After the top two wide receivers in the 2014 NFL Draft – Mike Evans and Sammy Watkins – a reasonable argument can be made that LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. is the next man up. No wide receiver had a better all-around NFL Scouting Combine performance than Beckham. He registered a 4.43 40-yard dash, a 3.94 shuttle and a 38.5-inch vertical leap.
It was an impressive showing, capping off a stellar 2013 season. Beckham came into his own as a junior for the Tigers, pulling in 59 catches for 1,152 yards and eight touchdowns, to go along with good return numbers.
NFL Mock Draft
NFL Mock Draft
As a receiver prospect, Beckham offers plenty of intrigue. He's able to play inside and outside and ran a variety of routes at LSU. Somewhat of a question early in his career, Beckham worked diligently to improve his hands, and it paid off last season. Beckham is poised to be a first-round pick in the draft, and is able to make a difference immediately.
Body control: There are two types of body control for a wide receiver: before the catch and after it. Beckham excels at the latter. With the ball in his hands, Beckham has the instincts and agility to make defenders miss. He utilizes this trait on special teams as a dangerous return man. But it also works in the passing game after the catch. Beckham can make a tackler miss if he has the space to move, giving him the ability to break runs deep. Before the catch is where Beckham's body control could get a little better. He doesn't always time his jumps properly and will miss out on some throws. Partly because of that, Beckham isn't always a top option in the red zone.
Hands: Beckham worked hard to improve his hands during his LSU career and has clearly gotten better in this area. While there are times where he still has the occasional concentration drop, Beckham has some of the better hands in this year's draft. His hands measured in at 10 inches at the combine, bigger than both Mike Evans and Sammy Watkins. Had one of the more ridiculous highlights of the 2013 season when he caught a kickoff with one hand against UAB.
Release: Uses his plus speed and initial burst to beat press coverage. Also shows good, quick hands to get clean release. Quicker corners who know how to jam can give Beckham problems. This came up in the LSU game against TCU where cornerback Jason Verrett gave Beckham some trouble.
What to watch for
Route running: LSU ran a pro-style offense, so Beckham has experience running a deeper route tree than most wide receivers in the draft. He's a smooth, effortless route runner thanks to stellar quickness and agility. Beckham likes to fake defensive backs on routes, dipping to the outside when he works to the inside, or vice versa. Excels on quick comebacks.
Speed: Beckham's mother was a track athlete at LSU and it was clearly passed down. The younger Beckham displays the speed you'd expect from his lineage. At the combine, Beckham ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds, and easily plays up to that time. A lot of Beckham's plays are deeper vertical routes that rely on his speed to create separation. Beckham can get up to top speed in a hurry and displays good acceleration. Beckham got to show off his speed as LSU's main return man, a role he excelled in.
Final word: Beckham is going to be a first-round pick in the draft; it's just a matter of how high he'll go. Beckham is an athletic player who knows how to take advantage of his skill set. He can line up on the inside or outside and will win with his speed and elusiveness.