The Giants mildly surprised their loyalists on Thursday evening when they selected wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in round one of the 2014 NFL Draft. Beckham, a New Orleans native, hails from the same high school (Isidore Newman) as Eli Manning and played his college ball alongside Rueben Randle at LSU.
When describing the exploits of Beckham, GM Jerry Reese described him glowingly, using the phrases: “top-10 guy”, “speed kills” and “highest guy on our board”. Head coach Tom Coughlin expounded on those morsels of hefty praise: “He has great speed, is polished, a crafty route runner, and has great hands”.
What stands out about Beckham on the field? The number one takeaway is the ferocity in which he attacks the football. Giants receivers displayed occasional “waiting with hands out” issues last season, but that won’t be a conversation point with Beckham. He RIPS the football out of the air. His hand strength (and confidence in his hands) at times worked to his detriment, leading to some muffs that didn’t require A+ precision and timing.
Despite being undersized at a tick below 6’0, he plays an aggressive brand of wide receiver. As a result, he separates well and is highly effective working the red zone and the sidelines. There is no shortage of circus catches on Beckham’s highlight reel — his ball in-flight body control and tracking skills are elite. 38.5 inch vertical leap doesn’t hurt.
Scouts questioned his “game speed” in the SEC, but Beckham quieted the critics with a 4.43 cumulative time at the NFL Combine. He was hyper-productive in the intermediate routes and unafraid to test the back line of defenses. He looked to “blow the top off” with greater frequency than the other top WR prospects. However, Beckham was not immune from getting caught from behind. More bursty speed than extended speed? He’s not a long strider.
By the way, he’s a demon in the open field and a threatening punt/kick returner. The Giants are loaded with returners; is this the Bizarro world?
It’s safe to expect the Giants will (attempt to) spread the field with regularity. The LSU tandem working the outside, with Victor Cruz and Jerrel Jernigan piercing the middle in the slot. If the offensive line can keep Eli upright — and that’s a legitimate if — the Giants air attack will be worth the price of admission in 2014.