In this article series, we look back at an individual player from 2014, and try to re-watch every play they were involved in. Using this isolation with a fresh perspective, I am re-charting plays, making notes, and trying to get a feel for if we are missing or confirming a potential Fantasy star in the making…or we try to confirm whether our fading memories, hype, and surface numbers from last season are leading to a twisted perception?
Today’s study: WR Odell Beckham Jr., NY Giants
I started writing this report, and the opening turned into a semi-aimless, sometimes captivating, long-winded discussion of scouting dilemmas in general. I’m going to cut all that out, and try to get right into the analysis. So bear with this as it was a late edit…
This entire study fascinated me because Odell Beckham Jr. was sensational in 2014, but we thought he would only be ‘good’ in the NFL based on our scouting models. We completely feared that his flimsy college performance was hiding some kind of off-field issue. When he had hamstring troubles in the 2014 preseason, and saw the coaches got mad at him–we thought his underwhelming college performance was really a sign that OBJ might be ‘all athlete’, without the dedication to star in the NFL. We thought he would be good, but probably not great. That didn’t prove correct, at all.
I have to start this ‘Rewind’ report by rewinding all the way back to his time at LSU, and then rolling forward into 2014. So here we go…
Odell Beckham Jr. had one of the most boring college careers (as a WR), statistically, that you’ll find for a guy who went on to splash in the NFL. Not just ‘splash’, but A-bomb cannonball’d it. You don’t believe that he had a mediocre college performance? Read this clip from my Odell Beckham Jr. scouting report for College Football Metrics.com in 2014, pre-draft. It’s a lot of numbers thrown your way, but take a second-pass on it if you need to. Look at these numbers, and consider that OBJ was surreal in output for the Giants, but posted the following, unimpressive, scary output numbers at LSU.
From our 2014 pre-draft scouting report:
Check this out…
4.8 receptions, 93.1 rec. yards, 0.66 TDs per game = 2013 Odell Beckham Jr. in 12 games
You see that stat line above. That’s all his game output for 2013. It equates to 57 catches for 1,117 yards and 8 TDs, which is a pretty solid year, right? Check out this output line…
4.6 receptions, 77.9 rec. yards, 0.22 TDs per game = 2013 Odell Beckham Jr. in 9 SPECIFIC games
The above data is from nine specific 2013 games. Where did the other three games go? I took them out because they were against woefully overmatched Furman, UAB, and Kent State. You know what Beckham Jr. did in those three games?
5.3 receptions, 138.7 rec. yards, 2.00 TDs per game = 2013 Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Furman, UAB, Kent State
You know what happens when Beckham Jr. played Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Florida, and Texas A&M…a.k.a. the more NFL-like talented programs he faced in 2013?
4.2 receptions, 63.2 rec. yards, 0.00 TDs per game = 2013 Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Ala, Aub, Ga, Fla, Texas A&M
Statistically speaking, Odell Beckham Jr. was a mediocre SEC WR when you strip away his performance against lower-level opponents.
In the past two seasons, 26 games, Beckham Jr. has scored 12 TDs. Ten of them as a WR, and two on punt returns. Nine of his 12 TDs the past two seasons have come against: Towson, North Texas, Furman, UAB, and Kent State. His other three TDs came against Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
Beckham Jr. has posted seven 100+ yard receiving games in his college career. Four of them came against out of conference teams: Towson, Furman, UAB, TCU.
In his career, Beckham Jr. has one career TD against a nine win or greater team (West Virginia 2011).
In 23 career SEC games, Beckham Jr. has three 100+ yard games…the rest of his SEC games were under 76-yards receiving. In those 23 career SEC games, he has just three receiving TDs.
For the entire 2012 season, Beckham Jr. scored two receiving TDs…none of them against a D1 opponent.
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In my scouting formulas as gifted as a particular WR might be athletically, if they were unimpressive (in a future NFL star sense) in college—at a big-time school (LSU) with an NFL-quality QB (at least enough to get drafted and play—Zach Mettenberger), then they aren’t going to walk into the NFL and dominate.
Odell Beckham Jr. did just that…he dominated.
…and made me feel like a scouting fool.
We projected OBJ as a ‘B’ talent with question marks. In fact, here’s the last paragraph of our scouting report on OBJ:
NFL outlook: Nothing would shock me with Beckham in the NFL. In three years, if he were the best WR in this draft, I would not be so surprised. Conversely, if you told me that he became a flaming bust…I would not be taken aback by that news either. Sometimes these things are just super-curious to our computers, but hard to pick a side on. I could go either way looking at the data. The fact that there are so many doubts makes him hard to swallow in the early 2nd-round…especially in the year of the “deepest WR class ever” (supposedly).
OBJ went on to have one of the best rookie WR performances in history in 2014. How could we have missed that? Is he just a one-off aberration not to worry about, as far as my ‘analytics’ and scouting formulas? Anybody could have watched his highlight tape and proclaimed, “He’s awesome!” pre-draft. I hear that about 10-20+ different, highly-athletic WR prospects each draft season. I said it myself in my Beckham Jr. scouting report:
If you didn’t catch the elite athleticism on paper with Beckham Jr., then just turn on the tape, and it won’t take long to figure it out. His highlight reel is filled with amazing leaping catches and sweet runs through traffic for big players, whether as a WR or as a punt/kick returner. Just watching highlight reels, Beckham has to be the best WR in this draft.
In the end, I didn’t side with the ‘best WR in the draft’ argument. My eyes were on the right track. Our scouting ‘metrics’ pulled up short of my eyes.
If you calculate simple athletic comparisons together with his on-field performance numbers, and then watch with your eyes…you’re going to be confused on who the ‘real’ Odell Beckham Jr. is.
From my 2014 scouting report…
It’s quite possible the Odell Beckham Jr. just isn’t a very good WR. His body is an ‘A’. His highlight reel is an ‘A’. His statistical output is a ‘D’. I would have never guessed it. I was so excited thinking this really was a true sleeper. You have to, have to, have to question the performance.
If you relied only on athleticism metrics, you got your OBJ scouting correct…and you can claim OBJ as a scouting win. However, you probably also had about 25 other WRs that were going to be great according to the data, because there were plenty of great athletes at WR from 2014. Jeff Janis is a better prospect than OBJ then…based strictly ‘athleticism’ measurables calcs and comps.
If you relied only on your eyes for scouting, you loved OBJ…you win. Your eyes can win…and lose in scouting sometimes–usually less than 50/50 winning percentage with your eyes. It’s hard to see and capture true speed and agility differentials, etc. on tape.
If you leaned heavy on the college production of OBJ for your scouting, then you fell short on him. If you mixed his stoic SEC performance into the scouting stew, you watered down the potential greatness his athleticism data and highlight reels showed. That’s what I did.
What went wrong?
It’s simple, and complex…
How many top college WRs worked across from another stud WR like Jarvis Landry…like Beckham Jr. did?
How do you factor that Mettenberger preferred Jarvis Landry for his targets? Which now looks totally foolish by Mettenberger!
How many top WR prospects had to split targets with another great WR in college like OBJ did?
How do we factor all this into possible performance numbers?
Amari Cooper got every target it seemed for Alabama, and he put up surreal performance numbers last season—he basically shared targets with no one. Is that because Amari is a better prospect than all WRs…or because he didn’t have Jarvis Landry on the other side…or Julio Jones across from him? Was there a greater upside with OBJ at LSU, but the real, raw data cannot assume it because he was not the primary target? We haven’t even discussed that LSU primarily ran the ball as an offense? What if OBJ was the top WR for a June Jones or Mike Leach offense in college? What would his college numbers have been then…would he fully jump off the ‘analytics’ screen?
Relying too much on OBJ’s college numbers for his NFL scouting was a mistake by us, because he became Eli Manning’s top target right away. He was Eli’s Antonio Brown…if you will.
I’m not sure how to account for this type of scouting ‘issue’ (the ‘what ifs’) in the future, but were trying. Another great example of the player’s surroundings possibly confusing the performance metrics is with Chris Conley at Georgia—surreal athletic talent, mediocre college output, and worked with horrific QB play on a run-dominant team. Conley is more athletic than Odell Beckham Jr., yet we all discount Conley’s NFL prospects because he was a college under-performer, but we all lauded Beckham Jr. for his vast athleticism despite his college under-performance. Both had underwhelming numbers in the SEC. One was beloved pre-draft, one was kind of ignored.
This scouting conundrum of ‘what if’ with a WR may be ‘unsolveable’ with pure data, but we’re trying to solve it here. It’s my quest…and it goes beyond pure ‘analytics’.
I needed to open this ‘Rewind’ study/report with the LSU/pre-draft ‘rewind’ because I sold OBJ short for the NFL, and that was the wrong call. I am quick to mock the mainstream for their errors. They beat me on this one—bad. I need to own it, and try to learn from it.
I also needed to give that long set up as a lead-in to my study because I still feel funny about endorsing Odell Beckham Jr. fully for Fantasy Football 2015+. I know he is a good-great player, I didn’t say he would bust coming out of college–I just thought he was more ‘good’ than ‘great’. Before this report, I was not sure about him for 2015 in my soul. Is he worthy of a top-12 overall Fantasy pick this year? Is he the top WR in a redraft? Something won’t let me ‘go there’ with him in my mind. I’m still holding onto that college performance, for some reason. I enter this ‘Rewind’ study as an admitted Odell Beckham Jr. doubter…if not for anything more than when society goes heavy one way, the opposite way tends to be right.
With that being said, for this ‘Rewind’ study, I just watched about every pass target Odell Beckham Jr. had in 2014, and watched sections of full games/every route he ran. Here is my top side reaction to this study: I would argue, and/or I wouldn’t fight someone who said, that Odell Beckham Jr. is the single BEST WR in the National Football League right now.
I was a skeptic before all this. He was in our top-12 overall PPR rankings for 2015 redrafts before this report/study, so we didn’t hate him. I was just a little gun-shy about him. I’m done with that. There is a clarity watching one player work through an entire season. I just sat there shaking my head the whole time watching his 2014 game film. I tried as hard as I could to find fault, to justify why 2014 might be a bit of a fluke—I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t find a weakness. He’s not just ‘lucky’, or a splash of New York rookie hysteria, or that cool one-handed catch guy, or the heavy targeted guy—he’s arguably the best WR in the NFL right now ‘guy’, and I’m going to explain why…and the Fantasy ramifications thereof.
Six-points to share from my ‘Rewind’ study…
1) The physical talent is undeniable.
I don’t think anyone argues this, so I am not spending much time on it. But do put into context, he is an ‘A+’ athlete…a better athlete than Antonio Brown, or T.Y. Hilton, or most any six-foot +/- tall WR you want to compare him to. He’s just built better than almost all shorter WRs on the planet. Great athleticism alone does not make anyone the best WR, but we want to make sure we use it as a foundation for all points to consider ahead.
2) Odell Beckham Jr. has the ‘swagger’ of a star.
Some great WRs enter into the league as a head down, mouth closed, ears open, workhorse stars to-be. They have a work ethic that is crazy, and it pushes them from good to great (Antonio Brown, for example, and Jordan Matthews will likely be another,Amari Cooper for sure).
Some WRs shrink from the spotlight. The stage is too big. The opponents are too scary. You can tell it in their body language.Marquess Wilson/Chicago comes to mind first (don’t ask me why). Michael Floyd/Arizona kinda goes there. Donte Moncrief/Indy may be another example.
Odell Beckham Jr. just walked into the middle of an NFL season, as a rookie, bothered by a hamstring all preseason, and just dominated the sport. He jawed back and forth with defenders. He got into shoving matches. The announcers and cameramen (and defenders) were glued to his every move.
Beckham Jr.’s game against Seattle last season, really turned around my thinking…or washed away my doubts. He went into that game, an emerging, young star…not as an ‘unknown’. The Giants coaching staff planted OBJ against Richard Sherman right off the bat. I would argue Richard Sherman may be the most valuable non-QB player in the NFL…but a rookie working in the 5th-game of his career, one who had missed all of training camp and the season start–and he just walked in to Seattle, and Richard Sherman couldn’t really cover him.
Think of how many teams have changed their offense to keep their ace WR away from Richard Sherman in 2014. Yet, Odell Beckham Jr. lined up across from him right away, and Beckham was the winner—not because he 7 catches for 108-yards in the game…I watched every snap. OBJ was winning the battle on most plays. It was stunning to watch a rookie make Richard Sherman look mortal. I didn’t really, fully catch that OBJ did this to Sherman when it happened during the regular-season.
On the very first pass-target to Beckham Jr. against Sherman. It was a simple, short slice toward the sideline, and Beckham Jr. caught it, and Sherman gave him an extra shove out of bounds—like a ‘welcome to the league, rookie’ shove. Beckham recovered from the shove, and raced back to shoved Sherman back. You might see OBJ as a ‘punk’ rookie, because he seems to be involved in this type of activity often. I kinda did last season. He might be punk-ish, but there is a benefit to that—he doesn’t back down. More on that in point #3…
3) Odell Beckham Jr. is tough.
One man’s ‘punk’ is another man’s ‘tough’.
You want to know how tough Odell Beckham Jr. is? Go watch his Week-16 game vs. St. Louis. It’s scary. The Rams were literally trying to hurt him—like ‘get out of the game’, or ‘end a career’ type stuff. There may have been a Gregg Williams’ bounty on OBJ’s head; seriously. If I were a Giants fan, I would have been pissed watching that game—I’m sure they were.
The Rams DBs were head hunting Beckham Jr., and on several occasions he was tackled late out of bounds with impunity. I mean like several yards out of bounds…like past that line of standing players and coaches on the sideline’s type of late hits. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen anything like it, really. I remember it being rough when it happened, but isolating in on it almost a year later—it was shocking.
Beckham Jr. finished the Rams game with 8 catches for 148 yards and 2 TDs. They even had to take him out of the game in spots because OBJ was fighting back, and about to get booted…or worse he was going to get seriously hurt. Beckham Jr. never backed down. It was one of the most eye-opening, impressive performances against adversity in 2014…if not the best of 2014…if not the best in years.
4) Today’s NFL is built for Odell Beckham Jr.
3-5-10+ years ago, the NFL was ruled by Calvin Johnson and Randy Moss-type WRs; physical freaks of nature. Everyone was searching for the ‘next Calvin’ or ‘next Moss’. In response, NFL defenses searched for the ‘next Richard Sherman’…CBs who were big and physical to deal with the ‘Calvin’s’ of the world. With the rise of the spread offense in college, and the strict rules on not touching WRs…the league is now as open to thrive in for Antonio Brown as it is Calvin Johnson…may be more so for the smaller, faster guys.
Odell Beckham Jr. is the better Antonio Brown. He’s the better Percy Harvin (back when he was showing greatness). He’s the better T.Y. Hilton (minus Andrew Luck). He is a 4.3+ runner with fantastic agility and a big vertical. He is an A+ athlete for today’s NFL…virtually un-coverable by today’s rules.
I was thinking going into this 2015 season, “Well, teams will swarm Beckham Jr. with even more coverage in 2015.” I thought the same thing about Antonio Brown…for years. You can cut off Calvin, Dez, Jimmy Graham to some degree with a double-team…but the ‘little, fast guys’…I don’t know how anyone can contain them. They aren’t any more in the ‘new’ NFL…
5) Beckham Jr.’s QB loves him.
Eli Manning is not a top-tier QB in the NFL, but he’s certainly not in the bottom tier. He looked like he might be headed to the bottom during 2013, but he bounced back nicely in 2014…and Odell Beckham Jr. is a big part of that.
OBJ and Eli have a relationship going back years. They had an instant connection working together last season despite Beckham Jr. missing most all the preseason. In their last four games together, Eli targeted Beckham Jr. 15.7 per game…with a ‘low’ of 12 targets in that stretch.
It’s potentially Jay Cutler-Brandon Marshall all over again. Even if you think OBJ is a ‘A-‘ or ‘B+’ talent, he’s going to get ‘A+’ targeting with Eli. You loved Brandon Marshall with Jay Cutler for Fantasy Football in Denver and Chicago. You didn’t FF-likeBrandon Marshall in his stint in Miami without Cutler. You’re not likely to be a fan of his in New York without Cutler either.
Beckham Jr. on Jacksonville or Houston or Buffalo today…half the FF-man he could be (see: Sammy Watkins). On the Giants, with a QB he already had a relationship with…it’s the perfect FF-storm.
6) Odell Beckham Jr.’s coaches love him.
This is an FF-critical statement.
You could see other talented WRs get a ‘usage’ boost for Fantasy-purposes, and becoming spectacular producers as well—likeBrandin Cooks, Cordarrelle Patterson, Pierre Garcon, Antone Smith, to name a few. The teams these players I just mentioned are with—they have yet to ‘over use’/exploit their weapon to the fullest. Not the case with Odell Beckham Jr.
The Giants are designing bubble screens for OBJ. They are handing him the ball. Heck, I saw him as a shotgun QB at one point during this ‘Rewind’. The Giants have a great ‘toy’, and they are going to use it. You would think most teams would do that with their ‘electric’ players, but they really don’t. Many coaches and coordinators love their ‘balanced’ approach. They love how smart their playbook is. If I were a coach, I’d just give it to Beckham Jr. on almost every play and see what happens. I’d do the same in Minnesota with Cordarrelle Patterson. The Vikings won’t, but Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin might with OBJ…they were doing a pretty nice job of it as 2014 went on.
If the Beckham Jr. target-touch trend continues into 2015…you’re looking at the best Fantasy WR in the game.
You and I can only speculate on Odell Beckham Jr.’s targets and output for FF-2015. I can tell you, for me, I’m not doubting his skill any more (I am doubting Zach Mettenberger’s ability even more than I was before). I’m not just saying Beckham Jr. is ‘really good’—I’m saying single best WR in the game is on the table. If you hook top talent with a willing QB and head coach…what do you think you’ll get from it for Fantasy Football?
Where will we shift our Fantasy rankings on him now? Find out tonight in our daily 2015 Draft Guide update…
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