TDs 144/game -----------8 TDs 117.5/game
Evans ------------ 5 TDs 125/game -----------9 TDs 122.5/game
Lee* -------------- 0 TDs 76/game -------------1 TD 64.83/game
Cooks -----------1 TD 96.33/game -----------11 TDs 137.9/game
Latimer -----------0 TDs 51/game ------------ 7 TDs 93.75/game
Robinson -------1 TD 126.33/game -----------3 TDs 123/game
* injured for significant time during the season
I also could not figure how to get my table from Word to join the article here.
Did you know that he only scored 3 touchdowns against the SEC in his 3 year career. Only 12 touchdowns in 39 starts, including the 3 against UAB and 4 against glorified junior colleges, Furman and Towson. He never scored a single point against an AP Top 25 team in 3 years!
How is it that a "fast and shifty receiver that takes the top of the defense" could be so very anemic against good competition? Even the most statistic adverse reader would have to admit this is a highly troubling development. One can dismiss away a game or two, but over 30? On the bright side we found something at which Odell Beckham is consistent.
You remember how I asked if inconsistent was the correct word? Maybe he just has a ceiling no one is bothering to address. Maybe that ceiling is NFL quality opponents. You know, the kind he would face weekly in the NFL.
Odell Beckham is a sub 6 foot wide receiver projected to be selected in the first round. So his subgroup (under 6'0) with the largest failure rate, 52.9%, among the position with the largest failure rate, 51%, is who you would root for to be the newest Panther? In other words, historically (since 1992), there is only a 23.079% chance that Beckham will start 5 years and/or gain 5,000 yards in his pro career (the generous line I used to call a 1st round WR selection a successful pick).
But even if you are not one to care for consistent historical trends, Odell Beckham has key flaws that will greatly limit how much he can help our Carolina Panthers. His need to stop and turn to address the incoming pass negates any small advatage he may gain from his speed and footwork. This already results in numerous dislodged passes and a lack of yards after the catch against the better defensive players at the college level. In the NFL this will lead to easy interceptions and killed drive.
So the only way OBJ can be used will be in the slot. I don't understand why this hasn't been more heavily discussed since many of the top outlets have arrived at the same conclusion:
- "Beckham is very fast and looks like a dangerous slot receiver for the NFL." -walterfootball
- "...the short and intermediate passing game is probably how Beckham will leave his impression at the NFL level." -fftoday
- "Beckham's lack of size will be held against him by some, but considering how many teams use a slot receiver on a significant portion of their plays,..." -Ryan McCrystal
- "Odell Beckham - size: 5-11, Projection: Slot receiver/returner. First-second round." -ESPN
- "Talented, competitive, productive, inconsistent college split end who projects as a flanker or slot receiver in the pros" -NFL.com
The Panthers are not in the market for a slot receiver. We have a plethora of guys that can handle that job already.
Of course, he would take 2-3 years to earn that role as he has such horrendous blocking skills and limited strength that a coaching staff will have to work in the weight room and on the field for months to get him game ready. You cannot put a slot receiver on the field for multiple plays that cannot give you solid blocking the 80% of plays they aren't getting the pass.
A team like San Francisco could possibly take him earlier without regret. Able to use his return skills while they groomed his potential into a servicable #2 or #3 down the road fits for the rare team that is already a strong Superbowl contender. But for most teams he shouldn't be viewed as anything but a 3rd rounder with huge upside.
Even if I am overly hard on first round WRs in general or OBJ in particular, I feel these legitimate observations lead to the pivotal question - Why take such a large risk with our most valuable asset, a first round pick, when there are safer choices at positions of need available?
But some team will take Beckham early. And many will scoff at my downgrading him. Only time will tell. But in 5 years when the talk about Odell Beckham, Jr. sounds eerily reminecent to that of another Jr., Ted Ginn, I hope you'll give a mental nod to the guy that said it loudly back when it wasn't popular.