LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. played in a legitimate passing offense for the first time as a junior in 2013 and saw his draft stock rise. It has continued to rise in the run-up to the draft.
Beckham (5-foot-11, 198 pounds) showed off his elusiveness on the field last fall and at February's NFL Scouting Combine, where he ran a 4.43 40-yard dash and looked good in the drills. That elusiveness (and his 2013 production) has led to speculation that the Philadelphia Eagles could be targeting Beckham with the 22nd pick in the draft. With the departure of DeSean Jackson (he ended up with NFC East-rival Washington), the Eagles need a new No. 1 receiver. Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin are No. 2 and 3 types, not go-to receivers.
And NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah says that Beckham could ultimately sneak into the top 10.
"Every now and then you have a player go in the top 10 (and) nobody saw it coming. How about WR Odell Beckham Jr. from LSU," Jeremiah said on "Mock Draft Weekly." "This is a player a lot of people are excited about. And if we see a guy like Sammy Watkins potentially gowith that No. 2 overall pick, and then you see Mike Evans go early on, I think Odell Beckham Jr. is next in line. What he can do in the passing game -- go up and get the footblal, run after the catch, can stretch the field vertically, and then the added bonus (is) he's an outstanding returner. So to me, he's a wild-card player. I think people might be shocked on the outside, but a lot of love for him inside the league."
Watkins and Evans are the consensus top two receivers available in the draft. Beckham, USC's Marqise Lee and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks are among those vying to be the third receiver off the board, and Cooks has made it clear he would like to be given a shot to replace Jackson.
Beckham is the No. 3 wide receiver and the No. 17 overall player on NFL Media draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah's list of the top 50 prospects available; he has moved from No. 40 to No. 19 to No. 17 on Jeremiah's list.
Beckham likely also has caught the eye of wide receiver-needy teams such as St. Louis (whose second first-round pick comes at No. 13), Pittsburgh (which picks 15th), the New York Jets (18th) and Green Bay (21st). While 13th and 15th might be a bit early for Beckham, picking him in the late teens or early 20s makes sense.
Beckham caught a combined 84 passes in his first two seasons at LSU, but he had just four TD catches. To call LSU's passing offense "simplistic" in those seasons is being kind. But former NFL coach and assistant Cam Cameron became the Tigers' coordinator for the 2013 season, and the passing attack came to life and was much more varied. Beckham had 59 receptions for 1,152 yards (an eye-opening 19.5 yards per catch) and eight scores in 2013, and proved he could handle playing in a true pro-style offense. He also is a top-notch return man and a willing blocker, which adds to his value.
Beckham was LSU's second-leading receiver in 2013, behind Jarvis Landry, but he is a much better pro prospect than Landry because of his speed.
Beckham will get another chance to show off for NFL scouts Wednesday, when LSU holds its pro day.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.