When the New York Giants selected Odell Beckham Jr. with the 12th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, I believed it was the perfect marriage of prospect and scheme.
The 5-foot-11, 198-pound receiver was one of the most explosive players in college football during his three-year stint at LSU, racking up 4,118 all-purpose yards and 15 touchdowns. While Beckham's versatility and big-play ability made him a scoring threat whenever he touched the ball for the Tigers, it was his rapid improvement as a receiver under former NFL head coach (and current LSU offensive coordinator) Cam Cameron that prompted me to liken the rookie to Victor Cruz in my pre-draft evaluations.
I thought Beckham, who is featured in NFL Network's "Finding Giants," was a polished route runner with exceptional speed, quickness and burst, yet he also displayed superb body control and agility getting in and out of breaks. He flashed explosive running skills with the ball in his hands and possessed the kind of catch-and-run ability that NFL coaches crave in top receiving prospects.
Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo must be thrilled to have a player with Beckham's ability as a complement to Cruz in the team's version of the West Coast offense, which uses a quick-rhythm passing attack that places a heavy emphasis on YAC (yards after the catch).
Given an opportunity to see Beckham -- who'd been sidelined by a spate of injuries -- finally take the field with the Giantsthis past Sunday, I put together some thoughts on the speedy playmaker and his potential impact on the offense going forward:
Beckham is certainly as explosive as advertised, as his solid debut performance demonstrated. He displays exceptional speed and burst off the line; his stop-start quickness out of breaks is unusual for a speedster. Additionally, Beckham flashed strong hands, ball skills and leaping ability, snagging a 15-yard touchdown catch on a back-shoulder throw that showcased his ability to high-point the football in traffic.
The wideout showed patience, body control and savvy as a route runner on the perimeter. He was efficient getting in and out of his breaks and did a good job working away from defenders at the top of routes. Although most of his targets were on short and intermediate throws delivered on time, Beckham showed he can work free from press or tight coverage in an efficient manner. In addition, he blew past Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert Alford on a couple of deep routes that resulted in a defensive pass interference penalty and a narrowly missed touchdown.
Beckham's inexperience is the biggest concern for me. He simply hasn't played enough to master the nuances of the position or the offense; he will occasionally make some mental mistakes due to his lack of reps throughout the preseason. Although those miscues didn't show up on the game tape, I'm sure that he misfired on a couple of routes and reads during the contest.
If I had to identify another area for Beckham to work on over the next few weeks, I'd point to his ability to "stack" defenders (work in front of defenders after releasing off the line against press coverage). Although he was successful working away from Alford throughout Sunday's game, he will need to do a better job staying on his line against more physical defenders.
With more time and game repetitions on the horizon, the Giants will likely expand Beckham's role to put him in a better position to make plays down the field. From traditional deep routes designed to clear out the zone for Cruz and others to double moves that allow him to take advantage of inferior defenders, the versatile rookie will certainly have more chances to influence games on the perimeter.
In an advanced preview of Episode 3 of "Finding Giants," which airs Thursday at 12 a.m. ET on NFL Network, the New York Giants' scouting staff scours the all-star games, the NFL Scouting Combine and college pro days as it puts the final touches on the team's 2014 draft prep.