The Eagles took five players in the first five rounds of last year’s draft.
After each selection, head coach Chip Kelly stood at the podium at the NovaCare Complex and explained the pick. When describing four of the five players, he used some version of one of his favorite words: versatile. The only player who didn’t draw the label was QB Matt Barkley.
So it stands to reason that the guy who won college football’s Hornung Award, given to the nation’s most versatile player, would be on the Eagles’ radar heading into May’s draft. That player is LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr.
Beckham (5-11, 198) caught 59 balls for 1,152 yards and eight touchdowns last season, averaging 19.5 yards per catch. He was also the Tigers’ return man and excelled specifically on kickoffs (26.4 yard average, 20th in the nation).
Beckham’s stock has risen during the pre-draft process. He is now considered by many to be an absolute first-round prospect, and some like NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah think Beckham could be a top-10 selection.
But as we see every year, the draft is unpredictable, and there’s certainly a chance that Beckham could slip and be someone the Eagles target. Aside from his production, one reason Beckham is attractive is he tested extremely well at the combine, running a 4.43 40:
As you can see, he rated highly in other categories too, showing good short-area quickness and leaping ability, in addition to the straight-line speed.
Beckham made a lot of plays downfield for LSU. Per Rotoworld, his average catch came 13.8 yards past the line of scrimmage, and 62 percent of his catches were on throws that traveled 10 yards or more downfield.
One thing Chip Kelly will surely like about Beckham is that he can line up both inside and outside. Without having specific numbers at my disposal, I’d guess he lined up more in the slot than any other wide receiver we’ve written about in this space so far. Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz likened Beckham to Victor Cruz. That seems to be a decent comparison from my perspective.
According to Rotoworld, Beckham dropped 6.45 percent of the catchable balls thrown his way. That was just about average. What I noticed is he had excellent hands when coming back to the football. Some of the drops came when he was trying to track the ball downfield.
Here’s an example of the first part:
Beckham ran a lot of curls and comebacks. Here, he creates separation, comes back to the football and snatches the pass out, which is a little off-target.
And here’s one of the downfield throws that he failed to haul in:
I’m not labeling this a huge problem, but certainly something he can work on at the next level.
I had a tough time coming to a conclusion on Beckham’s ability to out-muscle defenders and come down with 50/50 balls. My first impressions were that he is not great in that aspect. The example below is a tough play.
Beckham adjusts his body, but can’t out-muscle the DB to come down with the catch. Nice effort, and the defender made a nice play, but it seemed like Beckham had several opportunities on similar plays like this and didn’t finish consistently.
Then again, there were examples where he did use his leaping ability to make plays.
Here is Beckham against highly-rated TCU CB Jason Verrett near the sideline. You can see there is a physicality to Beckham’s game.
Here he goes up and gets the ball on a fade for a touchdown against Mississippi State.
And Beckham made some really nice plays on back-shoulder throws.
In terms of yards after the catch, Beckham averaged 5.60 per reception (per Rotoworld), which is not a particularly high number. Part of the reason is he made a lot of catches downfield. I know others disagree, but I didn’t see Beckham break a lot of tackles or run away from defenders when he got the ball in space.
There were exceptions, however, like this comeback route against Mississippi State where he made a couple defenders miss and took off for the end zone.
And as we mentioned at the top, he was really good as a kickoff returner.
Overall, there’s plenty to like about Beckham. He’s not the biggest guy, but he plays physical. Beckham has excellent straight-line speed, short-area quickness and leaping ability. All the tools are there to be a really good receiver in the NFL. Beckham showed plenty of flashes of those tools translating to the field last season, although consistency was somewhat of an issue.
For the Eagles, he would come in and play right away. Beckham would see a lot of snaps in the slot, but could line up on the outside too (especially if Jeremy Maclin or Riley Cooper were to get injured). He would also instantly become the favorite to return kicks.
If the pre-draft buzz is any indication, Beckham is likely to be gone by the time the Eagles are on the clock. But if for some reason he drops, he’d certainly be an option at No. 22.
Sidenote: I know some of you have asked for how one player compares to another. Once I get through all of the WRs, I will provide a ranking of how I think they fit for the Eagles.